Chicago, IL

Remember when I decided I was going to start a journey to rediscover my independence? I took a concrete step toward that goal over Labor Day weekend.

I’ve always loved traveling. Because I finished high school online, I was fortunate enough to be able to do my school work from anywhere. We traveled constantly and lately, I’ve been missing that in a big way. I often feel trapped in the small-town atmosphere, so I wanted to escape for a while. And since I’m a recent college graduate, fairly new at my job, I’m lacking in vacation time. Which means I have to make the most of my three-day holiday weekends.

For Labor Day weekend, I decided to take a trip up to Chicago. I have family up there (three uncles and my brother), so I have been to the Windy City plenty of times. But this time was different. I was making the trip all by myself, for myself, to spend time with family and seek a sense of adventure.

I stayed with two of my uncles, David and Bob, and I am so grateful for their hospitality. They are two incredibly generous people and I admire them greatly.

From beginning to end, my trip was filled with new experiences. I’d never been in the driver’s seat in a big city before. As I approached the skyline, I became a bit nervous, but I put faith in myself and my abilities and made it without any major hiccups.

Once I arrived, we set the itinerary.

I’ve spent a significant portion of my life landlocked in the Midwest, unable to go to the beach except on summer vacations. So first thing, we decided to hit the beach. As we walked up and down the water, the first thing I noticed the hustle and bustle of the northern edge of the city. It’s quite the contrast from back home, which is full of farmland and corn for miles to see.

We stumbled upon an abandoned lighthouse along the water, situated at the end of a short pier. From the lighthouse, I noticed the distant view of the Chicago skyline. It reminded me of a song by Kate Voegele called “Manhattan from the Sky.” The song talks about how cities look different from a distance, simple and clean-cut. But once you see it up close, you experience the complexity and diversity that make the city what it is.

As we wandered northern Chicago, I found myself noticing the diversity within the city. You had people from all walks of life. Of course, every person on the planet has their own, unique story, but there was something incredible about having so many people in one place. it was fascinating and thrilling to think about the sheer number of stories living in one city.

One thing I thoroughly enjoyed about my weekend was simply spending some time with my family. On my first evening in the city, David, Bob, and I went to a restaurant in Andersonville called Lady Gregory’s (the gluten-free mac and cheese is a must). During that evening, I realized that it’s not too often I get to spend time with just the two of them. I am fortunate enough to see my family often, but it’s usually in a group setting. Out to dinner, just the three of us, I loved being able to get to know them better as individuals; it reminded me that no matter how well you know someone, there’s always more to learn about them.

I was also able to spend some time with my brother over the weekend; since he lives so far away, I don’t get to see him too often and it was fun to catch up with him.

Making the trip to Chicago was a new experience for me. While I’d been to the city before, I was experiencing it differently. I was no longer a kid going on a family trip. This was a trip I took simply because I wanted to. And I’m so happy I did.

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