I am a Chicagoan. There, I said it. For the record, “Texan” rolls off the tongue much more nicely than “Chi-cah-goan.” The word looks, sounds, and feels so foreign to me even after 1,095 days.
On March 24, 2011, I boldly set off on a life-changing journey: I relocated from Austin, Texas to Chicago, Illinois. Today I celebrate three years of being a Chicago resident, one of my proudest accomplishments.
That fateful day, the majority of my belongings were packed in moving boxes and loaded on a freight carrier. The items I had deemed “essentials” were crammed into two medium-sized suitcases, and my most beloved possession–my kitty, Theodore–was comfortably loaded into an airline-regulation sized pet carrier. That morning, my friend Kim came over to my apartment to assist in supervising the movers, cleaning my empty apartment, and seeing Theo and me off to the airport. I remember the intensely mixed emotions–I had never lived outside the state of Texas, and Austin had been my home for the last six years. In Austin, I flourished socially and professionally; I had a group of close friends I considered family. Geographically, I was close enough to my childhood home and family in Houston that I could pick up, drive back on a whim and return to Austin within the same day. Looking back on it now, I am amazed by the fact that I was not more afraid than I honestly was three years ago. I was nervous and anxious, yes, but more than anything, I was excited. I was much more focused on moving forward and seeing what Chicago had in store than on the life I was leaving behind. In no way does that mean I was not going to miss my life in Austin, it simply meant I genuinely felt moving to Chicago was what I needed to do. The impetus was so strong, I was almost consumed by it.
So much has happened in these past 1,095 days. So much. I survived heartbreak, death in the family, loneliness, homesickness, snow and subzero temperatures, public transportation, loss of friendships, family illness, acute physical pain and recurrences, surgery to remove an osteoma from one of my sinuses, and “Chiberia 2014”; I met the man of my dreams and through him, many wonderful people who have welcomed me into their lives and repeatedly shown me kindness; I became engaged and planned a wedding while working full-time and undergoing pain management treatment; I got married and became part of the most loving, caring, and great Christian family I have ever known; I resigned from a rewarding yet high-stress and intense job after two and a half years of service; and, most recently, I have begun to see that I am strong, resilient, and blessed beyond measure. My experience here in Chicago has taught me numerous lessons, and I continue to learn every day.
Sometimes I still get goosebumps when walking downtown, not from the chill, but from knowing I bravely relocated with merely the contents of two suitcases and my Theo to a city I had desperately wanted to reside in for so long. I still feel amazement when walking around the city, taking in the wondrous architecture, feeling so small. And I still giddily smile every time I see the Chicago skyline–the giant buildings that remind me, I did it, I moved here.
Don’t get me wrong, I miss so many of those I left in Texas. Recently, homesickness has reared its ugly head. I have felt lonely and isolated. Not a week goes by that I do not daydream about moving back home to Houston, starting a new chapter as a family, and showing my husband what life in Texas has to offer. I am certain that some day, my dream will become a reality. Until then, Chicago remains my home–I have newfound resolve to seize life’s opportunities here.