As a teenager growing up in suburban Michigan, I dreamed of escaping the endless strip malls and leafy green streets of Midwestern suburbia. So the moment I graduated from high school, I headed straight for the nearest metropolis- Chicago. And there I lived for four freezing-cold years of wild St. Patrick’s days and lazy Sunday morning brunches. Until I left after graduation to move to Paris.
Coming back a year later, I realize that not much has changed. It’s still so swelteringly hot in the summer that the trash stinks. The brown line still creaks as it rattles along and the 312 beer tastes just as cold and tasty as I remembered. My good friends in the city still cook gourmet food out on their patios and are always sweet enough to invite me.
But a part of me feels guilty for moving away and sacrificing the closeness of my college friendships. It makes me sad to know I’ll miss out on all the little things: the last-minute indie concerts, the Friday night wine tastings, the cheese curd-filled ski trips to Wisconsin. And gradually I fear our closeness will wane, and all those friendships I spent four years forming will cease to be.
The reason I don’t live in Chicago comes down to the fact that I want to be somewhere where everything’s new, where I can really grow. And having grown up in the Midwest, Chicago just doesn’t feel different enough. Everything is familiar to me in Chicago- from the nasal Midwestern accent to the oak trees lining the sidewalks to the way people say “pop” instead of “soda.” And after four years of living there, I know the city like the back of my hand.
But among the familiar, there were new experiences.
Like the cupcake ATM at Sprinkles, which distributes delicious cupcakes 24 hours a day. (THANK GOD that when I lived a few blocks away this did not exist.)
And the $18 view from the top of the John Hancock Center which I had never seen before. (Why is it that when you live in city you never do the touristy stuff?)
And the Mystic Blue dinner cruise I took with my good friend, Victoria, which provided panoramic views of the city and lots of on-board dancing. (Said cruise will forever be remembered as that one time when we crashed an Israeli wedding on a boat. No, seriously.)
But on my return to Chicago, there wasn’t just the new- I also made time to revisit my old favorites as well.
Like brunch at my favorite breakfast place in Lincoln Park, with jars of Nutella on the tables.
Brunch is hands-down the best thing about being back in America.
And wandering Old Town, stopping for my foodie favorites- a.k.a. frozen yogurt at Pinkberry and spices at the fragrant Spice House.
Overall my visit to Chicago made me realize that despite missing so many of my great friends who live in the city, and despite all of the incredible food and architecture the city has to offer, I don’t want to live there again but will always love to visit. Coming back will always remind me of a very happy time in my life, and I’ll (hopefully) always have a friend’s dinner party to crash.
Have you ever gone back to the place you used to live?
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Many thanks to Mystic Blue Cruises for hosting me on their dinner cruise. They in no way insisted that I write a favorable review or that I crash a super-fun Israeli wedding.