I have always called you my home. You have been the one place I have always known I could come back to time and time again. You are my family, my happy place, my entire world. There has never been a doubt in my mind that you are exactly where I am supposed to be. My safety net. My home.
But lately, your winters have grown colder and your dark days longer. It is not just the changing of the seasons anymore—here with you even the hottest summer day can go frigid. It’s not that the weather is getting worse or that I’ve lost my Midwestern tolerance for the brutality of the cold. No, it is the way you always find a way to give me so much only to take it away without a moment’s notice. Every time I think I have found my peace within you, your winds shift, and I’m gone again, floating through the skyscrapers just trying to find a place to belong and to truly call my home.
I have learned that home has a funny way of manifesting itself. Sometimes a building with a roof and four walls can be your home, but sometimes the roof and the walls that you need are really just their eyes looking down at you and their arms wrapped around you—sometimes you are all the safety I need. I can’t decide if I’m okay with the fact that my home might be a person and not the city I have attached myself to for twenty-six years. I think the idea that home is something intangible is the scariest part about it all; as people, we crave understanding and clarity, and the idea that home, one of the most important aspects of our lives, might not be something we can ever physically hold as our own is nothing short of unsettling. Why would I give my all to a person when they always seem to run the minute a storm blows through? My question is, will you be able to hold me up the way this city has through the roughest of storms, or will you cave in on us both and destroy the home we have created?
We have been through it all, this city and me. You have shown me some of my best nights, but also introduced me to the darkest parts of myself. I’ve left you before in hopes of finding something better elsewhere, but the problem with this idea of escape is that you may have left the city behind, but you are still the same person you were when you left. Moving to a new place will only change you if you decide to change; otherwise, you are simply the same person with the same problems in a different location. Maybe this is why you cannot be my home, Chicago. You have both created and destroyed me, and maybe it is time to look for a new place to call home; a new place to turn to when the bad days outweigh the good and a new set of walls to keep me safe when it all comes crashing down.
Maybe those who do make a person their home are the lucky ones. Maybe they understand that the world is not about where you are or what you have, but about the people you meet and the love that you share with them. Maybe we are all tiny towns looking for another soul to band together with to create a burgeoning city—a place where you can always turn to, no matter what the outside world brings. It is important to have a grip on reality, but it is also important to remember that your reality is built on more than what you can physically see and touch. Sometimes the strongest building blocks are the ones we cannot see—the links between two people that only they can understand.
Whether or not you remain my home, I will always remember you. You have shown me that even the busiest of cities has time for the sweet little moments in life, even when those moments are few and far between. Do yourself a favor and take it all in before you decide to move on from this place because you never know what you could have been missing all along. A city is made up of many smaller parts, and even in a lifetime, I don’t think you could ever get to know them all.
Maybe this is me giving you a second chance, Chicago. Maybe this could finally be the start of something new.