I’m finishing up a weekend in Charlotte and taking some time to reflect on the experience of coming back to visit three months after moving to Chicago.
This is the second major relocation I’ve made in the past 2 years – first, Phoenix to Charlotte, and then Charlotte to Chicago. I think things went exceptionally well for my first move considering how totally scary and overwhelming it was. I learned some valuable lessons that have allowed me to make my move to Chicago an even better experience. I feel as established in Chicago in 3 months as I felt in Charlotte after a full year!
Moving to a new place on my own has been both terrifying and empowering. I don’t have it all figured out, but there are some meaningful things that I have learned along the way:
You take the important things with you
The things that are truly important to you will always follow you. Even though I live in Chicago, I still stream the live Sunday service from my Charlotte church every single week. And I am slowly but surely working my way into a church community in Chicago too. My faith is important to me and a core part of who I am. In moving away from “The City of Churches” to Chicago, I feared that once I was no longer in an environment that made it relatively easy to be a Christian that I might just drift away and lose touch with my faith all together. Although I’ve had some difficult times, that hasn’t been the case. I am convinced that Chicago is exactly where I am supposed to be and that there is some kind of purpose or plan for my being here (I just have no idea what it is right now).
You are taking things for granted in your current situation
I’m convinced we are all guilty of this. We never fully appreciate the blessings that we have right now. It can be simple things, like the weather, or deeper things, like a friendship or a community. For instance, the U.S. National Whitewater Center is in Charlotte. In the year and a half that I lived there, I never went once. I finally did go this weekend and it was freaking amazing. I am kicking myself for not taking advantage of it while I was living there.
A clean slate/fresh start is a powerful thing
Starting over somewhere new can be a totally liberating experience. I think it’s easiest to make big changes when everything else is already new and different. It’s like trudging through well-worn ruts year after year and then suddenly finding yourself lifted up out of those ruts and put in a position where you are fully equipped to blaze your own trail. There are a lot less obstacles to impede you and far more possibilities that seem viable and tantalizing. BUT…
Running from your problems doesn’t make them go away
Although the important things follow you, unfortunately, some of your problems will too. Sure, it may take a while for them to catch up with you, but eventually, they will. I know that part of why I left Phoenix and part of why I left Charlotte was because I’d had my heart broken in one way or another, and I didn’t want to be faced with it on a daily basis anymore. I wanted to disappear to some new place and leave the heartache behind. The distance did help me to put things in perspective and move past those disappointments, but I still find myself repeating some of the same mistakes and getting caught up in the same cycles that I did before. A change of scenery doesn’t solve everything.
Home is a moving target
I feel like I have three “homes” now. When I say, “I’m going home,” it can mean Chicago, Charlotte, or Phoenix at this point. Phoenix is the home where my family is. Charlotte is the home where my closest friends are. Chicago is my current physical home, but also the place that I feel I am supposed to be. Phoenix is my past, Charlotte is my heart, but Chicago is my present and my future. And there are people I care a great deal about in all three places.
Stuff is pretty meaningless
When I left Phoenix, I only took with me what I could fit in my car. Everything else I sold, donated, or trashed. When I left Charlotte, I gave away twice as many clothes as I brought with me, I sold most of my furniture, and I really took the least amount of stuff that I could because my apartment was going to be significantly smaller. For the first two weeks of living in Chicago, I only had what came on the plane with me. I slept on the floor on a blanket every night, had no furniture, no cooking utensils/kitchenware, and only the clothes and shoes that had been in my suitcase. And you know what? It wasn’t so bad. My apartment in Chicago is so small that I don’t really have any extra storage space, so I’ve been very cognizant about accumulating unnecessary “stuff.” It made me realize just how insignificant material things are and how content you can be without most of the things you think are “necessities.”
Some things you will outgrow and other things you will grow into
Each time I have moved, I have let some things go and have more fully embraced others. Some of my friendships have deepened and I value them even more highly now because they have survived the time and distance, while others clearly were not as strong as I thought they were and have disintegrated or faded under the strain. It was in Charlotte at CrossFit Weddington that I finally took the leap to give CrossFit a try and learned what it meant to push myself hard and to be part of a CrossFit community. In Chicago, I became even more committed to CrossFit. I’ve seen more progress in the 3 months I’ve been at River North CrossFit than I would have thought possible and am even more connected to the community there.
People frequently ask me if I think I will stay in Chicago long-term. I really try not to speculate about that. I love Chicago, but there have definitely been both highs and lows here, even more so than I experienced in Charlotte. Neither Charlotte nor Chicago was pre-meditated based on what I wanted – both times, they were opportunities that felt right and that I just couldn’t say no to. So, I know I plan to be here for at least a year, but who knows what the future holds. Fortunately, I am more than equipped to handle another relocation should that be in the cards, but I would also love to be able to settle down and plant roots somewhere. Only time will tell!