David and I flew from Denver to Milwaukee a week ago Friday and stayed in Wisconsin with my parents until the movers got to Chicago with our stuff. The plane landed, we dis-boarded (along with Adeline and our two cats), got our luggage, found my parents’ car in the parking garage (they were driving our car back from Denver), and drove out into a Midwestern night.
As we drove along the freeway surrounded by greenery with the humid air seeping in through the air conditioning system, we both experienced something unexpected: it felt as though we had simply been on a particularly long vacation and we were finally returning home. The feeling only intensified while we stayed at my parents’ house (where I lived in high school and where David and I have spent many holidays and long weekends) and especially once we got back to Chicago.
The density, the people walking everywhere, the brick buildings, the three-flats, the downtown skyline, the lake, the buses, the taxis, the trains, the clouds, the little dogs: it’s all so Chicago, and it’s all so Home.
We lived in Denver for a year and a half. It felt like a long time, but I know that over the years it will come to seem like just a short aside in our life story. At times over the past month I’ve found myself wishing that we had just never gone. Moving across the country twice in two years was an incredibly expensive and emotionally draining experience. But that’s not really fair.
I met some incredible people in Denver and reconnected with some wonderful old friends. I learned about myself and for the first time in my life I made friends without the context of school or work to serve as a crutch. And I blossomed as a writer. Being in Denver — with it’s open space and the separation from all that my life had been before — gave me the mental and emotional space I needed to take a giant step.
I started publishing my writing; I found the courage to tell the world, and especially my close friends and family, that I am a writer and that this is what I want to do with my life. I don’t know if I could have gotten there if we had never left Chicago. I was on a path here, and I may have just stayed on that path forever, the forward momentum of 28 years of achievement and success-seeking pushing me along until it was too late. Our time in Denver opened up a whole new world of possibilities to me, and in that sense it changed my life.
But for all that, I’m so incredibly happy to be back in Chicago. Everything about it feels right. Even the weather — which has been hot and sickly humid punctuated by thunderstorms and mostly grey skies — feels right. It’s oppressive and terrible and I know that I will miss Denver weather all my life. But it’s just right.
Awhile ago I mentioned a friend of mine who poses the question: if you had a hundred million dollars and could live anywhere in the world, where would you call home? At the time I was confused; I didn’t know how to answer that question. I missed Chicago, but I thought that I could come to call a new place home. And I think, with time, I could have. But now that I’m back, I know the answer: this is my home.