There and Back Again: Six Days in Chicago

May 29, 2015

This is Tory, the prettiest pup around.

Last week, my boyfriend and I had the good fortune of spending nearly a week in Chicago. Not only did we watch two lovely friends get married, but we also got to spend multiple days with a few of our best friends from college. My boyfriend has an aunt, uncle and cousins in Evanston (northern suburb of Chicago and home to our alma mater), so we also spent a delightful evening with them, eating, talking and basking in that glorious feeling of home and lots of puppy kisses.

Getting to spend so much time with friends and family really threw into relief how much I've struggled socially since leaving college. My boyfriend and I moved to Connecticut on a whim after I got my lab manager position. We packed up our tiny apartment and headed off, cheerfully and more than a bit nervously, to a place where we didn't know a soul. Two years later, I still feel like I know very few souls here. For the most part, I've made it work—it's amazing how far a wonderful partner, a goofy cat and a penchant for solitude can get you—but sometimes I have to acknowledge how lonely it can be.

College bestie, boyfriend, me pre-wedding.

Academic environments are transient. Everyone is always shuffling between universities, and, beyond the graduate students (who are shackled here indefinitely), most people don't hang around for more than a year or two. For someone who forms friendships as slowly as I do, it can be devastating to feel like you're finally making progress with someone only to have that person pick up and move back across the country. Two of the closest friends I've made here are leaving this very weekend for graduate school and greener pastures in California. I'm thrilled for them, but I can't help but think about the gaping hole they'll leave in my social circle. (Actually, my social circle is more like a social pentagon, and they're leaving me with a social triangle.)

I know that things, including my social life, will never be like they were in college again. For the most part, I'm happy about that; I certainly didn't love every minute of my undergraduate career, and, on the whole, I feel much more love for the person I've become since donning my cap and gown. And yet there's nothing like having friendship and community at your fingertips. All I can hope is that there's more of it out there for me, and I'll continue doing my best to call it forth.

Speaking of being in Chicago and making new friends... LOOK AT THIS PRETTY LADY. Her name is Julianne, and she runs Outlandish Lit.

Don't kill me, Julianne.

She took me to a bookstore called Bucket o' Blood and made me buy some China Miéville. She fed me Oreos and toast (not in a weird way). We declared our undying love for each other. I also drank way too much wine while she filmed us talking about books. The evidence might pop up sometime soon. All in all, it was a really good time, and I'm glad our weirdness is just as compatible in real life.

I didn't have a ton of time for reading during my trip, but I did get some done (including some nonfiction, thank goodness) and hope to get reviews up soon. The writer's block has been fierce as of late, but at least I've been loving my reads.

How's your week been, bookish reader? Do you have any feelings about friendship or Julianne or puppies that you'd like to share?

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  1. I'm so glad you had fun in Chicago! I can't wait to see the vlog post from Julianne...I'm sure it's fantastic! :)

  2. Sounds like you had an amazing trip! I hear you so hard about slow developing friendships, as I am the very same. I lived in a state where I didn't know ANYONE, and my husband was travelling constantly during the time, and it was super isolating. I think I made like 2 friends the entire time I was there! Now I"m back with my besties, and the hubs never travels, so things have been looking up since :)

    Plus, social culture changes as you get older... gone are the days of sitting around with your roommates for an entire day, watching Felicity re-runs, eating junk food, and drink boxed wine. Now it's more "structured" like "meeting for drinks at 7 at predetermined location," and less crazy on the fly type activities. All part of getting older I guess...

    Can't WAIT for the vlog ;)

  3. What a fun trip!

    I can completely relate to feeling like you'll never be able to recreate the amazing friendships of college. I'm not going to tell you that it can be recreated. BUT I will tell you that things can improve in your current location - it just takes time. I lived in NYC 3 full years before I started building good friendships here, and then it took another 2 for them to evolve into INCREDIBLE friendships. I'm an introvert, and don't open up very quickly, so it takes time. Now it's not the same for me as in college - but it's wonderful. I hope this will happen for you too! It definitely sounds like you'll have challenges due to the academic environment, but I have confidence you can do it! Maybe try pushing yourself outside your comfort zone (and outside the transient academic community) in baby steps - look for groups or events that push you to meet others, and if there aren't any - start some!

    Also - Puppies are the best.

  4. I know exactly what you mean about friendships. My husband and I moved around nine times in eight years. We pretty much relied on each other during those years because there was no opportunities to make friends. We've been more stable in the last ten years, only moving twice, but even then it takes a long time for us to make friends with others. It takes a long time because people are so busy and absorbed in their own lives. When you find the right people, things will just click. Be patient and keep trying. It is worth it.

  5. I know the struggle of finding and making new friends! When I started college, I had just gotten out of the Army and moved to a town where I knew absolutely no one. My closest friend was, and still is, a two-hour drive away and I no longer had the paycheck to regularly put gas in my car. I also had ended a relationship a few months before. I felt like I was in high school again, and that was not a fun experience for me. No matter how much I tried to meet new people, try out new things, and go to new places, I just ended up feeling awkward, weird, and rejected. Then I met the Boyfriend and his friends and family and I realized the problem had been my age difference, not me. I was trying to connect with people who were, on average, a decade younger than I was and who viewed me as one of those weird adults who tries to be young again. Really, I'm just an overgrown and enthusiastic nerd, and once I found similar people in my age group everything worked out.

  6. Glad you enjoyed. ;) And thank you!

  7. Yes, totally agreed on the structure bit. It used to be so easy to gather everyone in an apartment or suite and hang out all day, doing schoolwork, watching TV, etc. Obviously it won't be like that now (in some ways, I'm really happy about that, since dorm/apartment life got a little much for this introvert), but I just want people I can see regularly, darn it!

    Glad to hear that things are getting better. I know they will for me, too. It just takes time!

  8. This does give me hope, and I'm so glad that you finally feel like you've got a good social circle. It's funny... in a way, I still think of what I'm doing now as "transitional," and I might keep thinking that until I move again or begin graduate school. Who knows! But I do have faith that things will continue to fall into place.

    You're absolutely right about mixing things up when it comes to what I do in my free time—the tough part is tearing myself away from my cat and my books! ;)

  9. God, that's a lot of moving. Is it for your job? His? It's fantastic that you two were able to be there for each other when you needed it most. Sounds like a pretty great husband to me. :)

    I think you're absolutely right that it will just take time and feeling out who exactly "my" people are. I know it will get easier and clearer, but of course, it can be hard to be patient when you're in the thick of it. I'm trying!

  10. Haha, I can relate to the "overgrown and enthusiastic nerd" bit. ;)

    I can't imagine how uncomfortable it must have been juggling getting reacclimated to civilian life AND trying to build a social group from the ground up. I'm so glad that things ended up falling back into place for you!

  11. Amanda @ The Zen LeafJune 2, 2015 at 8:49 AM

    Oh I can sympathize with this so much. I was thinking it would be okay to move away from home, but something happened mere weeks after we arrived that destroyed the only support system here I had. :( Which is why we head back to SA less than a year after moving north. I need the rest of my support system to survive. I hope you can grow your triangle larger!

  12. My husband used to be in the military. We moved around a lot because of that. After he resigned his commission, we were and continue to be much more stable. It doesn't mean that it has been any easier to make friends. Most of my friends I've made through Twitter and blogging. Good luck!

  13. Oh no. :( I'm so sorry to hear that things got blown to smithereens so quickly for you. I think I said something similar on one of your posts about moving back, but I'm so glad you have the opportunity to get yourself and your family back to where you belong support-wise.

    I do, too! I have hope. :)