I'm sitting in the Emerald City Coffee Shop, a block from where I lived when I first moved to Chicago. This place makes the absolute worst mocha that I have ever had, which is why I'm drinking a regular drip coffee. January has an engagement shoot in Wicker Park this morning, so I thought I would stop by the old neighborhood and visit some of the places I used to frequent when I lived here.
Apart from college, I had never really spent much time in any city other than Columbus. Life had been pretty straight-forward up to that point: I went to college, finished school, and got a job. After losing my first job out of college toward the end of the dot-com collapse, I decided that my life needed a change of scenery. Several friends from college lived in the Chicago area, and my good friends Jay and Jen had recently moved there, so in the span of a couple weeks I took a trip to Chicago, found a great place in Wrigleyville, loaded up a U-Haul and was on my way.
For me, moving to Chicago was really more than just a chance of scenery. It meant living more than twenty minutes away from my parents, finding a new job in an unfamiliar city, and not having that comfortable safety net to fall back on. It was about learning a new culture, getting around with public transportation, and becoming a little more self-sufficient.
Living a block north of Wrigley Field, every Cubs home game was an adventure. I had to learn when it was safe to move my car and when driving meant losing your parking spot for the day; Scheduling trips to the grocery store became something of an art that required consulting the Cubs home schedule and the weekly street cleaning cycle. But the inconveniences that came with living in a busier part of town were more than offset by the advantages; It's hard to beat Chicago when it comes to all-night taco stands, insanely cheap pastry shops, and the promise of great concerts going on almost every night. And while the weather can be rough most of the year, every Fall comes with a small window of the most amazing electricity and crispness. You just know it will only last for a few weeks, but it more than makes up for e sweltering heat in the summer and frigid chill in the winter.
Thinking back to that first year in Chicago, though, I think the best part of the move was the view of the city from the rooftop of my apartment building in early Fall on game day. Every time I visit the city, I'm reminded of that feeling -- sitting on my rooftop, experiencing the energy of the city, hearing the roar of the fans, and watching the crowds of people work their way down the street -- and I'm grateful for the time I spent here learning how to live.