I spent last weekend in Chicago for my step-sister's wedding. So excited to go, all I could think of was the excitement I felt the very first time I landed at Midway and found my way to the Orange line way back in 1988, when I traveled there to visit Loyola.
I couldn't wait to walk Michigan Avenue, gaze at the expertly dressed windows, watch the diverse stream of people and eat the delicious ethnic dishes that I've so missed. I thought about how, when I first moved to Chicago all those years ago, I was so enamored with every little thing; very little wasn't shiny and exotic (except for maybe the smell of the subway at times).
When I moved to Chicago at the ripe old age of barely 18, I was no different than any other bright eyed college freshman: I thought I could conquer the world, that there was no obstacle too big to overcome and that my life would now be magical simply because I transplanted from one locale to another.
So last Friday morning when I sat on the Orange line, riding into downtown, I couldn't understand why I wasn't as excited as I thought I'd be to be there again. Instead of seeing endless possibility I saw a long train ride and the annoyance of lugging my bags through the tunnel to transfer to the Red Line.
Where before I'd look at my fellow passengers and assume that they, too, came to Chicago on purpose, seeking out all that was new and promising I now saw just people who lived in a city who needed to get where they were going. No different than anywhere else, they were simply going on with their day. Nothing magical about that.
I began to realize that the location has little to do with life–it's what we decide to see that makes the difference. When I was 18 I chose to see wonder and promise and opportunity. Now that I'm *ahem* older I chose to see my current reality: the day to day of getting through life. It may not be exotic or magical or shiny but it's certainly real.
As we were walking around downtown and I was taking in everything that had changed in the 10 long years since I've been gone, my dad asked "Do you miss this?" My immediate answer was YES, and it was an honest answer. I told him that I missed the energy of the city, the diversity and the feeling that I'd never be bored, even just sitting on a park bench watching others go by.
What I think I really miss, though, are the eyes that I used to see life through. They're a bit more tired now than they were then and see things in a different light. Not better, not worse, just different. They have a bit more perspective and can see through the slick, shiny windows and know that money is better spent elsewhere. They can read the faces of the people streaming through the streets and connect with the mom lost in thought, the career woman rushing to her next appointment, the tourist trying to take it all in and yes, even the bright-eyed student in awe of there is yet to see.
Still sweet home Chicago, just a bit more down home this time around.