I think of life as taking place in chapters in a novel. Each part is distinct, but fluid in a way. Each part has a beginning and an end – some good and some bad. Each part builds upon the prior, and the one prior to that, and so on. The lessons accumulate, the experiences accumulate, and the friends and memories multiply exponentially.
I consider Chapter 1 rather broadly: birth to some college (1980-2000). A long chapter, full of the basics – getting my favorite sunglasses with the heart-shaped lenses for my 6th birthday, learning to ride a bike, stealing cigarettes from my parents and smoking in the woods near my house, fighting with my brother and trying to talk him into running away from home, smoking other things behind the gym when I should have been at lunch, never getting a C despite my lack of effort, dating “long distance”, waiting tables and selling soap, and learning about geology and Goldschlager. These were all basic, really. My life was pretty normal, I thought, until my brother died, and after that phone call, I knew I’d never be the same.
Chapter 2, as a result, was pretty short (2000-2001). I took care of my gramma, watching her die before my eyes, forgetting I was a college student for the time being. And after that, I realized I needed a change, I needed to learn about myself, do something for myself. While this sometimes means picking up a new hobby or getting a kitten, I went to Italy. And in Italy, not only did I find myself, but I also found Chris, although at the time I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
Chapter 3 (2001-2004) involved a final semester of college, dating and falling in love with someone who actually finished high school, a real job, and a big move. Graduate school brought me to Chicago, a time we expected to be over with in 18 months, but little did we know, for we were about to fall in love with a city for the very first time.
I like to think of graduate school (2004-2006) as a separate chapter unto itself. We lived on a one-income budget, a much higher cost of living than Carolina, and along with that a very small 1 bedroom hi-rise condo with two cats to boot, for the first year. We got engaged, I made some amazing friends, and I went to bars at least three nights a week. Maybe I regressed a little, since college for me was a bit different, who knows. But I loved it – all of it – even the work, the papers, and the rotations (well, all but one). I loved it so much, we loved it so much, that we stayed here.
So Chapter 5 is for Chicago. Chapter 5 is marriage, double-income-no-kids, cold winters, breathtaking summers, traveling away often, but always being so happy to come home, and making it in the world. Chicago is where we grew together, Chris and I, where we bought a condo, a car that we trusted for more than 60-mile trips, and where I found my favorite hobby, food. Chicago couldn’t have been better for us, and we couldn’t have loved living in a city, the two of us, any better than this. Chicago is where we found home.
….to be continued.