exactly one year since I packed up my entire life in New York City and moved to Chicago. On this morning exactly one year ago, I woke up super early and headed out for what would be my last sunrise run as a New Yorker. I ran to the reservoir and saw one of the most beautiful sunrises I've ever seen there as tears rolled down my cheeks. It was a very bittersweet moment and I can still close my eyes and remember it vividly. I can't think of a better way that I would have wanted my last morning to go.
This morning, I felt it only fitting to try and start my second year here on another high note with a sunrise workout. Duh. I had a great bike ride along the lake as the sun rose beautifully. (I know I do these all the time, but this one had more significance.) I seriously feel like it was just a few weeks ago that I landed back home in Chicago and started my new life here. Although it was such a hard decision to make (it took me over a year to actually make it), I absolutely think moving back home was the right one. This was probably my most stress-free and most fun years in a long time, and I'm not going to lie, it was much needed and well-deserved. Of course there have been some struggles along the way as expected, but all in all, I am extremely happy to be back here permanently (for the foreseeable future).
Even though this year was most definitely not "real life" because I didn't work full-time (and sometimes not at all), it was a necessary break from reality for me. As someone who has always had a grand plan and always knew what my next step was, this was very out of character for me, but again, something I think I really needed. Taking that step back from full-time teaching along with changing my environment was something I was not only grateful to be able to do, but was totally necessary to my overall happiness.
In my time-off the past year, I was able to explore Chicago a whole lot. I went to a lot of old favorites and made lists of new places to go and see, things to do, and foods to be eaten. Since I had never officially lived in the city as an adult, there was a ton of stuff I had never been able to experience and I wanted to steadily cross all this new-to-me stuff off these lists (hello type-A personality) and have fun while doing it. More importantly, I also used this time off to re-evaluate what I wanted to do with my life. The whole point of this year off was the actually decide if teaching (and coaching) was what I really wanted to continue doing or if I wanted to go in a completely different direction career wise. (Newsflash: I still haven't 100% decided on this, but am definitely leaning toward heading back to education.)
Since I've had a lot of down time in this past year and I'm really good at keeping busy and entertaining myself, I was able to check a lot of things off my seemingly never-ending to-do list full of museums, sporting events, restaurants, street art sites, touristy spots, etc... I was always exploring different parts of the city and allowing myself to do things I never had the opportunity to do or things that I hadn't done in a very long time. And because (as mentioned above) I love me some lists, here are two of them about my favorite parts of this year and things I still want to get done in my next year here.
Top TEN Things I did that I was so excited to experience in my first year:
1. Being here to see the Cubs win the World Series (and the parade)
2. Running the Chicago Marathon as a Chicago resident
3. Going to the the Illini-Northwestern basketball game with my dad
4. My first Chicago St. Patty's day
5. The Taste of Chicago with my parents
6. Summer Street Fests (and singing and dancing along to some great cover bands)
7. Biking the entirety of the Lakefront Trail
8. Having the Bean all to myself at sunrise (multiple times)
9. Getting on a boat in the playpen
10. Sunset (or anytime) strolls along the lake whenever I pleased
Top TEN Things I still want to do in the upcoming year:
1. Go to Champaign for a football and/or basketball game and stay overnight (perhaps at the Union!!)
2. Go to a Bears game at Soldier Field
3. Go to a Bulls game at the United Center
4. Complete the Chicago Triathlon
5. Play in a beach volleyball and/or flag football and/or basketball league
6. See a Chicagohenge sunset in the loop
7. Have a weekend getaway to Wisconsin or Michigan or Indiana
8. Attend a concert at Soldier Field or Wrigley Field
9. Get a job that I'm actually excited about
10. Meet a guy that I like and (most importantly) that actually likes me back
I wish after being here a year I could say I figured more out for myself, but I haven't. What I can tell you is that this has been a year that I just feel lucky to have had. I have a renewed sense of energy and enthusiasm for going back to teaching and am hopeful again for finding happiness at work. To have had the ability to take a step back, reset, and realize that I missed it was an important to me. To also have the chance to basically just do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, without any real work-related responsibility, was a real treat and not one that I took for granted for one second.
This past year really was incredible and I still can't believe I'm not just here visiting for a week or two. Like hey, I actually live here for real. Sometimes I just have to pinch myself because as amazing as New York City is, Chicago is no schlub. It's truly a beautiful city and there is always something going on. So on this one year Chicagoversary, I can tell you that I am grateful and happy and can only hope year two and the many, many more to come are just as incredible as this last one has been.