Thank you for seven memorable years. I know we had our ups and downs, especially when it came to finding parking, but I will never forget how much I grew up living in the windy city. Now, I have to say good bye. The first time I visited the city I was almost five years old and had just immigrated to the US. Our flight was cancelled from Chicago to Denver because of a bad snow storm in the middle of January. We stayed the night near the airport and this was my first night in the US. Fast forward thirteen years later and I am filling out university applications. I wait in anticipation for my offer letters to see which schools I got into and can go visit. Weeks after sending in my application I receive a big envelope, inside is my acceptance letter to a school in Chicago! I could hardly contain my excitement and packed my bags to fly to the Midwest. At that time I had no idea the kind of impact Chicago would have on my life and all of the things I would be introduced to.
A few days before my Chicago school visit I caught the nastiest cold but was still determined to board the plane. We land and it was f-ing freezing. Compared to the southern California sun I am used to this cold was a change. Drugged up on cold medicine I toured what would be my future university campus. I have no idea what made me like the campus and school so much that day. It was cold, rainy and I felt miserable. The campus was completely empty because it was Spring Break so there weren’t students around to liven it up. Even the city made little effort to show off how fun it could be. It was so cloudy that we couldn’t even find Sears Tower so we ended up roaming around aimlessly. Note: Yes, I know it’s called Willis Tower now but I feel like I became a Chicagoan after the years I spent living in the city that I will always refer to it as Sears Tower. It was renamed to Willis just a year before I moved to the Midwest and the name honestly just doesn’t suit it.
The weekend I spent touring the campus and city to see if I would want to live here feels like a lifetime ago. Whatever it was that made me decide to move across the country to pursue architecture, I am glad I listened. One of the main things I learned over the past seven years is how to be independent. Moving to a city, state and area of the US where I had zero family and didn’t know anyone was a scary thought. But I was ambitious to make it on my own. My parents and sister packed me up and moved me to Chicago before school started. It was summertime, the best time to visit Chicago, the city was bursting with life and Lake Michigan was blue and inviting. School started a few days later and I became busy with architecture projects and life on campus. During one of those projects I had to work with a guy from Hawaii. At first he wasn’t the friendliest and hardly wanted to talk to me. But I saw something special in him so I persisted. Before the end of my first semester in Chicago he and I became a couple. Today, almost seven years later we are still together =o) So Chicago, I have you to thank for introducing me to him.
Returning from Christmas break in California I was excited to be back in my new city, my new home. It would be my first cold winter in a long time and Chicago, you did not disappoint. I experienced the third largest blizzard recorded in Chicago history. I will never forget that day. The snow started to fall early, at noon it was barely visible and by the afternoon there was a few feet of snow on the ground. A group of us were working on a project for studio (Studio, for those of you unfamiliar with architecture school, is the main class we take. We had it Monday, Wednesday, Friday from 2pm to 6pm each week and it was our life). Outside it was dark and the snow was showing no sign of stopping. All of a sudden there was thunder, lighting and more snow! It looked like the end of the world, which I thought it was because I had no idea it could snow, thunder and lightning all at the same time. So Chicago, you introduced me to a new form of weather.
Seasons changed and I finished my first year of architecture school. Quickly I was becoming familiar with the CTA lines, the street names and how to orientate myself around the city. I bought a bike and frequently rode up along the lakefront whenever I had the chance. I moved off campus the second year and got my first apartment. I felt like a grown up, learning how to pay bills, manage my money and cooking for myself. The independence I gained that second year made me build character and feel more confident in myself. By my third year living in Chicago I was becoming more comfortable with the city. I knew I wanted to continue pursuing architecture and was happy I had decided to pursue it in the city where the first skyscraper was built. Being constantly surrounded by famous buildings and architecture I grew to appreciate the profession I had chosen. So Chicago, thank you for being such an architecturally profound city and introducing me to my career.
My fourth year I took a break from Chicago for a few months, I spent the summer in Southern California and the fall semester in Paris. I returned right before Christmas, back to the city I had become so familiar with. That winter was another one I will never forget. It was so cold that school was cancelled and we were warned not to go out for longer than ten minutes without covering our skin or we would get frost bite. I’ll admit I did start questioning why I had chosen such a cold place to move to. Why hadn’t I accepted an offer at one of the schools in a warmer climate? But then I wouldn’t have experienced one of the best days of the year in Chicago: the first day it’s warm enough to not wear your winter jacket and everyone is happy to be outside. The warm days continued into summer and I spent my first official summer in Chicago which was humid and hot, a complete 180 from the cold winters I was getting used to. School started again and it would be my last year of school, the fifth and final year of architecture school. For graduation I had family come over from other parts of the US and the Czech Republic. I was excited to share my city with them and show them around my favorite parts. I didn’t know whether I would stay and pursue my architectural career here or move somewhere else. In the end I chose to stay and discover a new part of the city, moving from the south side where campus was I moved up north and found a small studio apartment. It wasn’t as luxurious as Carrie’s apartment in Sex and the City but it was mine and I enjoyed every moment of living alone. So Chicago, thank you for introducing me to adulthood.
I’ll admit, the last year and a half I lived in Chicago was rocky and some personal things came up that made me take a step back and reevaluate why I had decided to stay. I was starting to be unhappy and not satisfied with the way my life was going. I was miserable going to work, my commute was frustrating beyond compare (it was an hour forty five one way) and I was starting to get fed up with winter. My body was refusing to cope with the cold weather and I started to find negativity in everything around the city. I knew I needed change and to move on from life in the Midwest. It was one of the hardest decisions I have had to make, but after months of feeling down I began to make the change. I wanted to leave before I started to loathe Chicago, I wanted my last memories of the city I spent my early twenties in to be happy ones. I quit my job and headed back to California, I could have chosen a new place to discover but I missed my family, the warm weather and culture of Southern California. I never thought I would move back to where I grew up but here I was excited to be moving out west again. Change was what I needed. So Chicago, thank you for raising me into an adult and teaching me how to make my own decisions however hard they may be.
I know we’ve said our goodbye but I wanted to thank you again for these last seven years. You taught me how to become an independent person, you introduced me to my boyfriend, let me experience various extreme weather conditions, showed me diverse architecture, and raised me into an adult. I moved to the city as a young eighteen year old girl and am moving out as a twenty five year old aspiring female architect. Each year I created memories with people that I will forever cherish. I don’t know how my life would be had I not chosen to go to school in your beautiful city but what I do know is that I made the right decision. Moving forward I was always fondly remember you Chicago.
x the Adventurer
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