Last weekend, I (almost without realizing it) celebrated my one-year anniversary of living in Chicago. I didn't even recognize the milestone until Sunday night, out drinking with friends, I was asked how long I'd been here, and I answered, "Well, about a year now...*pause* Actually, uh, exactly one year now. Like. As of yesterday."
It seems only appropriate to mark this occasion with a Useful List (because I am that kind of person, yes, but we knew this already). Thus, without further ado: Ten Things To Know About Your First Year In Chicago.*
1. It's not 'cheating' to hang close with people from your pre-Chicago life, who also live here, just because you're desperately lonely and meeting new people is hard and scary. But please don't let it limit you! Also, don't expect to be besties with your pre-Chi-life people just because you both went to school in Nowheresville, Missouri. They might be great. They might also be assholes. You are under no obligation to stay in contact, man. It's a whole world out there.
2. Everyone has Opinions about where to find the best deep dish. Literally everyone. Follow your nose/heart/stomach to what you actually like, and don't mind the haters.**
3. Nothing will make you appreciate the luxury that is public transit like not being able to afford a transit pass and having to hike thirty minutes to and from work, in January. It will be miserable, but tough it out, because...
4. The Chicago winter will - most likely - not kill you. And come spring, you will feel like such a badass for besting that beast. (Ignore those people who want to tell you that your first Chicago winter was NOTHING compared to THEIR first Chicago winter, which purportedly involved such hardcore things as fifteen-foot snowdrifts, CTA closures, and, like, yetis. We all have our assigned crosses to bear. There will always be someone wanting to wave theirs in your face.)
5. If you have friends/acquaintances/lovers who live in the suburbs, you will literally never see them. Accept this.
6. If you ARE the friend/acquaintance/lover who lives in the suburbs, it will always be your job to take the train in to where 'everybody else' lives. It's understandable if you feel resentful about this, but honestly, that's just how it is.
7. You don't actually need fruit in your diet. Or dairy. Or meat, most of the time. One can live on rice, beans, broccoli and eggs much less miserably than you would think!!! And for pretty much ever!!!
8. When it comes time to tally up those monthly bills, your smartphone is less important than your CTA pass. Trust me. Swallow your pride and get one of those stone-age numbers that makes calls and occasionally texts and that's it. You'll build so much character. Or at least that's what I like to tell myself.
9. Roommates might be your besties, your worsties, or just Those Other People That Live Here. But they'll have a big impact on your stay. Choose them with care, if you can, but in the end? Go with your gut. Home should be a safe place, at the very least, to eat, sleep, keep your stuff, and occasionally weep into your pillow in paralyzed terror because OH GOD YOU ARE GOING TO BE POOR AND UNEMPLOYED FOREVER.
10) You won't, though. It gets better. You may even find, once you've made it through that grueling, terror-stricken, clueless first year, that you are street-savvier, gainfully employed, better dressed, marginally wiser, feeding yourself Actual Food, living with your best friend, and moving (however slowly) onwards and upwards into the career of your dreams. Maybe. But only if you're as lucky as me.
I wonder how many times I've done this now - sat on a train with the utter certainty that I was sitting in a linespace, a transitional moment from chapter to the next. England. Staunton. Poughkeepsie. Chicago. I am pursing...what? A place to belong. A place that is my own. A community where I am woven firmly into the essential fibers. This is my gift, and my curse, I think. I will always be seeking deeper connection. To be myself more fully, and give other people permission to do the same. Maybe this seat-of-my-pants catapult into a new place will lend me the courage to do that for real...
*Of course, you could also fill in Your First Year In (insert name of whatever your Big Move After College And Into Adulthood looks like). Y'know, whatever.
**That said....Giradano's. I mean. Just give it a try, is all I'm saying.