Once upon a time, in a different life, on a different blog, I wrote a love letter to the city I call home, Chicago.
Here is a direct line from that blog post years ago:
I can drive into the city after a weekend out of town, and seeing your skyline still takes my breath away. Even after all of these years. Perusing bars and restaurants, from Old Town to Wrigleyville-it never seems repetitive. You have the lake, the park, the pier, downtown, and my home of Lincoln Park. Sometimes I forget that I ever lived in any other city.
When I read that now, the first thing that comes to my mind is not a warm fuzzy picture of the breathtaking Chicago skyline, but a flashing image of the disgusting trash littered streets of Wrigleyville after a Blackhawks win.
Seriously, Wrigleyville? I never thought that got repetitive?
For years, I really was in love with the city of Chicago. Even as the winters started to take their toll, and I would dream of moving somewhere warm, I would still always think to myself ‘but I just love Chicago so much.’ And it was true. I did.
Then, slowly, things started to change.
About a week ago, I was walking home from work. It was a December day, and the temperature was inching near fifty degrees. In Chicago, this is a near miracle. People were out in shorts, drinking and dancing in the streets, and I barely seemed to register the joy that I would normally feel. I was walking down a familiar street that was full of classic Chicago brownstones. I looked up at one of my favorites. It was one of those multi-level, beautiful historic looking homes that I used to imagine myself living in some day. On this day, my first thought was,
“It must be miserable living there. They are so close to the police station, they probably hear ambulances even more than we do.”
I kept walking past, and then I realized suddenly, and with a shock that I had fallen out of love with my city. It wasn’t just the new found disgust for beautiful brownstones and their proximity to noise, it was everything. I had known things between me and Chicago were not exactly the same as they used to be, but it still was jarring when I realized just how much had changed.
When I was in my very early twenties, and fresh out of college with a useless Communications degree, I dreamed about living in Chicago. No, really, I had actual dreams that I would move to this city. I remember one dream in particular, I was walking through an empty apartment, unsure if I wanted to rent it. I looked out the apartment window and saw a clear view of the Sears (ok fine, Willis) tower. Once I saw the view in my dream, I knew the apartment was mine.
Flash forward a month later, and I had gotten my first job. I was apartment hunting with Al, and we stood in an empty 700 square foot one bedroom on the corner of Fullerton and Clark. It was a little dirty (there was an actual banana peel on the ground) and I was voicing my doubts to Al. At that moment, I looked out the kitchen window, and saw an exact replica of the view from my dream. Needless to say, we signed our rental agreement that day.
I took this as a clear sign that Chicago and I were meant to be.
But, just like people argue that you can have multiple soul mates, I think it is time for me to admit to myself that it is okay to have multiple cities. When I made my dream of living in Chicago a reality, it fit who I was and what I needed out of life at the time. Who I am, and what I need out of life now, has completely shifted. Anyone who has fallen out of love can probably attest to the fact that it doesn’t happen overnight. But, once the realization does hit you, it becomes almost impossible to ignore.
So, here are the 5 signs that made me realize I was falling out of love with Chicago. Beware of these signs in your own life, as they might be telling you that it is time to move on to another city, before the relationship starts to take a turn for the worst.
1. Your eyes start to wander.
Just how I imagine it must be when people start falling out of love in a relationship, my eyes have started to wander every single time I travel out of Chicago. I start seeing other places through rose-colored glasses, and comparing their strengths to Chicago’s weaknesses.
It used to be that when I would go out of town to another city to visit someone, I would always smugly think to myself how much better Chicago was.
For example, I happened to be in Minneapolis for a wedding this November, and I wouldn’t shut up to anyone who would listen about how beautiful the lakes were, and how impressed I was with the downtown.
It wasn’t it until finally I said it to someone who was from Minneapolis, who looked at me suspiciously and said, ‘Don’t you live in Chicago? And aren’t you like right by lake Michigan? What’s the difference?’
Oh, right. This is MINNESOTA. I am fawning over lakes in Minnesota.
Once you start to think the lakes in Minneapolis, Minnesota rival those of Lake Como, Italy, it is time to do some re-evaluating.
2. The nit-picking begins.
When I first moved to Chicago, I loved the pace of it. I loved how each neighborhood has its own vibe, and how the city was alive at all hours of the day and night.
Now, I get physically angry when I hear voices outside my window. The wail of an ambulance siren has become one of my most hated sounds. I now go out of my way to avoid crowds. This is something that has developed over years of being shoved in a moving box next to dozens of people during my morning commute, lining up behind fifty other people just to get into my work building, and standing in line for over thirty minutes to get groceries at Trader Joe’s, not to mention facing an hour of traffic just to get two miles. Basically any simple task or errand in Chicago: You face a crowd.
These are things that never used to bother me, but have started to really take a toll on my sanity lately. Which leads me to:
3. You stop wanting to spend time together.
I used to get really excited for a weekend discovering a new neighborhood, going downtown for an event, or a lazy summer day at the lake. While I still find myself going through the motions of doing these things, they don’t hold the same excitement they once did.
Avoiding the cold, city crowds, and skipping out on pricey restaurant meals, has slowly replaced the above as my weekend activity of choice. Staying at home and venturing within in a three-block radius of my apartment has become just as exciting and fulfilling (although this may be because winter has set in, and that changes everything).
4. The thrill is gone.
This is a less tangible one to explain, but just as important. I realized that day when I no longer looked at my favorite house on my favorite block in awe, and instead grumbled past it like a scrooge, that the thrill was gone.
While I do still admire and love the beauty of Chicago, it doesn’t have the same hold over me that it once did. And that’s okay.
5. It’s not you, it’s me.
This is probably the sign that matters the most above all others. Signs 1-4 could simply point to a rough patch between Chicago and myself, or a little bump in the road of our relationship. But, this point is the one that makes me know it is time to start seriously planning my next steps.
The truth is, Chicago no longer fits who I am anymore. It was the perfect place for me to transition into adulthood, to spend the bulk of my twenties running around enjoying life, with everything I could possibly want at my fingertips. I now crave something new, a slower pace, somewhere that facilitates a more year-round outdoor lifestyle, and that doesn’t freeze my face off in the winter.
Falling out of love with the city you live in can actually be a wonderful thing. It can become the catalyst that propels you to make a much needed change. In our case, it is exactly what needed to happen to feel like we can finally move on from Chicago for awhile, and start a new chapter. I am someone who has always been horrible with transitions and change, so moving on would be nearly impossible to do if I was still constantly feeling like I belonged somewhere else.
All this to say, Al and I can count on two hands the amount of months we have left in this great city that has given so much to us. I am going to make an effort to spend time doing all the things that remind me of what I once loved so much about Chicago, and make the most of the time we have left in the Windy City.
Although things have changed with us, Chicago, I hope you always know:
I still love you. I’m just not IN love with you.