A few days ago I mentioned that many things in Illinois seem so radically different from either Washington. And maybe suburbia is actually the same wherever you go, but I am still picking up on differences…differences that, in the long run, will probably prove to be minute and inconsequential. At the moment, though, they feel pretty big.
And it’s not because I don’t want to like it here. I do want to embrace this year and this place, even if it is very different. Different is not necessarily bad, I’m learning.
So, what seems different to me?
- IT IS SO FLAT.
- For the first time in four years, I will not be living in an urban environment. In other words, hellooooo suburbia. SPU was in the heart of Seattle, of course, and in D.C. I lived right on Capitol Hill where it was easy to get anywhere. Now I live about an hour outside Chicago (about the distance of my house to Seattle), only a few miles from where I’ll work, yet suburbia is scarier to me than the city. Everything seems more…spread out. Yet, everything I need is right up the road, because there is every possible store and then a mall there…and if I can’t find what I need at Target, Wal-Mart, Costco, Home Depot, or the shopping mall, I can’t think of why I’d be looking for it.
- I live in a house in a residential neighborhood, where the neighbors all know one another and their kids have all grown up here. Needless to say, I have no kids. And my roommate Kim is great, but she’s gone a lot of the time, so it’s me and Kane (dog) in the house. And that’s different, too; I rattle around a little in an entire house to myself.
- What in the world is a Jewel Osco? It’s a Chicago-based grocery store, it’s everywhere, and it’s where everyone shops. Had I heard of it before Sunday night? Never.
- If something goes wrong in this house, I’m probably responsible and/or the only person here. Also, the bugs are louder here. I can hear cicadas through the walls! (note: through the walls, not in them. No matter where I go, I cannot escape the buzzing.)
- As mentioned before, I have a new dog. I don’t think he likes me very much right now, but we’re getting there…I think. Mostly he just seems confused that his mom left him at home with this strange new person. I’d be confused, too. He keeps looking at me like I’m forgetting some critical step in caring for him…and I’m not.
- The people are friendlier (all of your stereotypes about people in the Midwest = justified), but the drivers are meaner than they were in Seattle. This doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.
- All of the freeways in Illinois appear to use the same combinations of numbers. There is 294, but also freeways 290 and 20, and I-90 is not the same and 190 (although one might think that when reading road signs from a distance in the blinding sunlight, while driving on the freeway near the city for the first time. I mean, the potential is there…) There is 88, but also 38 and 83…and I-355 and 55. Why? What’s wrong with the other numbers?
- After taking I-90 for literally 2,000 miles from Washington to Illinois, I took 4 different highways to travel the 20 miles from O’Hare Airport to my house on Tuesday morning. And I had to pay to drive on two of them.
- Speaking of which, two words: Toll roads. So many toll roads.
Today has been the hardest day so far, because I think I’m realizing that I’m not going home anytime soon. And as it turns out, it’s emotionally taxing to move across the country, and I haven’t been getting as much sleep as I should. I like it here — I do! — but I miss people, and I miss familiarity, so that makes it hard.
But when it’s hard (like this afternoon), I fill up my special camping-trip mug (with pictures from the trip I took to a cabin in Virginia with friends in March; a gift from Ellie) with tea. I put on some good music by The Civil Wars. I give my dog a good belly rub. And most of all, I set my mind to the task of remembering that this adventure — being here, where it is so different — is a blessing.