Is it possible to love a city too much?
Or rather, is it possible that I love Chicago too much?
Flash back with me to a day about five years ago. When I parked alongside the road, off of Pacific Coast Highway, and attempted to strike a deal with God.
"God, if you let me have him back, I will give up my dreams of Chicago", I prayed. The "him" in question was my almost-fiancé with whom I'd just broken up (for very good reason). When I reconsidered a month later and then he seemed iffy about moving forward, the bargaining began. I bargained with my most valuable chip at the poker table. Chicago.
During my time dating this man, I'd expressed such a deep love of Chicago, that he once asked me (albeit playfully, hypothetically), "Would you rather live in Chicago--or be married to me?" Living in Chicago was not an option for him, and so I would have to set aside my dream of splitting my time between L.A. and Chicago. This was pre-breakup (and pre-post-breakup--where I found out some ugly stuff about him), and so I said I'd rather be married to him. But even then, there was turmoil within me.
My family's in L.A.--and Chicago's in Chicago--and it's why I haven't been wholeheartedly in either place throughout the last ten years. On paper, it doesn't seem so daunting a task--to reside in Chicago and also in Los Angeles. Lots of people do this, right? Non-celebrity, normal people like you and me? Right?
While I've tried to ensure that Chicago not become an idol for me, I fear that I may have failed. As a Christian woman, I am to have no idols before God (an "idol" being something that I love so much--that if I were to lose it, it would destroy me). An idol can be anything. A material object, a person, a place. But it's easier said than done. It's difficult to invest in and love a person/thing without becoming intertwined with it. Aren't we supposed to be fully committed and not lukewarm in our affections? The fineness of the line is maddening at times.
In George Orwell's 1984, there is a room in which your greatest fear essentially resides or becomes reality. It's your "Room 101". My high school English teacher would ask, "What's YOUR Room 101?" Today, I'd consider a Chicagoless life to be a top contender.
I'm sure that loving Chicago the way that I do has cost me things. Like, job interviews, for instance. My friend, a recruiter, insists that I'd have an easier time procuring work if I got rid of my current Chicago cell number and if I used an email address other than "ChicagoLiz@...". But I don't feel that I have anything to hide. In fact, I feel that it would be disingenuous of me to NOT represent myself as ChicagoLiz.
But focusing only on the relationship issue--I always factor Chicago into my thinking when I'm considering a new relationship prospect. "Would he be okay with me splitting my time between L.A. and Chicago"? or "Would he be willing to come to Chicago?" It's a huge thing to ask of a person. Fortunately (or maybe, unfortunately), I haven't had to actually ask a man in a long time.
I'm not joking when I say that the relationship I've been in for years now--is a relationship with Chicago. Of course it's long-distance at times, and you know what they say about long distance relationships. But the clincher is: I feel that I'm more into the relationship than Chicago is.
Basically, it remains true that you can't have your cake and eat it too. I've learned and re-learned this time and again the past ten years. My life is a wonderful one. I am immeasurably blessed. But am I ever 100% at peace? Not really. It feels a bit of an oxymoron to say that I may be at peace when I can be permanently bicoastal. But this is my reality. It's not a simple path I've chosen.
And the answer to my question at the top...is "Yes." Although I'd qualify the answer a bit and say, I may love Chicago extravagantly--but I love Chicago the way she deserves to be loved.
And for that, there is a perpetual price to pay.
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