When I was 18 on the cusp of 19, I got into my mom’s minivan with a hodgepodge of clothes, a mini-fridge, and other accouterments and headed off to college in Boston. Although it was 45 minutes away from home, the city felt so much farther. After my first year in the dorms, I again packed up and moved home to Lowell for a summer that was so intense I’m sure it belongs on some montage of “every bad mistake you’ve made in a teen-drama”. After that summer, I had the pleasure of living in a sea-foam green room off the bathroom in a four (or five) bedroom apartment in Brookline with my best friends. I laughed there, cried there, watched an exorbitant amount of LOST there. Held a few “Friendsgivings” where I learned how to properly cook a turkey there. I fell in love in that apartment. Learned patience and forgiveness there (still mad about having to deal with Brand New Day blasting for 3 months…) And on the cusp of 22, I moved again, to a house in Jamaica Plain with that love and some close friends. We argued there, made up there, we almost had the house set on fire by one loose hookah coal. Had a room I’m sure was haunted. We threw some of the best parties of my life there. My roommates fell in love there, our friends fell in love there, our life was built in love there, and then on the cusp of 26, we moved 1000 miles away from that life and that love to a too hot apartment in Hyde Park.
Chicago was cold and lonely and busy. School was crushing my soul, and if it wasn’t for the friends I had made in my program it would have been harder. Then, on a random January evening, I went to a house on the north side where I met some people, ate some cookies, and listened to music. We moved again, after the summer in Liberia, after Ebola and TBI’s to another house in Logan Square. Hosted some travelers, and survived. We got married there. I had my first surprise birthday party there, drank tequila on New Year’s Eve and listened to Cumbia, and talked to our wonderful neighbor who had a really intense VHS collection there. That summer, we packed up our stuff and made a home a mile away with our friends, our family.
This home, that has seen so much of me grow, and falter. On a chode road in Avondale, I sit now in my kitchen with granite counter tops listening to múm and recall all the people who have seen so much of the last four years of my life in Chicago. I hear the sounds of celebration, of Bourbon and Tequila tastings where everyone would cheers together, running to the kitchen to get food. Where we talked about justice at Passover. Where I learned how to make pasta and spent 5 hours making a ragù with a friend. Where we would, in some configuration of the living room, play music, singing songs really loudly and sometimes off key. Where we learned how to deal with and live in grief. Where I lost my job(s). Where I found my voice. Where I snuggled my cat after chasing him all over to get him to calm the hell down. This home where I’ve laughed beyond the point of recognition. This home where I’ve wept for and with my family. This home that has the backdoor always unlocked if someone is here in case anyone wants to “pop through”. This home that we built and fortified with love and community.
As I think about the start of another great adventure, I’m reminded that there are places we go to and there are places that make us. There is so much to be said about the time I’ve had in Chicago. I cannot imagine a life outside of this city, and yet that’s going to happen. I think about walking the two alleyways to get to the Hostel. I think about laying in the sun on the Boulevard. I think about shows at someone’s house, loft space, bar. I think about connecting the dots and getting people together to deconstruct social constructs. I think about spending quiet evenings under blankets in the high ceilings of this house. About reading poems in the back yard. I think about all the love that surrounds me and has imbued a sense of purpose in this tiny body. I think about brunching with all the black and brown babes. I think about lectures that rocked my world, expanded my paradigms, and gave me a gut punch worthy of a life of the mind.
So, on the cusp of my 32nd year, we’re moving again to a new city so that I can go do the thing I’ve been telling everyone was going to happen since I was 19. When I met my husband I told him I was going to be a Doctor, but not that kind. I told him that I was going to write theory, that I was going to create philosophy. I told him that this was the life he was signing up for and I know now that it wasn’t talking, but manifestations of the life I’ve always wanted and have never been afraid to ask for, to work for. I’m really and truly ready to begin this PhD journey and I know it would not have been possible without the time I’ve had in one of the best cities in the entire world.
Chicago, I love you. I love the rats that I see scurrying at all hours of the day when I walk the alleys. I love the CTA and all the strange and wonderful and terrible people on it. I love your provincial feel, walking from one neighborhood to another and feeling like you’re in a different place. I love all of the people I know here, who have challenged me, who have been my strength when things went sideways. People who have opened their doors to me, their lives to me, who have shared so much time with me. Chicago I love your art (#praiseart). I love that people just do shit here. I love the collaborative nature of artists. I love seeing all my friends make work that is amazing and transformative and so good. I love that people understand the idea that if someone succeeds, we all do. I love the activism, the push for true and radical change. The fact that when I hear the phrase “people power” I know that means us- all of us.
Chicago, you are understated and majestic. You are glorious and lovely. You are my best friend, and I couldn’t have asked for a better place to become myself. To learn and grow, to meet people, to fall in love. We’re going away so that I can fulfill my fucking destiny. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t have bonus nights, or that you won’t see me at some random show, or that I won’t be at Summer Bummer.
But before I go, let’s do stuff! Let’s go to the museum. Come to a lecture with me. Come over so we can learn how to make something delicious together. We can sit quietly and co-work together or take that walk to someplace excellent. Dance to some house, go get ice cream, check out that random thing you’ve always wanted a travel buddy for. Come rest your hand against my cheek and talk close. Don’t say goodbye just yet, just say see you soon.