Chicago Bucket List 2015

I’ve got less than four months to do it, but I want to check off as many of these items as I can. Granted, most of them are food related (and, toward the end, burger-focused), but let me know if you want to come with me. I am worried my weekends will fill up fast, but I want to see as many people as I can before I leave.

  • Monday night music in Millennium Park at least once this summer
  • Zumba in the park!
  • Bike at least 200 miles of my total goal of 500 for 2015
  • Run at least one 5K downtown OR one by the lake/Montrose Harbor
  • Drink outside and on roof tops
  • Have a picnic by the beach
  • Dinner at Fish Bar
  • Burgers and chips at Kuma’s
  • Cheesesteaks at Monti’s
  • Brunch at Rockwell’s
  • Pastries and iced mochas at Beans & Bagels
  • Brunch AND dinner at Cafe Selmarie
  • Burgers and beer at The Grafton
  • Burgers at Au Cheval
  • Burgers at Butcher & The Burger
  • Sausage and cheese pizza at Pequod’s

Approaching Moving Day(s)



My last month in Albany Park begins this week, and I know I need to start packing for my three-month residency in Avondale. This will be a stranger move than usual, because I hope to get rid of the majority of my belongings before that point. After careful consideration, and some input from my dad who has a stake in this as well (more on that in a minute), I’ve decided to sell everything I own rather than move it 2,100+ miles. And if I get rid of it now, I won’t need to move it to Christina’s.

My belongings are currently divided into categories in a Google doc: Sell; donate;  mail; move with me in my car. I’m having a big-ass yard sale April 11 and I will be thrilled if I unload most of my furniture that day. When I pack for this move, I will stuff books and records and kitchen utensils into flat-rate shipping boxes, to be mailed to an address in Portland at a later date, $18 at a time. Are all of those seasons of ‘Friends’ on DVD worth $18 to me? They are not. At Christina’s, I will leave unpacked only what I’ll need between April and July. I’m getting a bike rack for my car and one of these crazy zipped up luggage things that straps to the top of sedans so you can fill it with camping gear. Or, in my case, whatever I realize last-minute I can’t part with after all, because I am a flawed, materialistic human.

My dad is a champ, because I asked him to drive across the country with me and he said yes. Now we are eagerly planning our route. We’re taking I-90, which neither of us has done, and I am excited to see the Badlands and Mount Rushmore.

I don’t have a job in Portland yet, but part of me is okay with that, for now. It lets me do things on my own time, instead of for a new company’s start date. The plan, as of today (it gets tweaked on a weekly basis), is to sell everything, and drive out with Dad in mid-to-late July. The exact date depends on whether or not I have to measure out my vacation time. If I don’t have a job anymore, we can leave whenever we want — silver lining. Once we get there, we’ll stay at an airbnb for a couple of days before he flies home. I’ll spend two weeks in a hostel while I apartment hunt, and then hopefully I’ll find a place for August 1. I’ll combine part-time work for my current company with freelance writing and fill in the gaps with my savings.

My cousin talked me into embracing Portland’s group house living. This whole time I’d been looking at one-bedrooms in apartment buildings, because I want to live by myself and adopt an elderly Portland cat. Those apartments are more than I can afford, and I’d need my future job to come with a significant raise. However, in Portland, it’s not uncommon for a bunch of 30-year-olds to share a house and split the cost five or six ways. I had assumed it was just college kids who do that, but that’s not the case. I can live for a lot less if I go that route, and a lot of those situations are month-to-month. If I hate it, I can leave after I get a full-time job and go get that cat after all.

Living with a bunch of people at first is probably better for me anyway, since I know from my Chicago move that I am more prone to homesickness than I realized. I shouldn’t let myself be cooped up alone in an apartment in a new city, at least when I get there. I can’t wait to transfer to the Rose City Rollers new players program and meet people. Plus, a friend recently inspired me to start a live lit show — something I’d joked about, but now am really interested in.

It’s scary to spell out the exact details of your dream, but I want this more than I’ve ever wanted anything. I feel like I am in such a weird place right now, like I have senioritis. My time in Chicago is dwindling and I am torn between wanting to speed it up and slow it down. I signed up for level two of Derby Lite, on Tuesdays from April 14 until July 7 — just before I leave. There’s so much I want to do in Chicago, and I wish it would just get warm, and stay warm, so I could go enjoy this city.

I’m flying to Portland again this week, for another five-day trip like I did in October. I’m not going by myself this time, though — two Columbus friends are going with me. We have no plans beyond my wishes to see the Rose City Rollers play, and there’s a beer and wine festival happening Friday and Saturday. We’re staying in the Alberta Arts District, which is one the neighborhoods I’m considering moving to. We’ll be taking the MAX, which I missed out on in the fall because I biked and bussed everywhere.

It’s going to be a busy few weeks, and then a busy few months, and then a busy year. Maybe by this time next year when I turn 30 things will have settled down a little — but I really doubt it. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

On 29

I am a 29-year-old now. I asked a lot of people if 30 was hard for them or not, and got a lot of varied responses (spoiler alert: men were unanimously unfazed, or claimed to be).

I was telling a friend this week about my first Chicago birthday, when I turned 25. I applauded myself on being so much smarter and mature than I was when I was 20. That was true then, but it’s funny to me now that I saw myself that way at 25. I look forward to the person I’ll be at 30, 35, and beyond. But for now, I think 29 will be my best year yet.

Thanks to these folks for celebrating with me.

A Modern Mix Tape

When I announced in summer of 2010 that I was moving to Chicago, I made a general request to my friends and family that they make me mix CDs to listen to in my car on the drive to my new home. I received more than a dozen CDs, from everyone to old newspaper co-workers to my best friend’s mother. My brother handed me a carefully curated disc of classic rock and my friend Stacey gave me a compilation of the current tracks she was obsessed with.

I was blown away by the response, and remember being delighted again and again at the choices made by a ton of folks. And so, I am making this request once again, for the long drive across the country to Portland. While a CD is my preference, so I can play discs in my car or put playlists on my phone, I realize it’s now five years later, and maybe you don’t even have a CD drive in your house, much less a way to burn a disc. If that’s the case, I’d love a Spotify playlist. I will be gladly/greedily accepting these lists between now and mid-July.

If you want to mark the occasion with a gift, please refrain — I am in the process of selling most of my belongings. I will, however, gladly accept an iTunes gift card so I can make some of these upcoming Spotify playlists my own. I’m still old fashioned, after all, and like paying for music. Some things never change.

Not sure what to include? That’s okay. You might pick stuff you think I’ll like (thanks!) or maybe you’ve got a couple songs that make you think of me or a time we shared. If nothing else, I want to hear what music you’re into during this time in our lives. Thanks in advance.


image via

image via

I have moved 14 times since 2007. My life has been dotted with weekends in all seasons, of paying friends and family in pizza and beer as they carted all of my things between points A and B. I haven’t lived anywhere for more than 18 months since I was a teenager.

Sometimes these moves were for good things, like new jobs and new cities and new boyfriends. Sometimes they were for bad things, like breakups. Mostly breakups.

The story of my Chicago

I told my dad I was quitting my job and moving to Chicago five years ago, while I was serving jury duty in Franklin County. It was March, just a couple weeks before my 24th birthday, and I was on a COTA bus going home after another day of not being put on a jury. I’d had time to think. Weeks earlier I had left my college boyfriend of five years after months of us growing apart. I loathed my job and had found the distance from it imposed by jury duty to be a strange relief. The idea of picking up and starting over elsewhere was intoxicating, and from the moment the idea planted itself in my mind, it dominated my thoughts.

My dad, on the other end of the line, was not thrilled, and gave me a list of reasons why my plan was flawed. He called back the next day and sighed.

“Do it anyway,” he said. “Now is the time.”

I saved up for six months. On October 25, I packed my Cavalier with two weeks’ worth of clothes and moved in with a relative in the suburbs of Chicago. Days later, I met Christina, my first Chicago friend and shortly after, my roommate and closest confident.

Give it time

I was lucky to have Christina, but I was incredibly homesick. This was something I had not anticipated — not because I don’t love my family, but simply because I had believed Chicago wouldn’t feel all that far away. I’d been so excited to live in a new place and I was ashamed for feeling afraid and maybe a little remorseful.

My dad, to his credit, didn’t tell me I’d made a mistake or tell me to come home. Instead he said, give it time.

I loved Chicago from the start, but I also expected a lot from it. Before I even arrived I had felt like there, finally, my life could begin — as if I’d been treading water just waiting up until that point. I wanted to right what I then saw as wrongs from my time spent in Columbus.

I fell in love my first summer in Chicago; I got my heart busted three years later. I spent the majority of my Chicago time making another person a large part of my identity and it backfired once he was gone.

Even though I knew it wasn’t fair to Chicago, I did hold it somewhat in contempt. It didn’t help that days after my ex-boyfriend moved out of our apartment, my car was vandalized. It didn’t help that I endured more incidents of street harassment and intimidation in the year I was without him than I had in my entire life previously. It didn’t help that I had 95 percent believed I’d met the person I was going to marry and while 5 percent of me knew I was wrong all along, it was still a harsh reality to face in the end.

A growing year

I made myself busy. I got a great job. I found a better apartment. I spent Saturday nights on girl friends’ couches and became a better friend. I called my dad more. I mailed care packages to my nieces. I wrote with relish and abandon. I cut my hair, I did standup, I took up roller derby.

I learned to forgive — not just other people in my life, but myself.

I took myself on a vacation. I spent several days in Portland by myself, where I met strangers and made them my friends. I rode a borrowed bike everywhere and stayed out late by myself, unafraid. I ate brunch on bar stools and struck up conversations with those beside me with ease.  I like who I am in Chicago, but I liked who Portland made me even more.

I came home to Chicago and found a parking ticket on my car’s windshield.

A plan for Portland

I thought about Portland for weeks. What was coming was inevitable, I think, but I still knew it was ill-advised. I’d written and said many times over that I’d never move to out of state again, especially not without a job. But I was suddenly beginning to feel like doing the hard stuff all over again really was the best thing for me. I could do it better, I would tell myself going to sleep.

I have gotten to know myself well in the last 15 months on my own in Chicago. But the more I’ve listened to myself, the more I have come to understand that my time in Chicago is coming to a close. It isn’t anyone’s fault. It’s just time.

Two days before Christmas, I made the decision to move in the fall — it would be capping off five years in Chicago, and I’d have until October to save money and apply for work. By February, I’d already moved the timeframe up twice.

When my lease ends this spring, I’ll be moving back to Christina’s, while I continue to save up and wait for July to arrive. I’ll have part of one more Chicago summer, and I won’t be in love with anyone this time. I will love only places.

Today, I told my boss. In mid-July, I will move for the 16th time with a U-Haul trailer hitched to my poor Cavalier. I will see the Badlands and I will take my time. I will give in to my own stubborn will again. I will move westward for miles and miles.

I can’t wait to see where I land.