About a month ago, I made the decision to move from Chicago back to my hometown in Wisconsin. When people have asked me why I decided to move back, the short, conversational answer is "Oh, city life wasn't for me" or "Oh, corporate life wasn't for me". In truth, this decision was much more complicated and multi-faceted than a brief conversation can even begin to cover. While I briefly touched on some of the things that contributed to my decision in my Crossroads post, I wanted to expand on each aspect that contributed to this decision more in depth.
I was born and raised in a small city in Wisconsin. It's big enough to have everything you could possibly need, but small enough that rush hour only adds about 10 minutes to your commute (something I did not appreciate until I faced Chicago traffic….eek!). Growing up, I always thought that I must be more of a "city girl" since I couldn't imagine living in the country and being so far away from places like hospitals, schools, and restaurants. After the reality of living in Chicago, however, it didn't seem like I was a city girl at all. The constant noise, hustle and bustle of crowds, and the intense pressure to be somewhere and do something at all times made me much more anxious than I'd ever been before. Our apartment in Chicago never quite felt like home to me because I always felt a little too high strung to truly relax. It was like I was perpetually in some kind of accelerated kids summer camp - always running around and just popping by my bed to sleep before waking up and running off to more daytime activities.
We always refer to people as "city slickers" or "country bumpkins" but what about all of the people in between? If neither the country nor the city is for me, then what does that make me? A suburb girl? I love the convenience that living near a city brings (hello, Uber anyone?), but have no desire to be surrounded by traffic noises and crowded subways. I love the calm of being in the country, but would miss the convenience and excitement of nearby places and events. At first, I felt incredibly lost and frustrated because it didn't seem like I was truly happy anywhere - but being caught between these two extremes started to make me think about what I truly wanted out of the place I called home. Why was I trying to put myself into these two categories and letting them define me? I'm still in the process of figuring out what works best for me - but what I did figure out is that for now, what I need, is a little bit of both. Since my hometown was always the perfect mix, I decided to make the move back.
Maybe this move is permanent, maybe it's not - but I know it's been the right move - for now. There might be people who think I'm crazy for moving away from such an exciting, beautiful city - but I think what you have to realize in a situation like this is to disregard all of the voices inside your head that are coming from other people and to dig down to figure out what you want. Part of what made me frustrated with myself was that I thought that I should like being in a big city. I had been raised to think that a big city meant more opportunities, more people, more money and therefore, more happiness - yet, I wasn't feeling the happiness I thought I should feel. The best lesson I learned is that just because it's something that one person, a hundred people, or a million people have told you will make you happy, doesn't mean it will make you happy. You know yourself best and when it comes to your life, no one else can define your happiness for you!
Even though Chicago wasn't the best fit for me as a home, it is still such a beautiful, exciting city that I absolutely cannot wait to visit again. Next time, however, instead of grumbling home as a resident, I'll be happily visiting as a tourist :)
Are there any suburb girls out there like me? I'd love to hear your thoughts!