I’m lost in open spaces.

When I was a little kid, I had two big dreams. One was to be a writer, and the other was to live in a big city. My uncle lived in a suburb of Detroit and I remember driving down to visit him for the first time when I was about 10 years old, and it made a huge impression on me. I loved how fast the cars moved, the lights everywhere, the way the tall buildings reached toward the sky. I knew that when I grew up I wanted to live in a downtown area of a big urban area, walking everywhere.

By the time I was in high school, I set my sights on living in Chicago. I drove out there at least one weekend a month in my senior year and swore that I would live there after high school. I spent part of my first summer after high school living there, but it was ill-planned and short-lived, so I came back home with my tail between my legs and drifted into one bad relationship after another. I finally found a nice guy and married him, and my driving force in life was the mission to get the hell out of Michigan again.

My husband wanted to move to Fort Worth, Texas because his sister lived there. I’d never been there before, so I asked him if it was like Chicago. He had never been to Chicago, but he said, “I don’t know. I think so.”

In case it isn’t obvious, Fort Worth is not at all like Chicago.

I spent 8 years in Fort Worth. I enjoyed the fact that it was much bigger than my hometown and so close to Dallas, though I rarely went to Dallas. We moved into the suburbs. My life since then has been driven by pursuit of the safe and familiar. I convinced myself that living in a small town in the same house for years was what kids needed, but it was most certainly not what I needed.

I’ve been a professional writer now for about 10 years, increasingly so in recent years. But one piece of my dream is still missing: living in a big city. It is still what I want. I keep shoving aside what I want for all sorts of reasons, ranging from fears that city life is too expensive to fears that I wouldn’t be able to find decent schools for the kids. But I am growing more unwilling to continue being so unhappy in such a small town.

Now I just have to convince myself that everyone else will be happy and thrive if I pursue what I want and leave the safe familiarity of the home we’ve lived in for five years. Only my oldest child even remembers living anywhere else, and they are all very resistant to leaving. But how much obligation do I have to keep them in the same place for their entire lives? I’m not sure that’s even a good thing for them, even if it’s what they think they want.

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One response to “I’m lost in open spaces.

  1. Chicago is awesome. No doubt. And if you think you have to do it, to say you’ve done it, then by all means make a plan.

    Just plan for the possibility that it might not be all you hoped for…that it might be a grand (short-term) adventure but not a forever plan. I’m so glad we took the chance and lived in the city for the year and a half or so that we did. In the end, we didn’t find what we were looking for there…at least not for right now. But it broadened all of our horizons and I’m still glad we tried it.

    Of course, there are options besides Chicago if you’re looking to escape the small town. I think I could be really happy in a smaller city like Grand Rapids. It has all the stuff I love but on a much smaller (and cheaper) scale and it’s so accessible. For me, the biggest challenge doing Chicago with kids (besides the crazy expense) is that getting anywhere or doing anything is such a hassle. The public transportation only really works for you if you live right on the El or Metra line. And even then, at $2 per person per ride it adds up fast.

    I started to realize that I was attracted to the idea of those great coffee shops and art galleries, but on a day to day basis, those things weren’t part of my life anyway. Thing is, you can have all those things in a smaller city too.

    Not trying at all to detract you from Chicago; just saying to keep your options open!

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