The One With a Little Nostalgia and a Lot of Shopping

Photo Jan 30, 8 03 40 PM

I made it to Chicago in record time.

Just six and a half hours, door to door, from my parents’ house in Shoreview, Minnesota to my new, albeit temporary, apartment in Chicago’s Wrigleyville neighborhood. It is a drive that took me nearly eight hours going the other direction back in August 2011, just days before I boarded a flight to Helsinki, Finland to start my thirteen month career break.

I was weighted down with emotions during that last drive, full of fear and uncertainty.  I wasn’t excited about my impending departure; I was nervous and anxious, wondering if I was making the right decision.  I made the drive slowly, not entirely sure I wanted to make it to my next destination.

This time around, I soared with excitement as I drove through Wisconsin and approached the Illinois border. After three months of staying with my parents, flying back and forth for interviews and crashing with friends as necessary, I was finally heading back to Chicago for good.

I’m not yet back in my beloved condo in Ravenswood. That will happen in the fall, after my current tenant’s lease runs out. For now, home will be a tiny studio apartment in Wrigleyville, ironically just two buildings down from the first place I owned in the city – a place I bought almost a decade ago and then sold when I decided to leave my life as a lawyer. I’ve walked by that building a dozen times now, gawking at the new back porches and wondering if my old neighbors are still there. And wondering if the cute guy who bought my place might walk out the front door at any minute. Around every corner is another memory.

The neighborhood itself brings back bittersweet memories: stumbling home after dancing the night away at John Barleycorn, stalking Kyle Farnsworth at Tai’s Til Four, drowning our disappointment after the Cubs choked away the 2003 playoffs, singing along with Jimmy Buffet at Wrigley Field. And the dates at the pizza joint, the tapas place and the sports bar with the various guys that got away.

cubs 2003

I drove down on a Monday, giving myself a week to get settled before I started my new job. While most people might tackle things slowly, unpacking and getting organized over the course of a month or more, I felt an urgency to get it all done before I started work. Not having a home of my own for over seventeen months left me with a desperate need to get it done before I tackled any other aspect of my new life in Chicago.

As soon as I unloaded the car, I headed to Target. I bought a new TV (my first flat screen) and an area rug and bath towels and bed linens for the bed I didn’t yet have. Soon I went back for garbage cans and an ironing board and a jewelry holder and cereal bowls. The next day I returned to pick up a new DVD player, drawer organizers, a step stool, dish soap, closet organizers, an iron and a broom.  By the end of the week, I had added some storage cubes, a small desk, a shoe organizer and some cheap, put-it-together yourself drawers.


I kept wondering why I got rid of so much before I left.  Why didn’t I hold on to my awesome jewelry holder, my iron and my cereal bowls? What did I do with my electric drill and my tool set and my alpaca slippers from Peru? I felt like I was wasting so much time and money on stuff I should never have sold or thrown away. What was I thinking?

By Friday night, I was satisfied. I had cable TV, a brand new bed, an almost fully stocked refrigerator and an apartment where almost everything was in its place.  I celebrated with takeout from Tac Quick, the Thai place down the street, for the third time in a week.


And then I spent the weekend lying low. An Australian friend was in town and we met up at a Bulls game, but otherwise I didn’t venture very far. As excited as I was to be back in my adopted hometown, I wasn’t quite ready to put myself out there yet. I still needed time to myself, to write, to reflect, to enjoy the silence of living on my own again and the freedom of doing whatever the heck I wanted without having to explain it to anyone.

And I needed time to mentally prepare myself for the next major step in my return: my first day of work.

8 thoughts on “The One With a Little Nostalgia and a Lot of Shopping”

  1. Oh my gosh! You and my sister-in-law both lived in Wrigleyville around the same time. Small world.

    Your new (albeit temporary) place looks really cute!

  2. Welcome back to the windy city Katie. It is always exciting going somewhere new yet I imagine even more exciting moving to the place you want to be!

    It is clear you are going to be very happy here and it must be exciting waiting to get your place back.

  3. You’ve been busy, Katie! I loved this post. You had me feeling your nostalgia for my old city, too! Every aspect that you mentioned, the sentiments, loved it all. We also share the nesting urgency to unpack and settle right away. And your angst over shedding too much stuff – that remains a fear of mine. On the one hand, downsizing is cost-saving (why pay for an even bigger storage unit), and reducing the material STUFF we accumulate is freeing. Until you need it. In my two years on the island, I’ve wondered at my haste in getting rid of various things. Oddly enough, what I’ve missed most are my cowboy boots from Alcala on Chicago Ave! Who ever thought I’d need heavy, bulky, hot cowboy boots on an island! But there have been costume parties, trips to American frontier ranches, and I just plain miss them! Anyway, congratulations on this next phase. I believe your “re-entry” takes just as much guts as your exit did. Best wishes for your first day back on the job!

    1. Congrats Katie! So, why did you get rid of it all the first time? Did you think that perhaps you didn’t want to come back to the stuff or did you know all along that you’d readopt the life you had before??? Hope your first week of work went/goes well!

      1. Thanks Kim! Not really sure why I got rid of do much before I left. I think I may have just gotten caught up in reading blog posts about decluttering and thought I should ditch as much as possible. I also wanted to move as little as possible up to my parents’ place. But I always planned to come back at some point so it just seems silly to have gotten rid of so much.

  4. Very cool! I would love to read posts on Chicago. I’ve only been there once and we had enough to go in to the city for a fabulous meal at Harry Carry’s. So, hopefully you will write about some cool off the tourist path things to do in Chi-Town.

  5. How lovely, Katie. Congratulations on getting back into normal life! I think it is wonderful you are continuing the write-ups despite your big adventure being over. So many good blogs seem to wither once their owners get hit by routine. Really look forward to your posts on Chicago! Best of luck.

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