I feel like I’m in this relationship with New York- it’s my first love. I loved figuring it out as a kid in high school, trying to find the cheapest places to hang out and be amongst my friends at. Did it through college, too. And then I left it, and I’ve done so for a while. I visit twice a year from Chicago during my teacher breaks nowadays.
After 2.5 years of flying back and forth from Chicago to my beloved city, I finally got to see the skyline from the airplane window- I looked yesterday morning and just got teary-eyed. All those feelings about the courtship, the exploration, came rushing back, and I felt it was my city again. But then it’s not. Not really anymore. It’s increasingly becoming alien to me. I also looked out the window and had no idea about a lot of the places around the city-the baseball stadiums, the sets of projects I saw, just no knowledge of those places. That made me really sad. I didn’t get to explore it enough while I was here, as I was taking it for granted, really, because it was here and would always be here.
But now I’m not here anymore, and I’m not for it anymore. I’ve fallen in love with another city, Chicago, which I feel like I know better than New York nowadays. And the thought I face, the uneasy feeling I have, is that I won’t be able to come back here in a few years and think of this place as home. Looking at my skyline that I’d called home for 22 years for the first time, I felt like a tourist in my own city. That was the saddest part, that things just would never be the same, that New York was not mine anymore. And as I write, I sound increasingly like I’ve gone through a breakup with NYC- truth be told, these feelings are very similar to feelings of breaking up with someone I loved dearly in the past. I took for granted in some of my past relationships and I don’t want to, but it gets so much harder to appreciate something when you don’t see the city every day.
And the even more uneasy feeling I got yesterday was that the more Chicago becomes my home, the more I build commitments and relationships and a family (figuratively, but I could just as well create a literal family here, if that became the case), and the more years I spend in Chicago, the more and more it becomes unlikely that I move back to New York. The more I settle, the more I realize I don’t want to upend my life again- it took this long to build roots in Chicago, and I am happy here- I don’t want to kill that. I have a good job in a good school, have good friends here, am part of organizations that mean something to me politically, professionally, and personally, and it just feels like where I want to be, where I need to be. And it becomes increasingly unlikely that I don’t move back to New York. And that’s becoming okay, even giddily happy to me. Maybe not to my parents, maybe not to my friends back in New York City, but to me.
And I have to become okay with that. And if I’m not okay with that, I change it. I just can’t be hopping around all over anymore. I’m becoming too grown for that stuff now. I guess I just have to accept that I will just miss “home” always, every place I make a home. And that will have to be okay, too.