I'd like to say it's been all fun, laughter, and love. Can I? Nah. This city is not for the faint of heart, the thin-skinned, or those who think it's cold outside anytime the thermometer dips below 50 Fahrenheit. However, it's been great. Need a ride? Metra, CTA, Pace, Uber, Lyft, or Yellow Cab, please? Hungry in Hyde Park and feeling lazy? Noodles, Medici, Giordano's, or Pizza Capri, dear?
Options are everywhere in the city, and if it's summer and you're bored, that's your own damn fault. Festivals, beaches, and shopping in the summer; apple picking, hay rides, and pumpkin/cider everything in the fall; lights, 50 ft Christmas trees, and snowball fights in the winter; and flowers, garden walks, and outdoor bars in the spring. It's an amazing place to live.
In March 2008, the Pride of the Eastern Shore, Fairhope High School Buccaneer Marching Band flew to Chicago, Illinois to march in the St. Patrick's Day parade. After doing the City Pass Tour of the Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, IMAX Theater at Navy Pier, John Hancock Observatory, Ed Debevick's, Blue Man Group performance, and shopping on the Magnificent Mile, I was ready to jump sunny, warm, Alabama ship.
After much debate between Vanderbilt, Rice, and the University of Chicago, I chose the coldest of the bunch and broke my father's heart by proudly exclaiming, "Chicago!" Seven years later, I still love this city.
"I think I need to come home," I said to my mom during my first quarter at UC. "Well, I'm sure the kittens wouldn't mind that!" she replied with a laugh. Two months - that's all it took for me to come to the conclusion that Chicago, the University of Chicago, and being so far away from everything familiar, was not for me. In October 2008, I withdrew from the University and hopped a Greyhound bus home. I worked at CVS/Pharmacy for a while, partied with Stephanie for a bit, and generally relaxed after the stress of my overactive high school career; however, I knew I still wanted and needed to go to college, and Faulkner State Community College in Fairhope, AL was not what I meant. I decided to go back that coming autumn and give everything Chicago another chance.
"Maybe we can start again..."
In September 2009, I went through O-Week (again), met my housemates (again), and started classes (again). But this time, as a Classics major with a single suite in my dorm - I was doing much better. Chicago seemed different. I missed my high school boyfriend still, but I was happy. While at UC, I learned the classics, started a public relations summer internship at La Rabida Children's Hospital, and became a cheerleader. I was in numerous clubs and activities and graduated with honors. UC was good to me and I will always remember my time at the wonderful institution as a great four years.
Yes, I got swindled on Craigslist, a jerk stole my phone out of my hand in broad daylight at the McDonald's underneath the Trump Tower, I was groped on the red line by a homeless man, got a ticket for not moving my car for street cleaning, and so much more. It hasn't all been gravy. But a lot of it was.
"In case you don't know by now, I'm talkin' 'bout Chi-Town."
I took a public relations internship at a small, pediatric specialty hospital that turned into a full time communications job; I wanted a change and became a proposal writer at an international consulting firm downtown; I joined the misfit theatre group the Hyde Park Community Players and was in three fully staged productions and four staged readings - I've been a prostitute, a snobby citizen, a dancer, a slutty dancing girl, an aristocrat, an inmate, a wife, a ditzy co-worker, and a Hollywood hopeful; I changed apartments three times, from a studio, to a three bed/two bath, to a one bedroom that I don't want to leave; I converted to Catholicism and found a parish-home that I adore and enjoy going to every Sunday; I met the Backstreet Boys; sat court side at a Bulls game, in the Skybox at a White Sox game, and attended a Cubs game; adopted a turtle, cat, and dog, respectively, and returned each the next day, respectively; and I dated a man for six months, my second longest relationship. Not too bad for my late teens/early twenties.
Now, I'm getting ready to pack up and move again. Only this time, I'm leaving the city that I have come to know and love for parts unknown: eastern Kentucky. Will it be like my home in Alabama? Surely it won't be like my adopted home of Chicago. I won't know anyone and I don't even know exactly what town I will be living in. Is this a grand new adventure or insanity?
For now, all I know is that I love Chicago and will deeply miss my city. Will I return after my two year Teach for America commitment? Who knows. The crime, sirens, honking, and rude people certainly don't push me in the direction of saying "yes," but the nightlife, museums, galleries, theaters, diversity, and people definitely give me pause. As I contemplate packing, selling furniture, and making the day-long drive to below the Mason-Dixon line, it hits me how much I will miss this city and the roots I've grown here. Will my new home be as diverse, thriving, and accepting? Probably not. But it will be new, mine, and home. For now, I suppose that's all I can ask the Good Lord for.
I have really enjoyed my second home in the Second City. Even if I never live here again, I will definitely always remember it fondly.
"Baby, do you remember when? Fireworks at Lake Michigan. Oh! Cause I'm comin' home again."