It’s rare that I ever visit a place and immediately fall in love with it as hard as I did for Chicago. I remember when I first visited with my father during a summer vacation from high school. There was something about the Windy City that just…fit. Chicago isn’t the in-your-face-type New York City tends to be. It’s not nearly as glamorously superficial as Los Angeles. It doesn’t need to be; Chicago is its own kind of special.
I’ve found myself reminiscing quite often about my adopted second home. Is it because I left before I was totally ready? Or because my most recent trip back was a total whirlwind? It might be a combination of both. Regardless as to why I’m day dreaming so frequently about my college town (er, city? Lucky me) lately, I feel a need to profess my love in the only way I know how.
When I first arrived in 2007 as a bright-eyed freshman, I could’ve never imagined the impact you’d have on my life. You welcomed me – an awkward and troubled teenager – with open arms in the only way a Midwestern gal knows: with a tender heart and unmatched kindness.
Despite your warm personality, your frigid winters chilled me to the bone. I questioned my sanity for seven consecutive winters wondering how you managed to keep me around. Your hearty meals, cozy bars and thriving live music scene kept my body warm and my spirits high.
And each summer, you pulled me back in.
There’s something so exciting about a perfect Chicago summer day: a morning coffee on the porch, followed by an afternoon spent on the beach and the inevitable dance party or patio hangs in the evening. Your summers are special; frustratingly humid and, at times, chaotic, yet evoke a sense of stillness in my memory. Those six summers are still some of my favorite.
Chicago, it’s been three years since I left you behind, and nearly four years since I began to carve the path I’m on today. I’m so proud of the 19-year-old girl who was able to fearlessly navigate the city streets just as much as I am of the 25-year-old woman who ran away to Asia; much to the chagrin and confusion of many.
I get a pang in my stomach when I see photos of you; reminders of my past flood my thoughts and bring me joy, sadness and all emotions in between. I still have “fear of missing out” moments, wishing I could teleport into town for the day. But then I reflect on the past few years and realize I wouldn’t have all these experiences if it weren’t for my bravery and my openness to change – both of which came to fruition when I discovered you.
So, my dear Chicago, thank you for the precious memories, humbling me and for providing me with enough lessons to last a lifetime. Love you forever, boo.
Where’s a place that will always be special to you?