doc w/ Pen

journalist + medical student + artist

Tag: Chicago

Winter reflections

Looking out my mom's living room window this morning, through the frosted glass.

Looking out my mom’s living room window this morning, through the frosted glass.

My long-awaited winter break has arrived. And boy, is it winter here in Chicago. I’d avoided donning my down coat in New York until last Friday, when the temperature dipped to 18 degrees. I decided at that point, I could deny the cold weather no longer. Here, that denial is impossible. My iPhone weather widget tells me it’s 7 degrees this morning,  but feels like -7. That’s pretty damn cold, no matter how you spin it. Thankfully though, my internal Midwest thermostat seems intact, and I’m weathering the weather just fine, thank you very much.

Sarah and I were beyond excited about the alleged end of the frigid U.P. winter.

Sarah (on the right) and I were beyond excited about the alleged end of the frigid U.P. winter.

Flipping through an old family scrapbook this morning, I was reminded that even as a kid I had a high tolerance for cold. We lived in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for a couple years when I was little. There, winter pretty much runs from October through April. Summer feels more like spring. But my sister Sarah and I had no trouble romping in the waves of Lake Michigan while my mom huddled in her jacket on the beach. One of the stories that my parents like to tell about our time in the U.P. was that in 1987, on the first day of spring, Sarah and I were so happy that winter was (supposedly) ending that we put on our bathing suits and ran outside, barefoot, yelling “It’s spring! It’s spring!” We did this in spite of the patchy snow still on the ground.

Looking back, that seems like such a crazy thing to do. Bare feet, bathing suits, and snow? Seriously? But then again, I think a lot of life is like that. In the midst of doing something, no matter how difficult, it seems completely natural. In retrospect though, you wonder how you survived. I wonder if that’s how I’ll feel about medical school. It’s certainly possible. There’s been plenty of craziness involved, and I’m only 3/8 through. But right now, medical school feels like the most natural thing to be doing. Just like running through our snowy lawn, barefoot and in my bathing suit, almost 30 years ago.

Embracing Change

Chicago skyline

For nearly a quarter century, the Chicago area has been my home. When I think “city,” in my mind I see a skyline like the one in the picture above. Navy Pier, Sears Tower (I’ll never be able to call it “Willis Tower”), Michigan Avenue, Art Institute, Field Museum, Millennium Park, Prudential Building, Northwestern University, University of Illinois at Chicago. And that just scratches the surface of the places I’ve worked and played over the years.

But as they say, the only constant in life is change. So I’m going to have to get used to calling another city home: New York City. Thus, this will be my skyline for at least the next four years:

New York City skyline

Clearly, there are key differences. New York City proper has more people than reside in the Chicago city limits (about 8.5 million compared to 2.7 million). There are different bodies of water, different landmarks, a different train system, different types of pizza. These differences will require adjustment on my part, of course, and there will be some uneasiness at first. I’m sure there will be days when I long for Chicago — Lake Michigan, the John Hancock Building, the El, and deep dish from Lou Malnati’s (with butter crust, of course). But I fully believe that before long, I will look lovingly at the East River and the Empire State Building. I’ll board the subway without trepidation. I may even be able to stomach New York-style pizza.

Change is scary, and it’s hard. I’m not going to pretend otherwise. But change is also good. It brings about new growth, opportunities, relationships, and interests.

The way I see it, I’m not leaving Chicago behind. I’m merely adding New York City to my repertoire.