In Perpetual Motion

Welcome back to Chicago!

Welcome back to Chicago!

So, here’s a thing I should probably address — a bunch of people have asked me if it’s in my plans to move to Portland. The short answer is, probably-not-but-also-maybe — the long answer is just as complicated.

I moved to Chicago four years ago this week, on October 25, 2010. I saved up for six months, quit my job, and came here to be unemployed and make all-new friends in a city where I knew almost no one. I freelanced for a newspaper for a few months before starting at Groupon, and I made fast friends with my new roommate and coupon factory co-workers. It worked out in the end, but it was extremely difficult. I promised myself I’d never move to a new city without a job again because it was something I hadn’t thought through enough before taking a huge risk. I was lucky it had panned out, and I knew it.

I love Chicago so, so much. I’ve made lasting friendships here, and a life for myself. It took a while, but I finally got my career back on track by getting a marketing position that I truly enjoy and feel confident doing. I live in an apartment I can afford and have at long last separated myself from a soured relationship. Once some stability comes my way, of course, my need for change is not far behind. I’ve always been a little like this — restless, and looking for the new big change, the next bold move, the future thing(s) to plan.

Portland is appealing for a lot of reasons. Tri-Met, Portland’s version of the CTA, mailed my wallet back to me the weekend after I got home. It remained untouched, from my Illinois license ID to the $4 cash I’d had tucked in it. I was astonished and thankful. I loved my time out there, and felt truly welcomed by strangers in a way I didn’t expect. It’s a city, but on a smaller scale, where maybe I could be a bigger fish in a somewhat smaller pond. Maybe I could found Story Club Portland? Or I could start a hyperlocal news site about a neighborhood there, handing off 60625 to the next wave of Albany Park and Lincoln Square writers?

Portland is bike-able year-round, and no one has to clear snow off of their cars. It’s also gray eight months of the year and last week I nearly had a meltdown because it rained in Chicago for five days straight.

Portland is far away from the places my ex and I used to go during three of my four years living in this city. It’s also 2,000+ miles away from my home, my family. Airfare to Columbus from Portland costs a lot more than it does from here. It’s worth noting that Portland is technically (very slightly) higher than Chicago in terms of cost-of-living.

There are plenty of reasons to move to Portland, but also lots of reasons why not. Many things would need to happen before I could make another, bigger move. If my work let me stay on remotely, that would be an amazing start, but that’s a pretty big ask coming from someone who’s worked there only six months.

Yes, I did get a welcome-home present from the city of Chicago in the form of a parking ticket for street cleaning. Yes, I did feel pretty disenchanted when men shouted obscenities at me twice before 9 a.m. while I rode my bike to Target the Saturday after my trip, after riding around unbothered for days in Portland. Yes, the idea of another polar vortex is surprisingly crippling. But this is something I plan to spend this winter thinking about. I have to hope this one’s nothing like the last, because I just don’t think I can take it. We never truly had a summer here, and now it’s about to get cold and windy all over again. That is not a cheering thought.

What IS cheering is that I’ve got the next few months to spend time with my friends here, all of us making each other get out of the house and resist hibernation. I’ve got live lit readings calling my name and a passion for something new to keep me motivated. I’ve even been getting tapped for paid freelance writing more and more lately, which is kind of unbelievable but extremely encouraging.

If I did move to Portland, it wouldn’t be until well into 2015, and as I said, a lot of things would need to happen before then. It would also be nice if I could visit there again soon, when it’s NOT 80 degrees and gorgeous — just to be on the safe side.

Maybe this is just how I will always be? Moving from city to city every three or four years — Columbus to Chicago, Chicago to Portland, and then what? Will I never feel content in one space? I’m honestly not sure.

That life sounds equal parts exhausting and thrilling and I honestly don’t know what to do with it. I just need to do what’s best for myself and go from there.

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