“It’s a seedy neighborhood,” I said, when asked to describe where I would be living once I had sold my condo. “I’ll be overlooking a train station and there won’t be a tree in sight.” I made no attempt to disguise my negativity. Selling my home was not a choice. My mortgage had doubled on January 1st and the universities where I had taught part time for over a decade could no longer guarantee courses for adjunct faculty on account of their own fiscal uncertainties. The condo had to go– and with it, convenience, access to the lake, proximity to my daughter’s home, my connection to neighbors …. Since I was moving into a tiny apartment, I gave away most of my plants (including a lemon tree and fig tree), placing most of my belongings in storage. Then came the move….
I won’t describe the stress of moving from 1300 sf into about 500 sf or less, nor will I explain what it was like to be surrounded by boxes from floor to ceiling and wall to wall with no space between them. Needless to say, I survived the ordeal. Once I had sorted through books, hung art work and planted a herb garden on my balcony, I began to re-assess my “seedy” neighborhood. The dreaded train station is none other than the magnificent Union Station. Replete with Corinthian columns, Beaux Art facades, brass lamps and gleaming marble floors, it stands in the shadow of Willis Tower and other architectural wonders. Along Clinton Street there is a bicycle lane which I can take to Randolph Street, heading east to Wacker Drive and from there to the lake or the River Walk. Countless cafes and restaurants are dotted throughout the area, and there is even an indoor French Market at Ogilvie Station, a few blocks away. Though I can walk to most destinations, there is a bus terminal near the train station for lazy days; more importantly, I have ease of access to all expressways.
Every day, I discover new benefits to my new habitat and its location. The building itself has extensive gym facilities as well as a bowling alley, party room, billiards tables and outdoor deck. It’s a quiet building — well-managed and definitely upscale. I’m close to my health club and favorite shops, and just a block away from Old St. Pat’s Catholic Church, a spiritual oasis for when I cannot get to my own parish. And every day, I’m embarrassed at my strong resistance to coming to live here. What all this has taught me is how our desire to cling to the familiar can prevent us from seeing possibilities, embracing change and “re-making” ourselves. There is nothing “seedy” about my new neighborhood. True, there are few trees in sight but a whole new world has opened up to me since I have learned to appreciate my environment and be grateful for all that is unfolding….