A Tenth Anniversary

As of today, I have been an Illinois resident for ten years. In some ways, it feels like ten days. In others, it feels like I've lived here my whole life.

I moved here ten years ago not knowing anyone and not having a job lined up. It was a total leap of faith. I've been told since that my move was brave, but honestly, it felt more desperate than brave. My live in California was careening down a dead-end alley. I had to find another path. I'd had a couple of phone interviews with companies in Chicagoland. They hadn't gone anywhere, but they were the only nibbles I'd gotten. That was enough to give me hope. I sold my condo and headed East.

I crossed the border into Illinois on the morning of July 7, 2003. My clearest memory of that morning was crossing the Mississippi. I remember the color of the water, the length of the bridge, and the feeling like I was coming home.

The Fred Schwengel Memorial Bridge, spanning the Mississippi River from Iowa to Illinois (Photo by Cjtf83)

That feeling didn't last long. I went back and read my journal from my first few weeks here. I was not a happy camper. I was living in a rented townhouse without any furniture, with a phone that kept shorting out, without knowing a single person or where to find what I needed. My neck and back ached from sleeping on a flimsy mattress on the floor. My dog literally scared a bird to death on my front doorstep. I did a lot of complaining.

Slowly, things started to turn around:
  • The movers arrived 11 days after I did.
  • Nine days after that, I wrote the first words of what eventually became The Novel (the one I freaked out about in my last blog post). 
  • I finally admitted to myself that I wanted to write. I joined a writer's group (long live the Schaumburg Barnes & Noble Writers' Support Group!) and made my first friends in my new home.

That first year was bumpy. I certainly don't ever want to do anything like it again, but I'm glad that I did do it. Those were the first steps toward the life I have now:
  • I sent my resume to the educational publishing company that eventually hired me (two years later).  Because that door opened, I gained the contacts and experience I needed to work as a full-time freelance writer and editor.
  • I began writing regularly. It took years, but my writing eventually became good enough to be published. Now I'm wrestling with revisions on my first completed novel, and I have scribbled starts to at least two more. (Should I ever finish the first, that is.)
  • I made friends through that first writer's group, which led me to another larger, writer's group, which gained me more friends and led me to my current writer's group: a small group that calls itself Scribblers.

 Most of all, I found something I hadn't realized I'd lost: myself.  And that's something worth celebrating.