My 1 Year Chicago-versary

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What I Didn’t Even Know to Expect a Year Ago…

7:07am, Saturday morning, in a tent, somewhere in Wisconsin

7-year old voice: “Um, Tara, I thought you took your fake eye out when you slept…”

Me: (coming awake quickly) “Um, yeah buddy, I usually do, but I don’t right now because I have that tube in which makes it hard, and we’re in a tent… so, ya know, storage is an issue.

7-year old voice: “Oh, ok. (pause, gains excitement) Ok, noooowww, let’s go to the lake!!”

July 22, 2012

I packed the last few items into my car, after a teary & sparkling wine filled goodbye the night before with my nearest & dearest friends,  gave a hug to Ms. Pat & Dreux, and drove out of New Orleans to begin a new chapter in a new city.  Admittedly, there were tears until I reached the state line… But since I hit that state line, despite many unexpected and new things (some good, some not so good), I have had no regrets and no tears about the decision to move.

It’s been A YEAR, y’all!

…And it’s been completely insane.

July 22 has been a big day for me for a while… if we really want to talk about insane, how about the fact that in a completely alternate universe,  this would have been like my 7th wedding anniversary… Geez, life IS crazy!!

In a way, I feel like I’ve been here forever and Chicago really feels like “home”, and in other ways I feel like I just arrived and I still catch myself saying, “Oh, I just moved here recently”.  I guess I need to start letting that go now, right?  I have a lot of thoughts & feelings on my “Chicago-versary”, and we all know I write uber-long blog posts anyway, so I thought I’d list some of the “biggies” in the last year before letting myself go wild with a narrative.

 25 Biggies of the Year:

  1. I’ve lived in 3 places: Lakeview, Lincoln Park, & Beverly… and soon to move again… Geez, I will be sooo excited to stay in one place for at least a year! I’m a moving expert at this point!
  2. I’ve had 3 temp jobs- a first for me!
  3. I finished my master’s degree!
  4. I got my LPC (counselor license).
  5. I got my first post-master’s job after a LONG job hunt.
  6. I made the (very, very) difficult decision to leave that job, without having another one lined up.
  7. I’ve spent 4 months unemployed- a HUGE challenge for me after being so used to having 4 jobs & being very self-sufficient. Still working on being ok with not having a 60-hour workweek schedule. Patience is still NOT my virtue; cooking helps.
  8. I got rid of my beloved Accord & got a more budget-friendly vehicle.
  9. I drove in snow for the first time; shoveled & brushed snow off my car for the first time.
  10. I went to my first Cubs game.
  11.  Sang in two new choirs, one of which has given me some awesome friendships.
  12. I saw the leaves change colors.
  13. I’ve made a bunch of new friends.
  14. I’ve gone camping (which, as a rule, I don’t do) 3 times now!
  15. I’ve gotten lost in/ enjoyed exploring a new city & new things.
  16. I’ve found a church that I actually find uplifting & a great bunch of people to be in community with there.
  17. I discovered my fears about “losing” my friends back home were unfounded- things are different, but I still have “my krewe”.
  18. I dropped 2 sizes and lost a little bit of weight.
  19. Had my first Chicago surgery.
  20. I’ve learned about police life/ culture.
  21. I’ve done laundry in a (gasp) basement.
  22. I discovered bars do close & a to-go cup is NOT ok outside of New Orleans.
  23. Had visitors from out of town & was an “out of towner” at Mardi Gras for the first time.
  24. Got to be one of those people who legit “went home” for the holidays.
  25. I found the courage to do things I swore I wasn’t gonna do again- like being in a ‘real’ relationship. As indicated my by initial quote at the start of this, I spent the weekend with two of my favorite guys- one of whom I am absolutely crazy about, immensely thankful for, & couldn’t imagine this year without  and the other who is just as funny and charming and silly as his daddy.

A few weeks ago, my mom said to me on the phone, “Who is this person that is my daughter? It’s really good, but you are definitely a different person than you were a year ago.” And while I NEVER like to admit that my mom is right about ANYTHING, I have to say, she IS right. I am different. I’m still me, and I wouldn’t want it any other way, but in the last year I have been challenged to grow & expand myself in new ways. I began this blog a little over a year ago, as I found myself at a personal & professional crossroads, and as I began contemplating some changes. It was a difficult process. However, my decision to move to Chicago gave me a “re-start” that I really needed & one that has been really good for me.  I miss my friends and my community back home- but I have no regrets.

This year has been HARD- perhaps one of my hardest. I have filled out literally HUNDREDS of job applications- which has totally blown my mind, seeing as prior to moving here I had NEVER even applied for a job… every job I had ever had was just offered to me. It is hard for me to accept (the incredibly generous) help my family has given me while I search for a job. I have had to swallow my pride and work my gratitude practice HARD, which is easier some days than others. I have learned to accept support & love, particularly from two very awesome people here in Chicago as I navigate this “in-between time” for myself professionally. I hope, hope, hope that this “season” ends quickly for me, but I am trying to handle it with as much grace as I can muster.

I have found joy and confidence in my music making again, but also have found how much I really, really, really miss conducting and “my kids”. While I always said teaching was not my “forever gig”, I miss my students sooo much, and am so flattered by how many of them stay in touch. Like a proud momma, I just am so proud at all the amazing things they are doing! I hope at some point to find some group to conduct here… but baby steps.

In New Orleans, I couldn’t go anywhere without running into people I knew… the grocery, the movies, a bar, a restaurant, even the airport. I didn’t realize how small New Orleans was until I landed in a much bigger city. At first, it was kinda nice and freeing… but there are days when I miss running into an old friend or student or client or classmate in the store.  The lady at the Jamaican restaurant knows me now, so that’s a start, I guess… Hahaha!

Right now, I could write for pages and pages about the beautiful things, the hard things, the new things, but really, that could get quite long, and quite boring for you…

So, I’ll just sum it up by saying this:

A year ago today, I hopped in my car and drove excitedly towards a new beginning.

I had no idea what to expect.

I have found incredible happiness and incredible challenges in the last year.

My life is far from perfect, but totally beautiful and blessed at the same time.

I am so glad I took the risk and did something that seemed completely crazy.

I am full of gratitude.

I think it was perhaps one of the best decisions I have ever made, even if it was rather out of character for me.

When I was struggling over the decision to move about a year ago, a mentor and friend of mine said to me, “I know you’re scared to do it, but you know it’s what you have to do.  If you’re honest with yourself, you know you’ve already decided. Look at your last year- it’s not what you planned. But even if you could have planned it, this is even better than what you would have planned, right? Just trust and go with it.”

She was right then, and she’s right now.

…Perhaps one day I’ll be less of a control freak…

But it’s not likely.

Thanks for having me, Chicago. It’s good to be here.

Here’s to year 2…

-T.M.

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