My one-way ticket from Sin City to Windy was dated March 8, 2011, and it has been an amazing two years. However, two years does not a Chicagoan make. My California “accent” sounds foreign among all the drawn out vowels in meetings. I have a terrible understanding of Chicagoland geography. And ketchup on hot dogs is the one condiment I will never compromise (seriously, you guys, WHY is this so offensive?!). I may have been born here, but moving west made me lose my Chi-town street cred.
I don’t remember much about living here as a toddler, save some vague flashbacks involving snow-covered sidewalks and a pink puffy jacket I must’ve worn a lot during those winters. But I remember great summers visiting as an older kid, a teenager, and as an adult fresh out of college. On trips with my parents, we frequented Magic Waters as if we didn’t live near an ocean or in a place chock-full of water parks. We went to Cubs games and sat in the then-empty upper deck, hoping to catch fly balls but also ducking anytime they flew near. And we ate at pizza and hot dog places that we craved on the plane rides over, but I wouldn’t imagine taking visitors to now with my newfound local’s knowledge.
This city is so many things – bustling, romantic, frustrating, beautiful. It’s not just where I was born or where I live now. It’s where my parents immigrated, met, and married. Where I bought my first home. Where I met my favorite person in the world. It means a lot to me to finally be living here, after dreaming about it for so long, but the best part is that the reality is infinitely better than the dream.