I've been a little sad this week. A lot of that sadness is tied to my man being on a California vacation while I'm sitting at home in cold spring weather, going to work and caring for our ungrateful cats. But besides being jealous of Mike's trip, Mike absence always makes me realize something: I just don't know that many people living in Chicago any more.
Whenever Mike leaves, I always ask myself crazy and unrealistic questions like if my house were to burn down who would I stay with? If one of the cats ran away and I needed help finding them, who could I call? If I needed bail money, whose number would I have memorized? Just kidding about that last one. It would totally be my mom, sister or friend Jenny's parents, as theirs are the only numbers I still remember. But Mike leaving does always trigger the question of how big is my safety net? Mike's my emergency person, so when he leaves I always start to wonder who my back up emergency people are. The sad truth is over the past few years I feel my net has steadily shunk.
When I first moved to the city almost six years ago, I had an instant network of friends. I moved here with a friend from college, who knew two other girls from grad school moving here at the same time. And they all already knew people living in the city. So bam! My first day here, I had people to hang out with. And not just any old people. These were strong, fun, educated, dynamic and interesting women who have turned into bona fide friends of mine.
As the years went on however, each of these amazing women left the city for different reasons - family, jobs, world travel, boyfriends. Some even left, returned to the city and then left again. It's meant I've attended a lot of going away parties in Chicago. More than I have cared to. Upon further reflection, I might just be able to make the statement that I now know more people who've left the city than I know presently living here. I'll never really know for certain though. That's not a fact I want to prove. My most recent good bye was the past Sunday. I saw off two friends who I met here more than five years ago. They packed up their home and are heading west to pursue some big dreams. I'm incredibly excited for them, but also sad because it's two more people who I can add to the "Friends Who Have Left Chicago" roster.
I remember that my second semester of college started off kind of rough. I had just returned to school having surrounded myself during Christmas break with my family and good friends back at home. Upon my return to dorm life, I looked around only to realize the deficit of friends I had on campus. I became incredibly melancholy thinking that if I up and vanished I'd be lucky if my roommates even noticed. I just didn't see any point in staying because I had no one who seemed to value my existence. I went so far as to journal a list of my friends on campus. It was an exercise that seems silly in retrospect, but at the time it really did help me to see that my list was really a list of budding friendships. And even though I didn't have the strong bonds at that time with people at school like I did at home, it didn't mean those bonds weren't beginning. I'm happy to say some of the people on that list have become bona fide friends of mine, people whom today I admire, trust and love with all my heart.
Now I'm not as overly dramatic as I was in college. I don't plan to start listing my Chicago friends in order to reassure myself that they do exist. I know they do. I'm going out to lunch with two of them on Thursday. But what I will say is there are days that I really long for those beginning weeks and months of my time in Chicago. The times where girls' night happened more often than not. The days were I lead a book club because I knew enough people to participate in a book club. I cherish the memories I have of all my wild and crazy nights with the girls, of those chatty morning brunches and of those heart to heart talks about where we were, where we'd been and where we'd like to go. I love each and every one of those memories. I just really wish they weren't so distant.