It was hard to tell when it stopped being a horrible disaster and turned into a rebirth. No one stopped missing the lost possessions, the lost homes, the lost souls. But still, the city rose like a phoenix from its own ashes; stronger, more thoughtful, and more beautiful. They built sensibly. They laid out a grid. They added a lower level to keep garbage off the streets. And the buildings rose from the charred ground, reaching proudly toward the sky.
They used more metal this time, and less wood. They were wiser, but they still kept building wooden fire escapes.
Yesterday was hard; there were too many eleven year olds and not enough listening. I love coaching, and I love diving, I really do, but it is already pretty apparent to me that I could never make a career out of it the way I can make a career out of research. I need something where I have some facsimile of control, where I can at least reasonably delude myself into thinking that I know the variables. This week has been utterly and completely exhausting, and I feel like I've quite possibly done more harm than good. I miss Chicago, and my friends there, and my life there. I want to sit by the lake and watch the water after a hard day, look at the city from the Point.
There are a few things that I will remember and will summarize Chicago for me. One is coming back my second year, becoming completely (and very briefly) lost, running into Ryan and Alex and Duff, and finally stowing my bags in Ryan's car and getting lunch at Sammy's. Another is picnicking at Navy Pier with Chrissy and Asa. Another is driving back from Lao Szechuan in the blizzard that made planes slide off the runways in Midway. Another is catching a ride to the U-haul place at 75th street with Ayn, and moving in to my first apartment. And another three or four are swimming in the lake, barbecuing at the point, and being unimpressed by the far-away fireworks in Grant Park. The lake is so uniquely Chicago, and even if it leaves a scar on my toe from the last time I went in, I'll always miss it. It's nice to dive at Glenwood, and lately the water has been warm and refreshing rather than the bitter cold of Lake Michigan I'm sure, but it doesn't come close to the iconic crumbling rocks of the point.
Mia, in a card to me, mentioned that it might feel like the past four years were just a dream, and I've woken up in Maryland and none of it has ever happened, and to a certain extent it does feel like that -- I've woken up again, in my parents' house -- and at the same time that it's hard to imagine that college was real, it's equally hard to imagine that what I'm living now is real. I feel like I'm trying to cram myself into the life of someone who just graduated high school, and (unsurprisingly) it isn't working. If anything, the real me is still in Chicago, doing something or another. It's hard to describe, hard to explain.
I imagine that it will get better once I find some places that are truly my own, maybe make a few new friends, maybe remake a few old ones. The reunion today was good for that, perhaps not as good as it might be (Nick is moving to Chicago and I was suffused with a feeling of sheer, heart-wrenching jealousy for more than a moment at the idea of living in Chicago for the indefinite future), but I now know two more people who will be at Stanford with me next year (and have e-mail addresses for four more friends-of-friends), which brings my total up to nine people I know well and fourteen people I have some connection with next year in the bay area. Which is pretty amazing, and it's nice in part because I can get excited about going to Stanford with Becca and Noel (both of whom I was okay friends with in high school but always wanted to be better friends with, which is actually a pretty darn cool thing that I'll be going to school with them) this summer, which will be very nice. There were no fights, and particularly none that I was involved in (hooray for that!) although at times it did sort of feel like I was ignoring the pink elephant in the room, but in the situation I think that that was the best thing I could do. Who knows. And when it seemed like things promised to get awkward due to the ignoring of said pink elephant, well, they miraculously didn't, or everyone ignored them getting awkward, or something like that. But part of it still felt empty, and forced, and put-on. I wanted a reunion with other people, I guess.
I guess, in conclusion, to all of my Chicago friends who are or are not reading this, who are or are not in Chicago at the moment, well, I miss you terribly. You all gave me a home, and a family, and all those things that people say they lose when they leave their parents' house. And I can't thank you enough for that. And in the interest of not letting it get too too sappy, I'm going to end there.