Have you ever felt out of place, like a puzzle piece in the wrong picture? That’s how I have felt since the year 1988. That was the year my husband and I moved from the Chicago suburbs to Florida.
We were quite young, still practically newlyweds, married two months shy of three years. To make the reason we moved brief, we weren’t making it financially in Illinois. We researched for a place that would be more affordable for us to live. At the time, Florida was very affordable, not to mention the beckoning winter climate compared to the Chicago area.
It was scary to leave my family, friends and the only home I’d ever known, but exciting at the same time. During that first year, we spent every weekend at the beach or a pool. Even though we worked, it felt like an extended vacation. By Christmas, I wanted the vacation to end so I could go home again. We didn’t make it home and stayed for the next twenty-five years (and counting).
I’m not sorry we moved, because things fell into place for us afterward. Our finances improved … well, at least enough to pay our limited monthly bills and have some leftover for weekend fun. We were still quite young and dependent before we left. The distance also helped us to mature. So yes, it was the right move, at least at that time. Yet, still today, the Chicago area is not affordable enough for us to move back.
A few days ago I returned home from a visit with family and friends back in the Chi-town burbs. I always feel like my puzzle piece fits there. Back here in Florida … things are fine … hot, but fine. Except, I feel slightly out of place, like a door ajar. Back home, we speak the same language. We “super fans” cheer on, “Da Bearsss!” We chat and laugh with strangers in line at the grocery store or the bank. We say, “Chicawwgo,” not “Chicaahgo.” We order pop not soda. We run to the corner Jewel to buy giardiniera, Canfields lemon soda water or Jay’s potato chips (yes, Jays not Lays). We like to cut-up with friends at Portillos over Vienna hot dogs, a “wet” beef sandwich, or order a Lou Malnati’s pizza. None of those things are available at this slightly out of place … place where I live.
I’m grateful for the two-week joy-filled time with family and friends back in my home town. Yet, I realize I am blessed to have a comfortable home in Florida. I’m lucky to have a fulfilling life back in the door frame where I’m slightly ajar, but still attached to the hinges quite nicely.