Three years ago, or almost three years ago, on September 17th, 2011, I packed up everything I owned into the back of a borrowed minivan and moved to Chicago. I moved into an international student dormitory, a place where I met a huge number of amazing young people who were doing amazing things.
Now, about exactly three years later, I’m planning to pack up everything I own in (and on top of) my own Toyota Matrix to return back to the Twin Cities. I have a job, you see, and it’s very exciting! More news on that once I actually start–this is a Goodbye Chicago letter.
Living in Hyde Park for three years has been a totally wild experience. I’ve gotten to know Chicago. But I know a very different Chicago, I think, than the people I meet who live up north. Hyde Park is a little enclave… a small town within a city. I always felt like I got the best of both worlds–and sometimes the annoyances of both worlds. I always run into people I know wherever I go. But, it’s not the sleepy little town where people leave their doors unlocked. Absolutely not.
My Chicago is not about going to new restaurants or comedy shows or museums or the Taste. I didn’t participate in most of that kind of city life. I wish I’d spent more time exploring neighborhoods, but I enjoyed what I had at my fingertips.
So Here’s my Chicago, and my love-letter to it as I leave.
- My Chicago is about cooking at I-House with 50 other international students. It’s about cooking at SPR with 10-20 young adults. It’s about cooking with friends, for friends, enjoying the company of a bunch of people who are all fantastic.
- My Chicago is about the groady, grungy romance of walking to the bus through the Metra viaducts on a late-winter evening.
- It’s about that time my roommate used a crow-call to scare all the crows that roosted outside our window away FOREVER. (You’re welcome, all cars that ever park on that block, for ridding you of the blankets of crow poo that you no longer have to deal with.)
- It’s about trains. Trains trains and more trains. Watching/hearing/jaw dropping for the el going overhead. The bells of the Metra trains, the howl of the Amtrak trains.
- It’s about that terrible grilled cheese sandwich at Jimmies that I love so much.
- It’s about the awesome theological and personal and social and theoretical discussions that happen in the down time at the office at the church. (And also the occasional lighting things on fire, breaking things, and trying to hang things from the ceiling without proper safety gear.)
- It’s about the times when that preschooler or kindergartener that you just want to THROTTLE finally does something right and you actually pray to God because you never thought you’d be able to reach them.
- It’s about the view of the city from the South Side. Biking, walking, running, and discussing life at the urban beach. It’s about long rides up and down the lake shore, pondering and listening to music. Wordless prayers staring at waves.
- It’s about walking to the schools I worked at on the South Side. It’s about the way the wind is the only feature of the landscape, and dark boarded up windows looking at you. It’s about the quiet, scrubby fields in places that feel abandoned.
- It’s about the crazy lengths that one will go for decently priced groceries.
- It’s about summer rains in alleyways.
- It’s about how stupid excited you get when you get a whole table at the Reg TO YOURSELF. Even more excited when you get the one with the plug that’s right next to your locker. Oh yeah.
- It’s about the random folks at bus stops that tell you their stories, tell you amazing things, or brighten your day.
- It’s about studying at Hogwarts.
- But most importantly, it has been about the people that I’ve met here–many of whom have already left, some of whom will stay for a little while longer, some of whom are fixtures of this beautiful place. But for me, this place is these people, and I am lucky to have met all of them.