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
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
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
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
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
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?