A decision has been made: We’re moving to Columbus.
How did we get to this point? Allow me to back up. About three weeks ago, D and I drove to Columbus to visit two very good friends. J and N married three years ago, I know J from high school and N went to high school with us too but I don’t remember him (he remembers me, always awkward). She and I were very great friends and ate lunch together for two years, stayed in a bit of touch but didn’t really reconnect until she moved back to Chicago about six years ago. She flew to Cleveland five years ago to pack me up and drive back to Chicago with me, and from then our adult friendship was sealed. She was I think, my first actual close adult friend.
They moved to Columbus two years ago for her job, set up house, and have loved it since. We visited once in August and once three weeks ago and by the time we drove home, we asked each other, “Could we live there…?” and D being his amazing self said right away, “I’d follow you anywhere” which while sweet is factual because his job is remote so he literally can follow me anywhere. Still, aww.
D unfortunately had the flu the whole time we were there, eventually passed it to me, and here we are three weeks later still coughing and feeling the affects. The flu is no joke… I used to think that flu shots were stupid but now I can say: the flu is stupider. We weren’t able to explore quite as much as we both wanted to because of his illness, but that leaves more to discover in five weeks.
Forward two weeks of sleep and drugs, and lots of research later: We found an apartment online that J & N were gracious enough to walk through and Skype us, we submitted our paperwork for it later that day, and now just have to pay the processing fee. After that, we can move into it anytime after May 15th. Because the calendar is full and there’s so much going on the month of May, we’re likely not going until May 30th but the truck has been secured! There is also the question of work. My boss asked me to give him until the end of this week to let me know if they can keep me on and how, and if they can’t, I have to find something as soon as I get to Columbus. There will be relief if that’s how it goes, I’ve been unhappy for a while, but it’s better to have a job in this situation than not and I’m fortunate that they aren’t the sort to fire me on the spot just for leaving.
This all feels right. It’s time to leave Chicago and has been time for quite a while. We will miss our friends (and food and drink) so much, but the pull to a new place is greater than the missing. My family while 30 miles west, has never visited us in the almost two years since the wedding, and D’s family is spread across the eastern part of the country; we will miss family the way we always do but I don’t anticipate much changing there nor do I anticipate a visit from my own. In fact, we’ll be only an hour away from his younger sister and her family, so we’ll be on the circuit. And while we’ll be about six hours away from friends near Chicago, we’ll be six hours closer to friends on the east coast and only two hours south of my beloved Cleveland.
I remember the things I experienced when I arrived in Cleveland that were so different than life in Chicago: strangers say hello and smile as they pass one another, crowds are never actually crowds the way they are in Chicago and time to prepare for those crowds is mostly unnecessary (it took me about five events to stop arriving half an hour early to get standing or parking space because there’s always space), how very white the Ohio population is, how spread out everything feels and that a car is a necessity, and generally just how slow things can seem. My shoulders released their tension within months, I wasn’t so wound tight or in a rush, and mostly I didn’t feel a complete and total cynicism about my new city or its government. People in Chicago don’t realize how pervasive that feeling is, the sense you’re being swindled and what it truly costs for the honor of having a Chicago zip code.
What we get for our rent in Columbus will be staggering: Two beds/two and a half baths, a patio for grilling, two floors, an attached garage, more storage than you can shake 50 sticks at, washer & dryer in-unit upstairs (brilliant), a wood-burning fireplace, a huge guest bedroom/office for Dylan to work in, and the complex has a gym, pool, firepits, a clubhouse (I never know what those are for besides baby showers or sports watching), and a dog run. The square footage is something like 1300 feet in our unit and our back door faces a wooded lot.
Now compare that to our current place on the north side of Chicago: no storage but three small closets (we rent a storage space downtown), one bedroom and one bathroom, a small kitchen with few cabinets and one skinny drawer (honestly one. One drawer that’s about 8″ wide), very little grass, street parking (a spot is $150 a month), 650 square feet and… $200 more than what we’ll be paying in Columbus. Granted, there’s in-unit washer & dryer, central air & heat, and a dishwasher, but that’s not that hard to come by anymore.
I have friends who are bound and determined to stay in Chicago, they even feel like they will be able to afford to buy homes here eventually, and they can’t comprehend why anyone leaves. To them I say: Make your choice. Between the ability to say you live in Chicago and have all it offers a few blocks in all directions (even more to the east because everyone has to keep going further out to afford anything), let alone the ones who want to have kids at some point, and the ability to have so much more for your money, make your choice. The stress of knowing our income has to increase every single year to keep up with rising city costs just isn’t enough to keep us.
Ohio is the first of what I imagine will be many places we’ll settle. We want to live somewhere warm and maybe even tropical, somewhere across an ocean, and even maybe one day on the road. We have all sorts of plans and dreams for ourselves, our little family of just D, me, and Fred the dog. And for now, those dreams begin in Columbus, Ohio somewhere around May 30th.