Dear Chicago

“Broken skyline, moving through the airport. She’s an honest defector. Conscientious objector. Now her own protector.” ~Tom Petty, Time to Move On

Several months ago I made the decision to move to a new city. This was not a decision I made lightly. Tears were shed, beers were drank, conversations were had, lists were made… Chicago has been my home for 13 years. 13! This is like moving your kid away from all of their friends right before high school. I grew up here…in a sense. I “grew up” in St. Louis, but I became a full-blown adult here. I’ve had the highest of highs and the lowest lows I ever thought possible.

I successfully avoided jail. (That one is surprising given my first year living here.)

I’m leaving 13 years to the day I moved here. I don’t know if there is some hidden meaning in that or not. I don’t think numbers are lucky or unlucky. Just numbers. It’s the same day thing that is tripping me up. But I digress, the next several weeks are going to be physically and emotionally draining. I want to take in all I can before I go – friends, food, favorite places and spaces. I hope I can make it happen!

Snapped after an 11 mile run on the lake.
Snapped after an 11 mile run on the lake.

Chicago, man. We’ve had an interesting relationship. I love her. I hate her. I respect her. She made me strong. She scared me. She showed me what I’m made of. She beat me down. She was the source of great pain for so long. She gave me the best moments of my life. She breathed new life into me then turned around and sucked nearly all of it out. Right before I fell through the floor, she showed me she still had a good side. She almost made me second guess this decision, but we both know it’s time for me to leave while we’re back on good terms. No hard feelings.

The wave of emotions while putting my stuff in boxes can be overwhelming at times. Nearly every item was bought, received or collected here. I don’t have much here from my life in St. Louis except some pictures, old band t-shirts I don’t have it in me to throw out and some music. I know where every item came from, and I think of the story when I’m wrapping it in bubble wrap. Most memories are boring like…I think I got this at Target….this is from Target….this is also from Target. Holy shit, I spend a lot of time and money at flippin’ Target! Others have better(ish) memories attached. The tiny tea set my mom bought because it reminded her of me. The mason jars I bought for a friends’ baby shower that became my water glasses after my divorce because they were all I had to use. The extra set of dishes I bought on a whim to host my first Thanksgiving that are now my full-time dishes because I didn’t want to have to eat off the ones I got for my wedding. The cookbooks I used to bake my friends’ birthday cakes and potluck dishes. The boots I bought to keep my feet dry at Riot Fest after ruining my shoes the year before. The small, white entertainment center I bought for my bedroom when I owned my home that became the focal point of the living room in my apartment. The artwork I bought years ago but was never able to hang up until I had my own space. Most memories are ones only I know. But they’re mine and from a life I worked my ass off to build.

Chicago at night.
Captured during a date in downtown Chicago.

When I think of the current state of my life, I tend to feel like I haven’t accomplished much. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. I met my best friends. I fell in love. I fell out of love and recovered. I learned how to be selfless. I got my first “real” post-college job. I successfully avoided jail. (That one is surprising given my first year living here.) I learned how to love a being more than myself. (I’m referring to my dog, you guys.) I bought my first home. I sold my first home. I was my own divorce attorney. I have fallen down the stairs at every apartment I’ve lived in. Totally unrelated, I learned vodka is not my friend. I learned how to drywall but still suck at painting walls. I made out with the wrong people…and some good ones, too. I ran a half-marathon and countless other races. I was inducted into both my high school and college sports Hall of Fames. I’ve seen the sunrise and set over the lake. I learned how to respond to a creep feeling up my leg on a train. I expanded my food palette. I taught two kids how to read. I jumped out of a plane to get over my fear of heights. I rescued three animals. I saw some of the best live music I’ll ever see in my life. I made the most of my life here. I survived here.

I rode this bike trail often. A LOT of decisions were made on this trail...
I rode this bike trail often. Major life decisions were made on this trail…

I feel like I could write a love letter to the city of Chicago. I could tell her how beautiful she is, I’m sorry for the bad times but will always remember the good, how she’ll always be a part of me, how I’ll make time to come see her and I’ll never forget her. But…she knows.

Author: Penny Lame

I can find humor in almost everything. These are my stories.