I moved to Chicago when I was 18 years old, just three months after graduating high school. I still remember that day so clearly. It was August 26, 2000, pre-9/11 so my family was able to come with me to the gate at the airport. My cousin's grandmother came, too, and she gave me a copy of Oh, The Places You'll Go which, of course, I read on the spot. Any time I think of that book, I associate it with sitting in the airport in San Antonio, anxiously awaiting the call to board. I remember landing in Chicago with nothing but my four suitcases and one large brown shipping box. That's it. That's all I took with me. That's all I needed to start my life.
Of course, part of the nostalgia is also for my friends and the people I love who lived there. I say "lived" because it seems that most of them have moved away by now - to new cities, new countries, new suburbs, new towns. It's what happens in life. People move on to new places while the old beloved ones change into something new of their own. I've only been back to visit Chicago twice since I left and while many things still look the same, there have been plenty of changes that have made my treasured places unrecognizable. Like my old apartment that has since been bulldozed to extend the platform at the Belmont station. Or DePaul's old theatre school building -where I spent four years of my life- that will soon be replaced by a shiny new (and much needed) facility. Not to mention all the little shops and restaurants and cafes that have been replaced by one new business after another. It's a lonesome thing realizing a place with so much significance now exists solely in your memory.
As much as I love living in California and have no desire to leave, Chicago will always have a special place in my heart. Chicago is where I became independent and learned to rely solely on myself. Chicago is where I became the first woman in my family to graduate from college. Chicago is where I discovered what I liked and didn't like, what I needed in a friend, who I wanted to be, what my hopes and dreams were. I knew Chicago like the back of my hand and felt comfortable in nearly every part of the city. That city spoke to me, and we became the best of friends. And when we see each other again, we'll pick up right where we left off like true best friends, each of us grown and matured in separate ways but still the same deep down at heart.