When I first moved to Chicago, I had absolutely no idea where to live. I knew that I couldn’t afford to live downtown, that I wanted to be in the city, and that there was a neighborhood called Wicker Park (thanks to 2004 Josh Hartnett movie). It made the most sense to search the roommates wanted section of Craiglist’s, but the options for neighborhoods were overwhelming. So, I messaged the two people who I knew who lived in the city – a friend from Peace Corps Niger and another from South Dakota – to get their recommendations.
The one from South Dakota suggested Edgewater. It’s affordable, close to the beach, and you get all the fun perks of city living, she said. It was actually close to where the Peace Corps friend lived. I narrowed my search to Edgewater and found a woman about my age looking for a roommate.
I have been in Edgewater ever since. When my year-lease with the roommate was up, I moved less than a mile south to a studio, where I also stayed for a year before moving three blocks into a two-bedroom with Ethan. My entire Chicago experience has been in Edgewater. My dentist is here, along with my favorite coffee shop, sushi restaurant, and salon. Many of my friends live here. I know the intersections and streets. It’s my place in this big city.
Ethan and I love our current apartment. It’s right next to a charming neighborhood with tree-lined streets and single family homes with wrap around porches and backyard fountains. It’s two blocks to the train, a 10-minute walk to the beach, and a quick jaunt to Andersonville, the adult version of Wrigleyville. We love it here, but as our rent steadily increases year by year, we realized it was time to find something more affordable. We went back and forth on it for months, and even got an extension on our lease as it was originally up two days before our wedding (I would have turned into a puddle had I been forced to plan a wedding and move at the same time). I was so close to giving into resigning, but in the end we decided to vacate.
Apartment searching in any metropolitan area is a nightmare, and Chicago is no exception (although, from what I have heard from friends, it is not as hellish as New York). I ended up with my studio only after the rental property company showed me another unit and I applied only to find it was already rented out. They just happened to have the studio open up, which was of course more expensive. For the apartment Ethan and I are now, I saw the ad on Saturday night, received a text to view it the next day, and was the first of five or six couples to look at it. We only got it because we were the first and willing to put $500 down on the spot. Things go fast and you can’t never trust the ads. I’ve seen some very rank and shoe-box apartments. So, when we were contemplating moving, I was not eager to go through that search again.
This time was infinitely harder because of Annie. One would think that dog-friendly housing would be ample in a city plump with dog beaches and dog cupcake trucks, but it is not. Our options were cut to almost a third because we now needed to find somewhere that excepted dogs. Annie’s size also makes it tricky. She is about 35 pounds, so less than 50 but she is not considered a small dog, which is often the only size some places will take..
After a few weeks of passing links back and forth, and touring one of the most disgusting living dwellings I’ve seen, we found a nice two-bedroom, pet friendly apartment in Rogers Park, the neighborhood north of Edgewater. Our current apartment has everything – two bedrooms, in-unit laundry, central air – and we figured we would need to let go one of those amenities this time around, most likely the bedrooms or laundry. This apartment had it all, though, and it was nearly $300 cheaper. We toured it, and while it is a bit smaller than our current place, it was everything we were looking for, including an open floor plan. From there it was simple – application, references, lease signed. Our landlords are a property management company, but the building is a condominium, which means the building will be better cared for than if operated by a company.
We get the keys on Tuesday and the movers come Wednesday (This was an odd concept for me, as a native of South Dakota, where you just get a friend with a pick up to help you. In the city, though, it’s worth every penny to hire a mover, mostly because they know more than you do about hauling furniture up and down narrow passageways and blocking alleys). Most of our belongings are in boxes and bags, and now it’s just a matter of moving things out.
I am sad to say goodbye to Edgewater. Just this morning I was thinking about checking out a new bakery that moved into a coffee shop I liked, and I realized this weekend was my last chance (well, I can still go there, it just be a three block-walk). Like I said, a lot of my friends live here, and while they will still be close, it will require a bit more effort to and from. And, this will be the farthest away I lived from my South Dakota friend, which won’t impact us seeing each other but still.
At the same time, I am ready for new. This is the summer of new beginnings, and I am eager to find that community in Rogers Park that I did in Edgewater. It feels like starting over somewhere new without actually living the city. There is a lovely market nearby along with a theater and a cafe with kombucha on tap. I will get a new favorite cafe and salon, while knowing the others are a short train ride away. We now even closer to the beach.
We also have this new home to build, the apartment where we will live during our first year of marriage. It feels sort of right that we are moving now, to start this year completely fresh. We’ll finally get to unpack our wedding gifts, and add all the little touches that will make this our place.
Sometimes it is hard to move on, but the new and the chance to make the unknown familiar have brought life to me. I am ready for you, Rogers Park.