Starting the year as a Chicagoan

2016 was a year of big change. In April my wife and I picked up and moved from Los Angeles to Chicago (after much discussion about where and when and how to do so). Then as if that huge change weren’t enough for someone who’s lived her whole life in Los Angeles, in November I made the decision to stop talking about going back to school to earn a degree and actually go back to school to earn a degree. While there was some space between these two huge changes I made to my life, they are both intersecting at the beginning of this year.

2017 has me starting my first year as a Chicagoan from the beginning. First January. And now, first February. These months aren’t like any previous Januaries or Februaries in all my forty-plus years. These months are rites of passage of being a Chicagoan. By February most people in Chicago seem to be over the cold weather of the last couple months, and ready for the Spring to be sprung. It’s when we can start thinking about putting away the coats and scarves and beanies and looking forward to days with temperature lows that don’t touch the sub-50º portion of the thermometer. Because when that happens we can start pulling out the shorts and t-shirts and patio furniture, all the better to enjoy the beautiful days of summer in Chicago with. Because that’s one of the great parts about Chicago: surviving the winter to enjoy the summer.

But secretly, I’m not over the cold weather. It’s still my first February, and don’t tell anyone, but I wish it had snowed just a little bit more, and if it snows again in February or March or April I won’t kick it out of bed. I’m enjoying the days I have to check the weather to see if I’m wearing regular jeans or jeans with room for another layer; a short-sleeve shirt and hoodie, or long-sleeve shirt and jacket; a light jacket or the heavy one; tennis shoes or Uggs or rain/snow-proof shoes. This is what I moved to Chicago for, to experience not only the change in seasons but the seasons themselves. And one day I might be over the cold weather in February, or even March, but I don’t think I’ve earned it yet. I haven’t quite survived the winter just yet.

Along with learning about what it means to live in real-live seasons, I’m also learning what it means to manage friendships across state lines and multiple time zones. It means if you want to make time for your friendship with  your BFF, you’re going to need to push dinner a little later, or maybe a little earlier. It means you may go stretches of days without talking, and need to make time for that text you don’t really have time to read or send. It means you relax a little on your expectations of how quickly friends “should” respond because in doing so it gives you a little grace, too (and also, don’t be a dick, it’s just time). It means being flexible because that’s what the relationship needs. 

And so I don’t go forgetting these lessons as I move through this time with you, I’m going to try and include at least 5 notes for my future self that I’ll be referring back to in my monthly reviews.

Notes for my future self:

  • Life will be cold to you sometimes; don’t just grin and bear it–find a way to enjoy at least part of it (it’s there if you look hard enough). The next cold weather pattern might last longer and cut deeper, so you might as well bank some gratitude for when you need it later and can’t bear to think of anything.
  • Not everyone will be available when it’s convenient for you. If it’s important to you to connect with someone, you’ll find convenience matters much less.
  • You won’t be available when it’s convenient for everyone else; it’s okay to say no when you’ve checked in with your priorities.
  • Do what you can with what you have from where you are (stolen from Teddy Roosevelt, of course). If you think you can’t do it, that you don’t have everything you need, that you aren’t where you need to be, then you won’t, you don’t, you aren’t.
  • Putting something on a list does not make it a priority, even if that list is titled, “Top Priorities” — you have to make it so, before it ever appears on said list.

So many more firsts are still on their way. It’s important to be on the lookout for them and graciously welcome these guests into my life while they’re still firsts. These are, after all, the memories I’ll be referring back to for learning, come the second time around and beyond.