For the first time in my life, I am one of ‘those people’ I always see in the middle of the day lingering over a latte and a laptop at Starbucks. I always wondered who they were and how did they manage to be doing virtually nothing in the middle of a weekday? Now I am one of them. A freelancer. A writer. A vagabond. Slightly jobless and ever so slightly homeless and it’s great.
But it did take me a few days to transition back to this life again. After all my adventures over the last year and a half and all the new relationships I’d forged, after one ‘catch-up’ drink here with old friends, would anyone really care? I had been growing anxious for my return to Chicago. I was excited to see old friends and just a bit trepidatious since it meant kind of an unofficial end to my ‘round the world’ travels. But nothing prepared me for what I really did feel once I was actually in my favorite city.
Everything was the same and everything had changed. Nothing seemed different and yet I was different and the little life I had here was no longer here ready for me to just jump back in. Or was it? In some ways, it was like time stood still. While I was off having the most amazing experiences of my life and making more friends than I ever have in such a short time, everything here was pretty much status quo. It was like I never left except for one thing: the life I had assembled for ten years in Chicago had dissolved into the city air.
Of course I am being a bit dramatic (I have to keep you interested dear reader); many of my friends were here doing pretty much the same thing they were doing when I left and it was great to see them. But the “ferris wheel” that was my life with my different groups of work/neighbor/activities friends on the ride in different carriages with me in the middle of all the spokes had been broken down and dismantled. Everyone had gotten off and gotten on other rides or even gone to other amusement parks and random traveling carnivals. I felt like after I said all my ‘hellos’ to friends, maybe I’d start to feel down.
But I realized that I could settle back down and reassemble this ‘Lubin Ferris Wheel of Fun’ in no time and all would be fine. Although some riders really did up and run away with the circus including one of my best friends who had moved back to Germany while I was gone and the ex-boyfriend, whom I did everything with and went everywhere with, was now in another relationship. Even though I managed to wrangle him out for a beer one night, he was simply just not around. I haven’t missed being in a couple at all, but I have to admit, coming back to Chicago was like a slap of reality. I was out in the world being footloose and fancy free and not in a position to miss it.
But before I could get too sad or nostalgic for the ‘old days,’ I was falling in love with my city all over again. Not only was I catching up with old friends, but also meeting new ones. I was finally meeting some folks who’d contacted me through my website from articles written about my trip or various links on the web. They’d written me over the last two years while I was away, like new pen pals, and now we could actually meet face to face. Meeting lots of new people was one of the best things about my travels so I really enjoyed keeping this going even in my hometown.
When I first returned to Chicago, I have to admit, I was a tad let down–not sure why–but it was a combo of things–missing my trip, having a very, very delayed reaction to my break-up with my ex-boyfriend (after five years of being together in Chicago, I associate a lot of the city with him), and just general stress that comes with the place you actually call ‘home’.
But after a few days of self-wallowing, the sun came out—-literally and figuratively—-and I realized it was springtime in Chicago. There is no better time to enjoy Chicago than in the spring—the enormous lakefront is alive with cyclists and joggers, restaurants put out their alfresco sidewalk tables and chairs, and the Cubs’ season starts.
What a great time to be alive. I re-immersed myself in my city: caught a Cubs game at Wrigley Field, went to a friend’s barbecue, wandered around the phenomenal Millennium Park, caught a couple flicks at the International Latino Film Fest, joined the Chicago Couch Surfer group for a pub crawl in Bucktown, picked up the Emmy award I’d won while I was away (!), and caught up with old and new friends nearly every day and night doing various lunches, dinners, and/or drinks. Before long, I had reclaimed Chicago as my own and once again, had no regrets.
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Great writing as ever Lisa, Keep 'em coming. I really do enjoy reading your work. I've never been to Chicago but its moving higher and higher up my list of places to see!
Great post…. “who are those people?” too funny, I know exactly what you mean.
I like the “Alfresco” shot from July of 2004!! 🙂 Either your “tour” put you in some sort of time warp or your camera’s date needs to be reset!
Sing it with me… "Sweet Home Chicago…!"
Emmy?! You are full of suprises.
Yadda, yadda, yadda. What your world wide readership really wants to know is….did you have lunch with me? Don't make them beg for the information!
Chicago is a life long mistress. No matter where you go or what you've done, you can fall in love with Chicago over and over because you never stop loving this city. Even when it's cold, windy, humid etc. she's still the most comfortable city on Earth. Granted, she's not as good when you're not here, but she's still a great broad!
I’ve just found your blog so I’ll have to dig back to read about your trip.
But I do empathize with the reverse culture shock. After three years on the road, I returned to Geneva (where I was then living) to find that everything was the same – and not.
Most interesting was my own reaction to things I’d always found ‘normal’ – like saying good morning in the elevator, or standing in an orderly queue. At the same time, I noticed so many things I’d missed before – the glorious flowers in bloom in spring, the clean air…
It took a while before the travel bug set in again. How long will it take you? 🙂
Great pics and writing!