Six Years in Chicago
In November 2009, I found myself in Chicago for 3 days. 9 months later, I left my family, friends, and perfect California weather when I moved from the west coast to the midwest.
Leaving LA for Chicago is the best and most out of character thing I’ve ever done. Before taking that trip back in the fall of ’09, I hadn’t flown in almost 10 years and it took everything–including an anti-anxiety pill–to get me on that flight. Today I’m going to talk about why I left LA and some lessons learned in moving (halfway) across the country.
Life before Chicago
My early to mid 20s were not a happy time for me. I felt unsure about my job, city, finances, and relationship. I was working as a freelance blog designer, and my job had a shelf-life. Being self taught meant going back to school to really learn web design, finding a new job, or starting something new. While my design business was growing, it wasn’t where I needed it to be, and I didn’t know how to get it there. When one major thing–or in my case everything–feels unsure, life can seem a little hopeless. I’m not sure how I let it happen, but I found myself in a relationship where I was bullied and manipulated on a very regular basis. He broke up with me often–would kick me out of his place, say awful things to me, and I’d go back to him. I couldn’t afford a car and an apartment in a major city, so I chose one with public transit and hit the reset button.
Here are some lessons learned in moving to a new city alone
Give it a test run
It sounded like a pipe dream–something other people did. People who take chances. Bold people. Not me. I always played it safe, living at home while attending community college and then finishing up at UCSB. Another safe move, just a 90 minute drive from home. So to make sure I really loved the city, I rented a condo in Chicago for a month starting Feb 1, 2010. My first Chicago winter.
If you can’t just take off for a month but have some vacation time, take a week to spend a little time in a prospective new city. I met a few people, was charmed by the friendliness of the Midwest, and felt very at home here. So much that I extended my time another 2 weeks. Not sure I would have had the courage to make the move without that test run. After landing back in LA on March 15, I realized how unhappy I was in LA, and that this move needed to happen. Fear held me back and it took a few months go get the courage to travel back, choose an apartment, sign on an apartment in River North, and on August 1, leave LA for Chicago.
Say yes and put yourself out there
When my mom had a client who was my age call to invite me to his friend’s BBQ I was mortified but said yes, and met a girl who just moved from LA to Chicago. She and I spent a ton of time together that year, but she actually ended up moving back CA. When my realtor invited me out for drinks with her client or when a blogger invited me to get dinner, I said yes. Email that friend of a friend who lives in your new city asking to meet up. Say yes to drinks, lunches, and events where you won’t know anyone. Suggest getting together with someone you always say hi to after your workout class. Befriend the tinderman you don’t want to date but think would make a good friend.
Yes, I’ve done that. And we’re still friends.
Talk to your neighbors. You won’t always get a yes and won’t always make a new friend, but it’s always worth a shot, right?
Leave your home and get involved
I made so many lasting friendships at my CrossFit gym, so find something you’re into–a running club, guitar lessons, or join the board of an organization (I’m on the board at PAWS). Learn something new, help people, or join a co-working space. My mom always used to tell me my dream man wasn’t going to magically appear in my living room, and the same holds true of your friends. Although I have theories on this wtih online dating and social media, but you get my point.
The past 6 years were full of changes. Let’s discuss.
Within one year
I got a pixie cut, moved halfway across the country, survived my first blizzard, found myself single for the first time in my adult life, and met my now business partner and launched The Everygirl. For anyone who might have missed these posts, this is how I launched my graphic design business and this is how we launched our website.
During the past six years
I moved from River North to Lakeview to West Town, started taking on some photography and styling projects, my dog almost died of autoimmune disorder, became a paleo obsessed CrossFitter, had my home photographed and featured for the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd time, ended a relationship that lasted almost the entirety of my 20s, started dating for the first time in my adult life, dated a few guys, broke up with most of them, my great aunt lost her memory and forgot who I was, I got a car and learned to navigate the city, traveled to Europe for the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd time, designed a few sofas, got shingles, learned that 45 degrees is not North Face weather, made some of the best friends a girl could ever ask for, had both knee and oral surgery, survived a few blizzards, there was that forbes feature, and I fell in love.
A few final thoughts
There were so many days when I looked out the window and wondered what the hell I was doing here. The feeling of “wow, I really live here” went from daily, to weekly, to monthly, to every few months. There’s always a feeling of happiness that comes over me when I see the city’s skyline, but I’ve passed the point of not being able to believe that I live here. And I didn’t realize that feeling was gone until I sat down to write this post. With any big change, you will question yourself, your decision, and whether or not you did the right thing. I don’t believe there’s one job, person, or city for each of us. And sometimes, you’ve just gotta give it a shot.
This isn’t a PSA for everyone to pick up and move across the country, but if you’re feeling unhappy with a certain area of your life, it should remind you to do something about it. Start looking for a job that will make you happy, find a new apartment, take a class, plan that big trip, or break up with whoever you’re dating if you know in your heart that they’re not right for you. There will be ups and downs–I had plenty of both. But the ups? They were just so good. Moving led me to my dream job, friends I can’t imagine not knowing, and a man I love. And this city went from a place I visited, to a place I couldn’t believe I walked down the streets of every day, to home.
Happy 6 years, Chicago.