If you’re from outside of the GTA, you’ll know that hating Toronto is a Canadian pastime. Non-Torontonians will say that it’s too expensive, it’s ugly, and the people are rude. And the rest of Canada is right — Toronto sucks. Even people from Toronto think that Toronto sucks. The cost of living is too high, the people are rude, the TTC is always delayed, the weather is terrible, and the buildings are ugly.

It’s not just these tangible problems with Toronto that people hate; there’s something else. The city’s atmosphere is harsh and isolating, and can be ruthless and make you sad.

So, Toronto sucks and I can’t wait to leave!

At least, that’s what I’ve been telling myself for the past two years. Toronto makes itself an easy city to hate, and a difficult one to love. But, they say love is a process, not an event, and I’m in the process of learning to love this city again.

My anger toward Toronto started in second year. It was February, and my heart had been chewed up and spit out by some beanie-wearing photography student from the Ontario College of Art and Design. The short, cold days didn’t seem to end. I was drowning in coursework, and after 18 months in Toronto, the city had lost its shiny novelty. All I saw was a depressing backdrop of a city where I’d have to finish the rest of my degree.

Soon enough, though, I got over beanie boy. The semester ended and summer eventually appeared. Just as I was remembering why I had originally loved this city, I was then stuck trying to find an apartment.

Apartment-hunting in Toronto is notoriously terrible, and it’s only getting worse. The average price for a one-bedroom apartment is $2,260, which means that you can easily pay over $1,000 for a bedroom in a shared apartment near campus. Anywhere affordable is a tiny basement with spiders and probably even some mold growing on the ceiling.

Searching for an apartment was hell. I spent hours with my soon-to-be roommates scouring Kijiji, ViewIt, and craigslist and going to showings, only to be turned away because the first people who had shown up offered $200 over asking. I felt the cruelty of the city again.

We did eventually find an apartment — a small, dark, overpriced basement apartment in the Annex with — you guessed it — spiders and mold growing on the ceiling. We moved in around early September, and during that time I worked almost full time in addition to school in order to be able to afford rent.

The days got shorter and colder, and the apartment got darker. Coursework piled up. I got slapped with a TTC fine for not being able to afford the streetcar. The city was mean and isolating, and the heavy cement buildings and grey skies mirrored what I felt inside. Toronto wanted me to be depressed.

Even as winter eased and summer began to roll in, my hatred of Toronto stayed. It had been so cruel to me. I spent the summer trying to figure out how to get the hell out. Then, my cousins came and stayed with me, and they loved it, and as I showed them around, I remembered all the things that made me love the city too.

Toronto is big. It has so many neighbourhoods, each with their own unique vibe, but it’s small enough that you can get to know it.

During that visit, we rode our bikes all around — something which the city, to its credit, is trying to make easier. I took them to my regular coffee shop, where the baristas and I all know each other. I took them to a street festival, music events, and parks. I introduced them to my friends. We watched the Blue Jays lose and they smoked legal weed for the first time — and they loved the city.

Toronto, like a lot of big cities, grinds you down. It’s expensive and harsh and busy. But, if you let it, Toronto will help you grow. And it’s growing with us. Its music scene has expanded, a Toronto culture has developed, and our sports teams are — occasionally — winning.

So, yes, the winters are cruel and brutal. But the summers are so warm and lush in comparison that it feels as though the city’s population triples between the months of April and May, everyone going back out into the sun.

Torontonians are proud, but they also know what it’s like. They’ll complain with you — they get it. But they also know their city’s worth. Toronto is an easy city to hate, and an even more difficult to love, but Toronto will force you to grow into it and learning to appreciate the city makes it that much better.