Slow moving as it sometimes seems, we are on the precipice of a big move. We’re headed to Cincinnati in the coming months and as I stand poised on the brink with my toes to the very edge, looking toward the next grand adventure, my brain is feeling somewhat nostalgic. Perhaps the boundless excitement surrounding the World Series has something to do with it or maybe the upcoming elections have me reminiscing on where I was eight years ago, but Chicago has been beckoning me to take a trip down memory lane… so I think I shall.
Chicago was the first big dream that I had all on my own. Unlike my fellow acting and musical theatre compatriots at Ithaca College, I had no desire to move to New York City upon graduation. The lure of pounding the pavement, jumbo slices of the best pizza in the world, performing somewhere off off off, really far off Broadway, of basking in the glow of the city that never sleeps never called to me. But Chicago on the other hand… Chicago with its small theatres, adventurous improv scene, and undeniable wisdom of what actually belongs on a hot dog seemed like a place where I could envision becoming a grown up. So, several months after graduation with my last few tips from Taste of Thai in one hand and a hard earned acting degree in the other I made my way to Chicago where I promptly fell head over heels for the city of big shoulders.
When I moved into my first apartment, an incredibly small but lovely one bedroom in Lincoln Square with a funky old fashioned bathroom and a shoebox of a kitchen, I put a huge map of the city on my wall and determined that I would make Chicago mine. A few months after moving there I sold my car, bought a monthly CTA pass and a used bike and from that moment on I felt unstoppable. I rode my bike everywhere during the glorious summer and fall months and navigated the ‘L’ during the bitterly cold winter months. It was the very first time I was actually on my own and though I often worked relentlessly in the way that only someone in their twenties can, I eventually figured out my city. I definitely had my ups and downs and I vividly remember having to walk two miles in the pouring rain after an exhausting rehearsal one night, thinking “what is my life?” But I got there.
I had a favorite Thai spot, a favorite coffee shop, a favorite dive bar, AND I lived down the street from the world’s most glorious diner, Jeri’s. I knew how to get virtually anywhere in the city, I learned how to bike aggressively and only got doored once. I saw baseball games at the famed Wrigley Field and I voted for a President who also considered Chicago to be his home. I found my theatre family in Dog and Pony Theatre Company, was part of a two person comedy show, made the front page of the Chicago Tribune Arts section (for a paper puppet production of Peter Pan), played endless games of Mexican Train dominoes, and drunkenly gave myself horrible bangs in Chicago. I fell in love with my best friend while introducing him to my city and together we started thinking of a new future. When it came time to leave I dreamed and schemed my way into the next grand adventure and was only able to leave because I had lived the hell out of Chicago for five incredible years; it was the city that shaped me.
My time in Chicago was the fully realized version of that long ago, college dream and as we head into this new chapter of our lives I have big expectations. It’s time to put a new map on the wall and go about making Cincinnati home!
But also… and perhaps more importantly… GO CUBS!!!