I spent the first 18 years of my life in the same town surrounded by the same family, the same friends, and the same surroundings. I went to the same school my entire school "career" with the same teachers from year to year. Things rarely changed in my small town-sure maybe we'd get a few new families every year or so, but for the most part things were the same. In fact, of all the people I graduated with, I'd say that I went to school with 95% from kindergarten on up.
After graduating, I moved to "the big city" (In retrospect, saying Saginaw is the big city is really funny. Yes it's a large city compared to Harbor Beach, but it's NOTHING compared to the big cities I'm used to now :D) I spent four years in my new "hometown" and loved it. I met a great group of people whom are still good friends, I learned my way around town, knew where to shop, etc etc. Then I made a decision that would change my life forever...I decided to get married and run away to Chicago with George. (well sort of, it wasn't immediate, but in the scheme of things it was a quick process)
Now here I was, eight hours from my itty bitty home town in a town that had five elementary schools (WHAT?)grocery stores I'd never heard of (Jewel Osco? Dominicks? huh??) The traffic lights were different, we threw away our cans and bottles (um, hello, those are worth ten cents in Michigan!) you had to PAY to drive on toll ways-which incidentally, had at least one name and number to identify them. (And if I'm honest, after seven years down here I still haven't learned all the number/name correlations) Chicago land is so much more fast paced than the town I was used to. It was busy and loud and there were people all over the place-and forget about seeing a farm...yeah, not gonna happen.
The first six months were so hard for me. I was constantly homesick and just wanted Faygo and Koegels. (Michigan soda and hot dogs) I spent a lot of time on the phone calling people at home and we went to Michigan a lot those first six months...but gradually it got better. Gradually I realized that our quality of life down here was SO much better than we could ever have in Michigan. Unfortunately, Michigan, while beautiful and familiar, is an economic wreck. There aren't enough jobs to go around and once prosperous towns are now virtual wastelands of abandoned buildings and crime.
We've been here seven years and I can't imagine NOT calling Illinois our home. We love it here; there are job opportunities, there are cultural experiences to be had, there are plenty of things to do and see, and we are surrounded by family and friends down here too. Sure I miss being in Michigan sometimes. Holidays are the hardest because my family isn't always able to come here nor are we always able to come here--but that's okay. We see each other at least a few times a year and always enjoy ourselves. In fact, we're getting ready to go to Michigan for a week in August, which is sure to be a blast like it always is.
One thing that's made it easier to not miss Michigan is having Gabe and Bits. Seeing how they thrive in this environment, seeing how they LOVE being downtown taking in the sights, even hearing their little Chicago accents is wonderful. Chicago (land) is THEIR home and I'm so glad it is. They have opportunities I never had as a child for which I am very grateful for. They love it down here and I'm so glad. The first little bit after moving here was hard, but seeing them so happy and healthy here made that little bit of sadness worth it all.