I spent 5 years of my life in Chicago. It was a potent time, full of risks, and excitement – I had so much fun I wanted to DIE, and I had so much heartache I thought I might actually die … It was a landmark in my life.
I felt I had to move on. Some stuff went down in Chicago which made it impossible for me to imagine living there anymore. (At least living there and being able to have a normal happy life.) GEOGRAPHY was the problem! Yeah, that’s it…
So I moved.
Chicago, over the years, has continued to call to me. It’s a memory, a mood, a symbol … It represents for me who I used to be. Well, it represents a lot. Youth, fear, growth, love, tears, howling laughter, coming out of my shell … All of this huge stuff happened to me while I lived there.
I have yet to feel like I have gained back whatever I lost when I moved away.
However, on the flipside – if I hadn’t moved to New York, I wouldn’t be so near to my family now, which I love … I wouldn’t have met my dear friend and soul-sister Jen, I wouldn’t have met my crazy Texan cowboy friend Wade – I wouldn’t have met Rich … oh, and so many others.
But the feeling of Chicago? The feeling of youth? Of insanity? Of spontanaeity and unabashed joy?
I’ve had a rough last couple of years. Really rough. Thank God for the blog, that’s all I have to say.
I haven’t been back to Chicago since early 2001. My relationship with the city is now tumultuous, and kind of … haunted. For a while my feelings about Chicago were all tied up in one person, and I couldn’t think of the place without thinking of him. My entire time in grad school I would spend my vacations in Chicago … I had so many old ties there, so many dear friends … and not just that … but I LOVE that damn town. The lakefront, the skyline, the people … It’s one of the nicest cities I have ever encountered, certainly my favorite place I have ever lived.
So then why not move back?
I suppose because I know, in my heart, that … a part of me (if I moved) would want to “go back” in time … Like: If I moved back there, perhaps I could capture again the feeling of when I first lived there, a crazy time – I moved there on a whim (brought about by my Westfalia breaking down) … I walked away from my old life and started a new one. Quickly. I started brand new in a city I had only visited ONCE, and that time for less than 24 hours. It was a risk moving to Chicago. Although I had dear friends there, I had no idea what, exactly, I would do there. I had no idea what I was looking for.
I found so many things during my time there. So many things.
I was in amazing plays, incredible projects … All of my friends were too.
I had old friends there. College friends. A whole crowd of us had ended up in Chicago … Like, my best friends in the world. The fun we had was apocalyptic.
And I made new friends. Kate … Ann Marie … Derek … George …
There was the triumvirate. Spectacular men. All of them. I wish I could see them now, and hug them, and thank them for all that they gave me.
But the city I am going back to is a different city now. Friends have moved on. One of the triumvirate guys is still vaguely in the vicinity but it’s really not a good idea for us to be in contact at all. The other two have long since moved away. The landscape itself may be different – new buildings, old favorites torn down … but it’s really the people, (I used to think of them as “constants”), who will have changed.
I used to return to Chicago, like clockwork, on my vacations from grad school … and I would make the rounds. I knew where I would inevitably find people.
Oh, on this night? So-and-so is bartending so I’ll just stop by.
And on this night? He’s got his weekly show at such-and-such … I’ll stop by.
I absolutely LOVED that. In a world of flux and loss, it is wonderful to count on such small things. Over 3, 4, 5 years, none of that changed. I could go home to Chicago, and slide back into my old role … there was still a place there for me.
Well, the constants are no longer constants. I don’t know where to find certain people anymore. In growing up, there have been breaking away of connections … some of them quite wrenching.
I suppose Chicago, and my love of it, was never really about the city itself anyway. It was the people I met there, and the girl I was while I lived there, and the people who randomly came into my life BECAUSE of the girl I was then.
I don’t know what has happened … or what I have lost … or if I have gained anything … I can’t tell anymore … I feel very very stressed out right now, and very anxious about traveling … and suddenly today I feel this overwhelming sadness. Like a huge wave.
I am feeling anxious about returning to this place, this pivotal place, and to find it changed. But more than that … I suppose … I am afraid to be confronted with how much I have changed. I don’t know why that’s so frightening to me … but it is. I have been so frantic the last couple of days … bridesmaid stuff – dress – shoes – preparations … that I have not at all been aware of my inner life. I knew I was extremely anxious and unable to sleep. At all. But I just thought it was because of money worries, and the normal stress before leaving for vacation.
Today, though, talking with Jen … it all came flooding out. Surprising me as much as her.
“What will it be like to go back to Chicago and have so-and-so not there??” Tears. Major tears.
I suppose this is good information to have – so I won’t be completely blindsided at my first view of the Chicago skyline. Now I know.
Now I know what is going on inside of me. It takes me a while sometimes. I’m not all that self-aware. At least not about stuff like this.
I don’t know what it will be like to be back in Chicago … and to not see so-and-so … and to not do such-and-such … But maybe I need to have this one week of … getting to know the place as a new city, perhaps a pure city … with no preconceptions, no baggage lugged along behind me …
Maybe someday I will be able to visit Chicago without seeing my entire life flash before my eyes.