After the free-form, the list

2015-07-07 08.51.26

This post, you’ll be glad to know, is the the more organized result of some very healthy, very necessary free-form writing I just spent some time on. You see, my move back to Chicago happened so quickly, and so soon after having made it out to NYC, that, while I do not regret the decisions that led me here (I seriously cannot emphasize that enough), I am only now realizing that I haven’t really taken the time to process the enormity of those decisions and the change they led to.

I have struggled with leaving what was easily the most incredible place I’ve ever lived even as I find myself in what is indisputably a better professional setting, more affordable living circumstances and in the company of the people who mean the most to me. I feel guilty even admitting it, but there you have it.

When I fell into a funk of a different kind in New York – one brought on by a brutal winter and in no small part by the loneliness of living states away from loved ones – I resolved to do something about it: I got myself out into the world. I created a series of lists (affectionately known as my NYC Lists) of all the things to do and see and try and experience in and around the city.

And you know what? It worked. Not only did the lists get me out of my funk then (and several afterwards), but they served as constant idea generators to keep me busy. What’s more, I had no idea I’d be leaving NYC as soon as I did, but now that I’m gone, I am so, so, so grateful to that adventuress inside me who put me on each new experience. I lived while I lived in NYC, and no one can argue otherwise.

These first few months back have been fantastic in a lot of ways: I’ve seen my mom and siblings more in 12 weeks than I did in the last 12 months; I’ve made a home out of a basically empty apartment; I’ve rediscovered yoga and city cycling and the satisfaction of a homemade meal. But in all of that, I’ve approached living in Chicago very differently from living in New York City in one critical way: as though I already know everything about it.

I’m only now (like, literally as I write this) coming around to the idea that the curiosity that drove me to explore every nook and cranny of NYC got sidelined in my move back, a combination of so much else going and an assumption that I’ve already seen and done everything the Windy City has to offer. It’s home, after all. Been there, done that.

In a plot twist you likely saw coming three paragraphs ago…that just isn’t the case, dear reader! Less than an hour after my little exercise in writing therapy, I had culled up a page-long list of things to do and see in and around Chicago. And so, I find myself again where I was a year and a half ago: on the bright side of a funk that had kept me in the dark for longer than I’d care to admit, and with ideas for evening and weekend adventures that’ll keep me occupied well into 2016.

I’ll spend the next couple of weeks posting my Chicago Lists – everything from food and bars to museums, historical sites, neighborhoods and shopping – in order to get them all written down and out into the world. Once that’s done, I’ll set about ticking items off each. And as I do, I have every expectation that this new chapter of my life will, at long last, begin to write itself.

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