In the summer of 2014, I arrived in this city with two suitcases and an abundance of hope, curiosity, naivete, and a palpable sadness for having just left my favorite city that had all my friends. In two days, on the eve of my two year anniversary in the Windy City, I will be returning to the Northeast. I will be leaving in very much the same way that I came, in a whirlwind of moving stress, with too many things that cost too much to move, and suitcases containing more than the bare essentials. This time, I will be returning to my group of dear friends in NYC, though I won’t be living in the city with them. My next adventure will take me to just an hour north of the city, in a small town that I had never even heard of a few weeks ago, much less considering living in. But that’s how life is, isn’t it? It comes at us in a breakneck speed that is simultaneously exhilarating and frightening. All we can do is either embrace it with as much bravado as we can muster, or shy away and forever wonder what if I took the jump, what if…?

It’s funny how things worked out. I came here almost convinced that I would never quite like the city, because my heart already belonged to another. And yet, in the last half year, I have finally come around to truly appreciating the myriad of things this city offers. From the affordable urban lifestyle, to the plethora of food options, and the accessibility of the city to and from the rest of the world, Chicago has finally won me over. The city has its drawbacks and flaws just like any other city, but its strengths and pros are undeniable. I have finally stopped comparing it against NYC and appreciating it on its own merit. It will never be NYC, because there is only one NYC, but that doesn’t mean I can’t find happiness here. Because I absolutely have, through all the ups and downs, the city grew on me, and often offered more than I gave it credit for.

On the other hand, nothing could have prepared me for the disappointment and struggles that I experienced in my first job out of school. I don’t wish to go into the details here, but suffice to say it was far from the right fit for me in many aspects. However, as one of my favorite saying goes, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. That’s true, though on many instances I definitely felt that it very almost did (okay, I’m probably being a little melodramatic here, but just a little). Let’s just say I left with a little less naivete and hair, and a little more resilience and understanding of the world that will hopefully save me from similar heartaches in my next venture.

And so it is with a dose of nostalgia and a bittersweet sentiment that I sit here in an almost empty apartment beginning to say my farewell to this city that I have come to love. Yes, I never thought I would say this, but here I am. Perhaps it is true that what they say about only coming to fully appreciate something when you are on the verge of losing it. I had some of the worst times of my life, and some of the best times of my life, in this city next to the lake. Rest assured, I am glad I came here. On Thursday, I will board that plane with countless memories, lessons, and yes, a palpable sadness for leaving a city that made an indelible print in my heart and offered me much more than I ever expected.

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