My kind of town

1 Nov

I fell in love with Chicago at age 15, in the dead of February. I feel if you can fall in love with a place in the middle of winter, it must be magical. My high school took a small trip to Chicago every year, and I got to go for my first time my sophomore year. We would pack ’em in, five to eight kids to a room (depending on the amount going and the number of boys and  girls – the girls room was always on the more packed end) so we could afford to stay in one of the ritzy hotels. We had one teacher chaperone. It was a recipe for either disaster or magic.

The real point of the trip was to talk to colleges, but as a sophomore I was there purely for research (read: time off school, fun away from home) purposes. So when the juniors and seniors were running around taking things seriously, I had a fair amount of time on my hands during the short trip. My favorite thing to do was spend the morning at the cafe on the bottom floor of the hotel, drinking coffee and watching the rest of the world. I felt very indulgent, oh-so grown up. I would spend the afternoon circling the hotel block by block, eating up the atmosphere, losing feeling in my fingers. It may have been one of the first times in my life I did something purely on my own. I was hooked. I vowed I would live in Chicago.

I came back to Chicago, on the school trips and then for my spring break (who goes to Chicago for spring break?) through college. I visited other cities, New York, Toronto, but nothing held me as captivated as Chicago. It was the be-all, end-all for me. Sometimes, I feel it still is.

I moved to Chicago in the summer of 2007, to attend graduate school. Husband came with me. We moved into a small studio is a charming neighborhood, with our 70 pound lab mix, Bunny. We had no jobs. We had no rent money. It is one of the few reckless things I’ve done in life – and comparatively, it’s pretty tame.

Just as I knew I would at fifteen, I love living here. I love it. I love riding the bus, taking the El. I love that I have to drive six miles to find an Olive Garden, but have three real, amazing Italian restaurants within two blocks. Everything I need is within walking distance. The people are mostly friendly, the lake is beautiful. The buildings are so spectacular, I almost want to cry looking at them.

We’re debating leaving. It’s breaking my heart in ways I never thought possible. Chicago has become more than my home over the past five years we’ve lived here. It’s become a part of me, a part of my identity in ways that the other places I’ve lived never have. I feel like if I leave here I’ll be wrecked, torn, hollow. That I’ll always regret it, that it will turn the whole city into “The One That Got Away.”

I don’t want that. But I also don’t want to persist somewhere simply because I’ll be sad when I leave. People are usually sad when they move. It’s petty. Moving might be the better choice. I’m so clouded on my view of the city, so drunk on my love for it that I feel I’ll never be able to make a valid choice about the matter.


2 Responses to “My kind of town”

  1. momentsofexhilaration November 3, 2011 at 10:20 pm #

    Oh, this post almost made me cry! I also fell in love with Chicago when I was younger and would take school trips down there. I also moved there for graduate school with my (then) husband and absolutely fell in love with the city. And after seven years there we moved away and it broke my heart. I want to go back so badly. But like you, I’m stuck wondering if I’m being childish – if the better decision is to be somewhere else that’s better for family, etc. But in my heart I want to be there. I want to ride the El and feel the wind off the lake and see the city lights in the skyscrapers at night and walk down a crowded downtown street and not know a soul and then see someone I know and have it feel like a miracle every time. Ah! I miss it!

    • oldernawtwiser November 3, 2011 at 11:16 pm #

      How random!! Your comment makes me want to stay even more. I’m trying to placate myself by saying obviously, I can still come back, but I feel like if I don’t live here, it won’t be the same. Like I’m no longer in the club. However you left and survived- so o guess there is hope. 🙂

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