After nearly a year away, I decided it was time to reunite with the place I called home for two years – Chicago. I miss my friends there daily, and it was time to use some miles and hotel rewards for a reunion tour.
This isn’t a knock to any of my friends in Minnesota, but the girls in Chicago are some of the best friends I’ve ever had. The lifestyle of most Chicagoans is one that is fast paced, career focused and that also means most people are not in a rush to the alter or the maternity ward or the suburbs. This isn’t true in most of the Midwest, especially not Minnesota. In my career in Chicago I finally met people who I felt like I could talk with about my life goals, free from judgement. I finally had female friends who understood my point of view. I love my friends from Minnesota deeply, but there is a level of comfort that I cannot achieve with them in conversation that I can with these women. That being said, this trip to Chicago was MUCH needed!
Naturally, it started with some deep dish.
We went to Gino’s East, but only because of proximity. Chicago’s on Montrose was my favorite when I lived in the city. And I’ve never understood the love of Lou Malnati’s. Give me Gino’s, Chicago’s or Giordano’s. We had to dance off the calories, so we went to Old Crow and then off to Full Schilling for karaoke. Three of my besties came to stay with me at the hotel, and we had a great time staying up all night talking and catching up. In the morning we woke up and were off to Christkindlmarket – something I had never been able to visit before when I was a resident!
Gluhwein might be the grossest drink I’ve ever had, but when in Rome – amirite?
It felt so good being back with these amazing, funny, strong women. We’re all navigating life on different paths, but we have such a deep appreciation for each other’s friendship that it felt like we hadn’t missed a beat in the year since I moved. Meeting some of their new friends, catching up with their boyfriends, etc. – I felt more at ease than I had in months back in Minnesota. It’s strange how I had this feeling about moving home, like everything would be the same as it was when I left three years prior. I quickly learned that no one was on the same wavelength as me anymore, and I often felt (still feel sometimes) like I was speaking a different language with people I’d known for 10-20 years. The years away caused a nostalgic glow to cover the frustration I had felt which pushed me in to moving in the first place. Again, I love my friends in Minnesota – it is just hard to feel understood by many of them. We have such different views on what life should look like, and while I appreciate our differences – I think my independence is harder for them to understand, or so it feels that way.
For the first time in three years, I wasn’t working at the Big Ten Football Championship. This was a surprisingly strange feeling – even more strange than not working at any of the NCAA tournaments or the Sugar Bowl. BUT – I got to watch the game while drinking beer with my friends, and that strange feeling quickly dissipated. Before I knew it, I was cheering for Michigan State, high-fiving strangers and screaming loudly. We went back to Wrigleyville following the game, for a night of dancing with the RMU soccer team – some of the funniest women on the planet! My former intern, and one of the greatest friends I have made in Chicago, played for RMU when she started working with me. She’s brought me along to many outings with these players and each time is so fun that my face, stomach and feet hurt for days after.
No trip to Chicago would be complete without stopping by my former office, the Hancock building. But not to visit the top, to go to the basement. To L’Appetito for a breakfast sammy. It was just as delicious as I remembered.
I made the right decision by moving home. I’ve rekindled some friendships with great people, I’ve had so much fun with my nieces and nephew, and I truly am happy to call Minnesota home. It’s beautiful, the people are so freaking nice, and my job is amazing. But this trip to Chicago was a great reminder that I’m not crazy, I’m may be an oddball, but I’m not making the wrong decisions for me. I want a different life. Having strong friendships in your adulthood – ones where we push each other in our careers, we have some of the best nights out, and we are there for each other in tough times – these remind you to be confident in who you are and who you are becoming. They won’t allow you to conform because it’s more comfortable. It’s important to have these people in your life.
And though others (including good friends) may not understand you all the time, it doesn’t mean their friendship isn’t valuable too. It may mean being more private than with your other friends. It may mean feeling judged on occasion. That’s okay. They’re like your mother or other female relatives – they’ve known you for so long they just want the best for you. They just don’t understand that their vision of “best” isn’t the same as yours. Their hearts are in the right place, though.