I was walking under the “L” when my phone rings one day after work.
“Hey, whats up?” I asked my roommate.
She says, “Not much, where are you?”
I calmly said, “hold on.”
“Not too much, almost home.”
This uninvited vomit happened for about a week straight. This was 4 months ago.
Last week a client asked me how long I have been in Chicago, and I was shocked when I plainly said “for 8 months.” Then he oddly asked me if I ever visited Chicago before I moved. To which I responded, after a brief moment of hesitation, “no.”
Usually I learn a lot from my clients. Mostly about things like perspective, or barriers that people face. It is a rarity when one says something that makes me begin to think introspectively. Did I move to a city that I never visited? Yes.
Is that weird? Probably. I withheld this information from my parents before I moved because I knew that they would be worried. They stopped keeping track of me in 2010 when I called them from Portland saying, “Oh hey, I am in Portland this weekend.”
As I continued to drive my client to their appointment, I pondered on why I didn’t tell my parents I had never visited? Probably because it was fucking stupid to move across the country to a city that I knew nothing about and have never visited. Which is why my adjustment to Chicago was so challenging.
I was physically ill for almost 5 months straight; stopping to vomit was a normal occurrence for me, and I viewed it as a sneeze or a hiccup. Oh just losing my lunch, or “calling the dinosaurs,” as my brother way say. No big deal.
Thankfully, I feel that I am on the other side of it. I worked very hard to acclimate myself to my environment and here I am.
It occurred to me the other day that I have a new home. There are a lot of little moments when I realize that I actually live in Chicago. The snow is a big one.
I love watching the ice dance across the street when it is windy. I am also slightly obsessed with ice; the way it makes Lake Michigan freeze. The fact that I am next to Lake Michigan. Of course, I understand that water freezes, but it is different when you live in an area that accumulates so much ice and snow.
Last month I brought my boyfriend to Louisiana for the first time. The trip was, of course, wonderful. The way back to Chicago is what caught my attention. It felt like I was leaving with the person I considered “home” to a foreign land, Chicago. It had been a very long time since my actual home, Louisiana, and whom I consider “home” was in the same location. It felt awkward to leave that place.
Naturally, I do not want to move back to Louisiana, or even wish I still lived there. My heart has expanded in ways that I didn’t think were possible, which is how I am sure people feel when they have children: didn’t think they could love anything additional, until you have to.
Life is a series of small instances that accumulate in to something great… or you die. If I have learned anything from my clients, most of whom have experienced chronic homelessness, is that life is too short to throw up everyday. It is also too short to: get angry over stupid shit, have road rage, lose sleep over money, be unkind, go without telling the person you love that you love them, or not have consensual sex.
My idea of home has changed, and I look forward to the other things that can change.