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.