So here we are, entering our fourth month as Indiana residents. Again. I’ve gone back to the coffee shop on the weekends, we’re back in the old neighborhood. It’s like nothing has changed.
My diplomas sit neatly in their frames, doing nothing more than reminding me of my student loans accumulating interest.
It dawned on me today that, though I don’t regret much in my life, I do regret leaving Chicago. As I lay in bed, exhausted and feeling run down from lack of sleep and hours on my feet for the first time in a couple of years, I found myself ruminating. Playing the What If game.
What if we’d negotiated lower rent with the landlord? What if we’d really stretched out our savings. What if, instead of a couple grand in rent, deposit, and truck rental, we had just paid our rent in Chicago in advance? What if we’d started a garden and eaten from that, made a strict budget, and taken Bea to summer classes at the parks instead of paying for her preschool there? What if we’d sold a couple things to get by while I applied for full-time jobs on campus, and if I’d gotten one, Charlie could stay home? What if I’d made a lot more money than him? What if I’d taken those job offers and just asked to start a few weeks after the baby was born?
I don’t play What If with the baby. I don’t regret or resent her. She didn’t ask to be born.
I can’t stop thinking that we made the wrong decision moving back, though. I can’t help but feel more alone in Indy, a city supposedly filled with family and friends who were dying to help out with the baby, most of whom I haven’t seen more than twice since we moved back. We’re more sedentary, bored, overweight, and disappointed.
I have applied for more jobs, but each one leaves me feeling like I’d be settling. I feel like we settled for this house, for that job, for this neighborhood, for this city. I feel like I didn’t get a chance to put down roots in Chicago and every day, my heart aches a little bit for what we left behind.
We wanted Bea and Ellie to grow up around their cousins, and the kids our friends have. But it feels as if no one has the time and I’m left struggling to fill up our weekdays with mindless activities in the house. I’m spending all my mornings biding my time before Bea goes to her measly two-hour preschool program when what we could be doing is getting on the brown line and hitting the Lincoln Park Zoo, the beach, going for walks, taking a bus to the Shedd or a museum on the free days.
I missed Indy and people for a while after we’d moved. But it didn’t take long to find myself busy and happy and loving Chicago. Leaving felt like the “right” choice when we made it, but now I just don’t know. Was it the “only” one?
Today my heart told me it’s never too late to move back. It’s going to take something big to fill this windy-city-sized emptiness.