I first stepped foot in Evanston more than ten years ago (yikes!) and graduated six and a half years ago. It’s hard to wrap my head around just how much as changed in these ten years.
Yet, as I walk around Evanston in 2013, I feel as though very little actually has. My husband is doing his MBA at Kellogg, and I’m spending the month here on a much needed break from school. As I walk around downtown Evanston, I find myself taking the exact same walks I have taken a thousand times. Coffee at Starbucks, ambling through Barnes and Noble, sampling expeditions to Whole Foods, movies at Century. Sounds like something you can do in any gentrified chain store-heavy town anywhere in America (and yes, it is). Yet doing these exact same things several years later gets my mind racing about all the things I’ve done right and most importantly wrong during college, after college and way way after college 🙂
Right after I graduated, my visits to Evanston felt a little odd. I felt as though I had left some of these memories far behind and whether good or bad, did not care to be reminded. In 2011, I moved here after I got married, and experienced six-months as a townie – an Evanstonian with no immediate connection to Northwestern. It was a total revelation to experience Evanston from a different perspective – new friends, different restaurants (That Little Mexican Cafe replaced Chipotle), new bars (Bar Louie replaced Nevin’s), etc. I was probably too spaced out to really enjoy it, and soon enough, we found ourselves moving to Columbus, OH. My Evanston reunion was short-lived.
Fastforward a year, and I was back in Evanston, this time visiting my husband at business school. So much had changed in the preceding two years (four moves, two jobs, and now school) that school felt like a distant memory. And my hubby being in school made everything feel fresh – I loved seeing everything through his eyes again. My constant thinking did not stop though – I kept evaluating how my life had changed in the ten years since I first got here – particularly, how I wish I had valued school when I was in undergrad the way I value it now as a PhD student. My academic choices seemed particularly silly in retrospect.
Yet despite my ruminations, I do feel a sense of peace this time around in Evanston. I’m in a happier place in life than I have been in the past. And while I certainly do not expect for us to live here in the years to come, I finally feel as though I can put all those negative thoughts to bed and focus on what I did gain – good friends and key life lessons that will stay with me forever.
Chicago has played and will continue to play a vital role in my life. I was born here, went to college here, was married here, and most important, have many of my closest family living here. And so, as I cruise Lakeshore Drive, hit up Devon Street, ride on the Green Line to my parents’ home and explore Andersonville, I am always reminded how fresh and alive this city can feel, even a decade later. Sweet Home Chicago!