What You'll Miss About Chicago If You Leave

I may have a history of sugar-coating Chicago winters, but let's face it: they're awful. After the last horrific winter, you couldn't fault anyone for wanting to leave the city. The Tribune even questioned whether the arctic weather was pushing out 30-somethings in this article. And as a 30-something native Chicagoan who has been living in San Diego for the past year and a half, I suppose I am exactly whom that article is about.

I'm not going to lie--missing the polar vortex and living in a climate where twenty minutes of afternoon drizzle is the lead story on the evening news has been, well, freaking awesome. But, in some weird form of geographic Stockholm Syndrome, I still find myself missing this lovably miserable city. For those of you who are one below-zero day from packing your bags, here are some reminders about why you're here in the first place, so if (er, when) you don't think you can bear this weather anymore, you can bookmark this list and remind yourself of all the things you'd miss.

Satisfying Calories
I'm the furthest thing from a foodie, but have come to appreciate how easy it is here to find unique and tasty meals here. In my old neighborhood, I had a go-to Thai, Mediterranean, BBQ, pizza, and sandwich joint within two blocks of my place. Oh, and a delicious bakery. Be appreciative that most areas in Chicago have an abundance of independent eateries, not the chain restaurants that plague a surprising number of other large cities. You might not think that that matters, but believe me, it does. And our Mexican food is better than any I've had anywhere else.

Impressive Architecture
I've always been told that Chicago had great architecture, but wrongly assumed that the buildings could only be appreciated by those familiar with the craft. I know it's hard to ponder the magnificence of our skyscrapers when you're caught in a wind tunnel, or to enjoy the unique character of homes when it's 7 degrees outside and you had to park 5 flippin' blocks away, but I assure you these things aren't found everywhere, and make other cities appear blander than ours. I mean, San Diego's ocean views aren't all that great when they're cluttered with homes that look like cardboard boxes. While in Chicago, I lived in a few spectacularly crappy apartments (including windows that didn't close, heaters that wouldn't heat, stairs that seemed one footprint away from collapse, etc.), but they all had a certain charm to them, whether through the crown moulding, hardwood floors, or disrepaired fireplaces. (Or, maybe the old lead paint that poisoned me into thinking these places were at all decent?) In most other cities, a crappy apartment is purely a crappy apartment.

The Grid
This might be my inner control freak talking, but isn't it great that based on only a number and prominent street name, you can pinpoint exactly where you are or need to go? The winding roads that are found elsewhere may be pretty, and the highways may move faster, but sometimes it's just nice to know which direction you're facing and how many blocks it will be until you get somewhere. And looking at a street-map of Chicago is one of the most organizationally soothing things you can ever do.

The Grit
In order to live in a city that is only pleasant for maybe half the year, you really have to have something here that you love. Whether it's your job, your family, the sports teams, or whatever, the passion that Chicagoans have sets them apart from other people. They have character; they have grit. With more passionate residents, conversations are more interesting, activities and events are more fun, careers have the potential to be more satisfying, and for goodness' sake, it's just nice to talk about something other than all the different creative ways to incorporate quinoa into one's diet. Yeesh.

Of course, none of this even begins to praise our world-class museums, diverse communities, beautifully preserved lakefront, or those six weeks of summer when you can't imagine living anywhere else. I fully embrace these aspects of the city, but feel they either speak for themselves, or others' experiences might do them better justice than my own.

So let's hear it--if you were to leave Chicago, what would you miss; or, if you've already left, what do you remember fondly?

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    friede

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