My family is going through a bit of a rough patch. Mami and Papi are both facing treatable yet no less scary health issues. So you can imagine that when I saw 3 missed calls from my mother on Friday afternoon, I was dreading to call back.
"Mami, what happened?"
"Do you realize that 15 years ago today you and I arrived in Chicago? Go buy a bottle of Proseco with my credit card (I've had it since college only for emergencies) and have a glass in my name."
I hadn't realized it but Mami was right. On August 12th 1996, my mother and I arrived at O'Hare airport with an address on a piece of paper and not knowing one person in this town. I was living my dream of becoming a TV reporter right out of college. My mother was living her nightmare of dropping off her 21 year old daughter at a totally unknown city, thousand of miles away from home. I remember the conversation we had when I accepted the job with Univision Channel 66 in Chicago.
"Ana, are you sure about this? You said you wouldn't live away from us again and would never go back to cold weather."
"Yes, Ma, I am very sure about this move. I'm not letting my fears and insecurities get in the way of my dreams." (Yes, I was a very focused and intense 21 year old)
From that moment on, there was not further discussion, my parents supported my decision 100 percent. I didn't know how devastated they were until they were ready to say good bye after a week setting up my new life. I had never seen them cry that much and I hope I never do. But now that I'm a parent, I totally get it. Mami and Papi knew me well. They knew I had been ready to be an adult since age 5 and that I was going to live that life to the fullest even if it meant being away from them. They later told me they knew I was not coming home.
What none of us knew 15 years ago was that I had found a wonderful new home. I couldn't have picked a better city to become an adult. Chicago allowed me to define myself as a professional and as woman in every sense of the word. This city embraced me like a parent would and gave me a family of friends that have become the support system I've needed to survive many difficult times. The diversity in this wonderful city allowed me to meet a wonderful man that in theory I had very little in common but that has been my perfect partner for 13 years.
Like a good parent Chicago let me go in 2002 when I took a job as a national correspondent for Univision Network in New York City. Like a rebel child, I swore I would never go back to Chicago. "Who needs those winters?" But as life would have it, this city offered me the chance to pursue another dream, to become a reporter in English language TV. I got a job at "Chicago's very own, WGN".
For the second time, Chicago and its people have embraced ALL of me and I can proudly say that I've reached my goals in this city once again. This town has given me the life and career I wanted and for that I'm eternally grateful. Fifteen years later, I am more in love with this city every day. I say with pride that I'm married to a Chicagoan, I am the mother of a Chicagoan, heck, I now have become Chicago's very own, too. Ay Mama!