Exactly 10 years to the day today my dad and I packed up a minivan containing my entire life and made the 6 hour drive from Ohio to Chicago, Illinois. I was 22-years old, just graduated college, had a job at a financial research/services company selling software to middle-aged financial advisors (clearly I was very qualified to do this), and secured an apartment in the neighborhood of Lakeview with two girls that I met through Craigslist.
I had never lived more than 40 minutes from home. Even in college I had the luxury of driving home on the weekends (or weeknights if necessary) to go home, do laundry, check-in with family and old friends. In Chicago, I only knew 1 person, one of my college roommates, and that was it. The magnitude of what I had done to disrupt my comfortable, familiar life hit me with the force of a Mack truck as my dad tried to unsuccessfully take a picture of me on the stoop of my new apartment when my brave smile dissolved into huge, gulping sobs. My dad, emotionally stunted as most dads tend to be, did his best to calm me down with comforting pats of “Don’t do this…” and “It’s almost rush hour, I should get going…”
Eventually he really did have to go and it was time to put on my big girl undies (I refuse to say p***ies) and embrace this new life, however scary it was.
I’m not sure what drew me to Chicago. I interned there for a summer between my sophomore and junior year and didn’t really get out too much because I was lame. Yet, at the beginning of my senior year I decided that I was going to move to Chicago and that was that. While moving to a city where I had no one was my boldest life decision to date, it was also one of my best life decisions. (Second boldest: moving to NYC and leaving the awesomeness of Chicago behind to be with a guy that had a deadline of proposing to me by the end of the year. Spoiler alert: he did)
It’s hard for me to believe that I’ve been living on the East Coast longer than I lived in Chicago. Despite a house, wedding, and two children later, Chicago seems like it was only yesterday and still very much feels like home since saying goodbye in 2010. Part of my fondness probably stems from the fact that I haven’t had to endure a winter there for 6 years and completely missed Chiberia, but today on my 10-year anniversary of moving there, I can’t help but feel incredibly nostalgic and grateful for all it’s given me and the person it helped me to become. Without Chicago, I never would have learned to live without a car, navigate public transportation, nurture an unhealthy love for a sandwich shop that is mediocre at best, carry 50 lbs of groceries a half mile with my bare hands, or learn how 3 months of summer can absolutely make you fall back in love with a city that tortured you mercilessly with sub-zero temperatures for months on end.
While these are significant in their own right – I’m talking about you, Potbelly’s – I’m going to get (somewhat) sappy with it and do some deeper reflection here.
Without Chicago I never would have have met someone where we both thought it appropriate to make a pact to be roommates (within a week of knowing each other), live with them for 3 years, go on to be the maid of honor in each others’ wedding, and arrange a marriage between our oldest children:
Without Chicago I never would have realized that you can meet a forever friend and go-to text-buddy through something as seemingly creepy as Craigslist (and become friends with her husband to boot):
Without Chicago I never would have discovered (or been forced to discover) how delicious and economical beer can be:
Without Chicago I never would have witnessed the majesty of a Green River and enjoyed (at least I believe I enjoyed, it’s a tad bit fuzzy) many a Chicago-style St. Patrick’s Day celebration:
Without Chicago I never would have realized how amazing it can be to drink an Old Style, sit in the bleachers, sing the 7th inning stretch at the top of your lungs with 40,000 strangers, and be at a baseball game without knowing what the score is:
Without Chicago I never would have learned the delicate art of “pacing” ones self after many an all-you-can drink wristband night gone awry:
Without Chicago I never would have fallen in love with an inanimate object and made all who visited me come bask in it’s glory:
Without Chicago I never would have shaken my unwillingness to try new foods and developed an intense, fat kid love for good food enjoyed with amazing friends who felt the same way I did about food, life, and many other things:
Without Chicago I never would have met my husband, the calm to my crazy, and my partner-in-child-wrangling:
Most importantly, without Chicago I never would have met some of the most incredible people I have in my life. People that have been a source of tremendous support, love, laughter, and comfort during and beyond our wild bar-hopping days. People that despite being in different cities for the past 6 years, always feel familiar and easy like I never left at all.
I always say that I miss Chicago. But Chicago is just a place. It’s these ladies and the memories we created that made Chicago home, which is what (who) I truly miss. Surprisingly, I’m not very eloquent when it comes to my feelings – apparently that’s only reserved for sarcastic story-telling as it pertains to my kids – so I’ll let Frank Sinatra take it away and end this painfully sappy post.
And each time I roam, Chicago is
Calling me home, Chicago is
Why I just grin like a clown
It’s my kind of town