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A Pilgrim in Chicagoland

I didn’t feel at home in my new city until I became a tourist in my old one—and brought back the souvenirs to prove it.
relates to A Pilgrim in Chicagoland
Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division/Mark Byrnes/CityLab

I had packed light for a week in Chicago, and fully intended to hop back to LaGuardia with equally light carry-ons. But instead of a slim backpack and a small roll-on, I struggled through two public transit systems in two time zones with a distended backpack and a markedly heavier roll-on I had to sit on to close. I also juggled an ungainly cardboard poster tube and a concert-sized resonator ukulele in a soft bag with a wonky zipper.

I lived in Chicago for most of the 12 years between college orientation and fall 2014, when I moved to Brooklyn for a job. Coming to Chicago from my hometown in Appalachian Ohio, I worried I’d never hear quiet again in such a big city. I worried that I would hate its flatness. Instead, I found that the winters gave me bragging rights, and that they were worth it for the glory of the summers. I learned how to find my people and my haunts. I learned who I could be, and part of that is learning when to try something new.