I moved to Chicago for so many reasons. SF is far, far away and the people are very different. I missed simple Midwesterners. I missed chain restaurants (barely). I missed seasons, and the inclination to seize the day because the good weather is more ephemeral. I missed driving on quiet roads in the plains, just getting away. I missed playing Ultimate Frisbee with people who were actually good. I missed being able to park my car without getting a street cleaning ticket. I missed paying less for things (Chicago is expensive, but SF is ridiculous, and the rest of Illinois is dirt cheap). But these reasons are not enough to warrant a move. The true factors were family and friends. I missed my family in Springfield. I missed my family in Florida; it is much easier catching a direct flight to Tampa from Chicago, and my grandparents like driving back to Illinois anyway to visit some of their close family and friends. I missed my close Chicago and Peoria friends. I had a girlfriend and wanted to be closer to her, as a distance relationship would not be feasible.
Let’s rewind a bit. Months before moving, I had dropped out of grad school after finishing 3/4ths of a Master’s program, and my life was so hectic from that point on. I traveled through Europe alone and had some fun and also crazy experiences. I attended a Cardinals win in the NL Championship Series. I saw numerous psychiatrists, psychotherapists, and doctors. I sought the support of friends, yoga, and meditation. I read a few self-help books. I started Adderall. I started and later finished (because they didn’t work) many different antidepressants and anti-anxiety medicines. I changed my diet. I realized I am gluten intolerant. I exercised more. I changed my spending habits. I checked things off of my SF area bucket list. I took piano lessons and started to learn French. I read an absurd amount of books. I worked a few minor temp jobs and got paid to participate in a bunch of fun focus groups. I tried to figure out what I want to do in life that isn’t finance. I had some interesting experiences with girls. I rented a Shelby Mustang GT and drove faster and better than I ever have in my life. I went on a bunch of hikes alone. I dabbled with journaling. I went on a cruise with my close friends and saw my family in Florida. I visited home. I started a fun relationship with a girl who had liked me for a long time. I…the list is endless.
All of this sounds like a step in the right direction, and it probably was. Realizing that I had ADHD and depression, and subsequently dealing with it with the right medicine, really helped. Being more aware of myself and of my problems also helped. It was like I was just starting to live, just beginning my actual existence. I knew it would take time to figure myself out. I was confident and had good SF friends to help while I transitioned into a new life and career path.
So if all these positive things were happening in SF, why would I decide to move back home? I don’t have a straightforward answer to that, but for one, I was playing on house money. This all sounds great but living a life of fulfillment and entertainment and medicinal help and little work, etc., are not cheap by any means. At 24, I was lucky to have such great grandparents providing some of my monetary support, but I could not stand still accepting money. I needed to get on my own, to make my own money and get rid of that feeling of guilt. I needed to say I accomplished something and earned an honest living. Every one of my friends had a job or career path at this point. I had been secretly living this lifestyle of wandering for years. On the cruise with my friends, we sat at a table for nice breakfast one morning. A nice older couple across the table asked everyone what they did or were trying to do for a living. It came to me, and I just told the truth of not being sure but doing a lot of fun things while I figure it out. The husband’s response was, “Hey, I can’t wait to live the retired lifestyle either. You’ve got it made.” I laughed sheepishly. In so many ways, this was depressing to me. I didn’t deserve any of this. Yes, it was good I was figuring myself out, but I had to stop being a retiree and start being a poor, hard-working, intelligent 24-year old. In a period of “starting over,” I did not want to be so far from my roots and so alone in my endeavors, enjoying myself in one of the nicest cities in the US. I needed to go back to what I knew. I decided to finish out my Master’s program, but at a sister school in Chicago. I decided living by myself would be the least stressful and best for my new high-maintenance lifestyle (more time alone, better sleep, diet, and crazy mood effects of new medicine / withdrawal of old medicine). I would be within very close range of my friends, girlfriend, and family. I would spend less money and find a job and feel good doing it. All in all, I moved from SF because I believed I needed a support system closer to home: family, friends, doctors, and the comfort zone that had developed over 23 years.
I pride myself on having perspective; I don’t usually judge cities based on small sample size (weather, people, food, etc). But when I lived in San Francisco, I definitely let my circumstances influence me. I thought I needed to get away, that I needed to go home to begin blossoming. I am having this same problem right here in the Windy City. My circumstances are once again affecting me: I cannot find or keep a job, I don’t care about school or the finance path, I screwed things up with my loving girlfriend because I am a distant idiot, I am spending more money than I should (the bike thief didn’t help), I can’t figure out the medicine situation, and I can’t seem to care about anything. I have seen my family and friends more but, when I am so mentally distant, all of that doesn’t help much. I am truly trying very hard but keep facing adversity, whether it is physical or mental.
It is a natural human tendency to remember primarily positive things from the past when things in the present are not going well. I miss the nice SF days, Ocean Beach, Golden Gate Park, the Presidio, the Golden Gate Bridge, Twin Peaks, Highway 1, the ability to walk everywhere, the early baseball, the breathtaking scenery in the area, Frank and Nic and other awesome friends, the fun shopping, the great food, the crazy people, and the amazing experiences I had in the City by the Bay. It has been 6 months spent in Chicago, and I keep telling myself San Francisco is not for me now, but could be in the future. Well, if things don’t go right soon, that future might be sooner than I anticipated. The idea is creeping up in my head to reverse my initial decision to move to Illinois; moving back to SF could be a viable option to get me on that right track I have been seeking. True, living in Chi-town could still turn out to be the best option, and I am not giving up yet. Plus, I still have school to finish, if I decide to do so. I just hope I have perspective in whatever conclusion I reach. I will not be in this rut for long. Whether it is in Chicago, San Francisco, or any other city in the world, I am confident I will find a way to positively contribute to the world soon.