Its after dinner and I am sipping a glass of wine and thinking about benchmarks. I have to admit this thought did not come to me out of the blue but rather it was influenced by a blog written by one of my former students. In the blog she posted today she recalled the significant benchmarks that occurred between her last two hairdresser appointments. And yes, they were significant. It got me to thinking about the benchmarks in my life, especially the more recent ones. And although the time between my last two hairdresser appointments have not yielded the monumental changes she wrote about, the last ten years or so especially since I left Chicago have. I guess the trip my husband and I are planning back to Chicago is playing into these thoughts.
I left Chicago in 1999. If someone would have told me in 1998 that I would wind up living in Boulder, Colorado I would have laughed at them. The world is so much smaller these days. When I grew up people stayed in the city where they were born until they died. My parents were born in Chicago and lived their whole lives there. Yes they did retire to Florida but one of the driving factors for that move was the fact that my brother moved there several years earlier and so they felt they would still be close to family. When they moved, I was the sole remaining Drabik left in Chicago and my upbringing did little to make me think that I would ever live anywhere else. So I thought I would live in Chicago my entire life.
But things changed dramatically for me in 1993 when the Chicago Park District reorganized and I began working with a whole different level of talent and experience than the District had ever know before. One of the more life changing experiences I had was working with a woman who became the most influential mentor I ever had. She opened my eyes to a world of professional possibilities. She made me believe in myself. She pushed me, supported me and kicked me in the butt when I needed it. Her influence is directly responsible for me going after the job in Dayton, Ohio and making me believe that I was good enough for the job in Boulder.
But all of that meant leaving Chicago behind. And to the surprise of many including myself, I did. And although I have not lived in Chicago since 1999, I have been back to Chicago a couple of times since then. And when I went back I realized that there was a lot to the saying that you can never go home again. The old neighborhood where I grew up and the neighborhood that my husband and I lived for twenty plus years were not the same. The big old tree in front of my parents house was gone and replaced by a concrete pad. I guess no one wanted to mow the grass. The houses on Oakdale where Nick and I used to live were razed and in their place were three story single family dwellings. Our neighbors of twenty plus years were either gone or deceased. It simply was not the same. The city I had lived in all of my life was now not my city anymore.
Soon I will be going back to Chicago. I have not been back there for over 8 years. Why am I so excited to go back? What fascination does the city of Chicago still hold? I know what I will find. I know it will not be the same. I mean, what happened to Marshall Fields? The last time I was in Chicago I visited Marshall Fields on State Street. If I go there this time it will be Macys. Am I ready for that? The last time I was in Chicago Miegs Field was still there. Last I heard it got bulldozed in the middle of the night and park land left in its place. And now I hear they have a casino in Rosemont. Changes, changes, changes. So why do I want to subject myself to the sad fact that things will be so different from when I lived there and that life went on without me?
The difference this time is that I know that in all likelihood I will never live in Chicago again – and I am at peace with that. The difference is that I live in Colorado, I love Colorado and I have no intention of leaving Colorado. The difference is that I have accepted that life moves on and that Chicago will never be the same. But why should it? No matter what you do or where you live, live moves on. That’s just a simple fact and fighting it is senseless. But the one thing that will not change and that no one can ever take away from me are the memories I have of growing up and living in that wonderful city. They are precious, they are mine and they will never change. And although Colorado is my home, Chicago is my heart. Be it ever so humble, I am who I am because of growing up and living in Chicago. And so it will always be – sweet home Chicago.