One Year in Chicago: What I’ve Done and What I’m Doing

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A little over a year ago, I moved to Chicago with two checked bags and a twinkle in my eye. And since then, everything has been perfect and un-problematic and worry-free.

Just kidding. Things have been hard. Like, really hard. Like, I have to make new friends? There are bugs in my apartment? People will really take a piss anywhere in the city, won’t they?

But things have always been really good. My life feels more purposeful, my sense of self stronger. For the first time in my life, I feel free, like I’m truly the arbiter of my own destiny.

If you think that’s melodramatic, wait until you read what I’ve been up to, below.

 

This year, I’ve been:

Walking aimlessly around the neighborhood and listening to Arctic Monkeys

Sitting in Grant Park watching hundreds of strangers dance when “Twist and Shout” played during an outdoor showing of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Eating at Hooter’s for the first time (wings = bad, buffalo chicken dip = rad)

Crying on the train home from work

Feeling accomplished and deliriously lucky about the life I stumbled into, on the train home from work

Buying (and having to need) functional outerwear for the first time ever

Making snow angels during the coldest day of winter

Winter

Day-tripping to Arlington Race Track, Ravinia Festival, Garfield Conservatory, Museum of Science and Industry, Chinatown, Wicker Park, Northerly Island

Becoming pretty good with money after moving out of my parents’ house

  • Developing and actually adhering to a budget
  • Ruining entire months because of excessive restaurant spending

Building a strong reading/library habit, allaying fears that my mind will atrophy post-education

Being really surprised that Chicago is close to Indiana and Wisconsin, because I only have a hazy recollection of what the Midwest looks like

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Getting up and leaving Chicago for a solo weekend trip to see the Broadway play Waitress, one of the best experiences of my life

Becoming angry at the results of the election, joining a political activist organization, and then coming to the sad realization that I don’t want to contribute to lasting political change if the HQ is in an inconveniently located neighborhood

Joining my employer’s health insurance, making my own doctor appointments, gawking at the surprise medical bills

Navigating the city and public transportation without Google Maps

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Offering recommendations of my favorite restaurants in the city and feeling like an insider

Missing out, because all my friends and family are 1,153 miles away in Florida

Adopting a cat who has ruined 4 total sets of earbuds between me and Jose

  • Contending with having to scoop cat poop after being coddled by my parents during my entire cat-adjacent life
  • Immediately forgetting this when he does something cute

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Signing my first lease and living with my boyfriend for the first time

Realizing that vintage apartments mean: no washer/dryer in unit, no A/C or heat, creaky wooden floors, no disposal in the sink (?!)

  • Melting down after wasting $2.50 in the basement laundry room because the washer wouldn’t work

Joining the professional workforce and actually liking my job, my company, and my co-workers

Sneaking into a bar after the company Christmas party, while under 21

Hosting a monthly trivia group at my office, getting mileage on our liberal arts degrees, finding use for the tangential odds and ends in all of our lives

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Watching the leaves fall in September

Watching them return in April

Eating an inordinate amount of kimchi, bao, french fries, and donuts

Getting it wrong half the time and feeling like an impostor

Licking my wounds and getting back up because, in the words of Helen Keller, life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all

  • Guess which one I’m choosing?

 

 

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