Leaving Chicago

red-dress-hands-on-hips-lake-michigan-chicago Photo : Alanna Bagladi

Chicago. I lost myself here. I found myself here. And now I’m ready to get the hell out of here.

And I am. I’m moving. Across the lake! Across Lake Michigan. I’m sure that isn’t a big step to most people, but it is for me.

I’m the girl that didn’t go away for college due to my financial situation and my attachment to my family. I’ve kept myself here. I lived with my parents in the suburbs until mid-way into sophomore year of undergrad and then hijacked my sister’s empty bedroom in her apartment. A year later I moved out and into a place in the city with a former coworker. I still live in the city, now with my fiancé, and have been itching to distance myself from city living. We both want some more quiet and we’re going to get it.

I find myself ready to go — move away and start anew with my fiancé — while simultaneously feeling this pain of how much I dealt with during my time here in Chicago & its suburbs. I know I’ve “come out on top” and that I should feel victorious that I am in such a good place mentally and emotionally, but many of the dirty, nasty, scary nights and moments I had here have been haunting me.

I feel as though my past is trying to come back for me, even though I feel closer to healed, and trap me in the fear and anguish I once felt so deeply. I cannot help but shudder at things that happened so many years ago, even if I have wrapped my mind and soul around them more over the years.

How do you move on from horrible things that have happened to you? When does the grieving process stop? I’m starting to realize that grief is in it for the long haul of the progress of my mental health.

I walk different streets and feel different past moments more fiercely. I avoid certain parts of towns due to the anxiety I have around them and the people they harbor; the people I don’t want to see: some ex-friends, others ex-lovers, men that hurt me, scared me into being someone I didn’t recognize, others strangers that took advantage of me.

When bad moments do weigh on my shoulders, I find my mind and body to be paralyzed in grief. Grief for the girl who went through this. Grief for the woman I am now who must live with this. I find myself wanting to cry over how such a beautiful city has been somewhat ruined for me. How my hometown feels more like a prison —  constant reminders of what happened to me and who I was back then — rather than a safe haven. I worry that one day when my children ask me where I grew up, I will still be so rooted in the distance I craved from this place that I won’t be able to illustrate the world of wonder I once saw for them. I worry that leaving won’t give me the clarity I hope it will. I worry that my trauma will ruin Chicago for me forever.

I grieve my past, I grieve my future. I am in a constant state of battle over the state of mind I’m in: ready to leave — sad about what happened here, so much so it ruins my happiness at times.

I wish meeting my fiancé and becoming the woman I am today allowed me to erase the hard drive that is my trauma history. I wish I could clean up the streets of Chicago residing in my mind and make them seem just as sparkly and shiny as they did the first time I saw them as a child. I can’t.

It is impossible. And the streets, they’re tainted. And that’s okay. I know it is. But I don’t want them anymore, the streets in my mind. And I am at a place in my life where the pain isn’t so bad and I can handle running into people and being in certain places for the most part — it’s that I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to be here, in this city, anymore.

Of course I’m scared to see my family less, be with my friends less, but this move is a mandatory step in my progress. I’m ready to breathe somewhere new— and in part it’s due to all the pain I’ve endured here. More importantly, it is because I am ready to be the woman I want to be. The wife I want to be. The daughter I want to be. The friend I want to be. And I cannot be these things in a city that is holding me back.

Becky Harrison, OWTL Contributor
Becky Harrison : Certified klutz, free spirited, go-get-em goof ball. Loves writing poetry and the beach. Strong believer in bucket lists.
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