The Reverse Commute

Seven years ago when I found myself unexpectedly camping out at my parents house, sleeping on a twin mattress in my brother’s old room, I made every effort to get into the city.

Nothing could stop me. Not a storm. Or a Cubs game. Or some other event that would surely back up the expressway. (Though back then I didn’t have GPS saying “No, seriously dude, it’s going to take an hour and fifty two minutes to get to your destination and you’ll be averaging nine miles an hour.)

I had a free place to stay in one of my favorite neighborhoods in the city. I left my car parked there while I hopped on busses, trains or in cabs to get from bar to party to bar.

I was fresh out of a longterm relationship (re: dumped), lost a perfectly good job at Northwestern University and no longer had a home (one that I had spent the past three years building).

In other words, I was looking for a release and Chicago had everything I needed.

This is no longer the case. No, the distance from my parents’ house into the city hasn’t increased. I actually have my own car now, which I didn’t seven years ago. I still have close friends, some of whom I used to see on a weekly basis.

But I have a kid. This kid likes to sleep. Sometimes. This kid is getting his teeth. This kid needs to be entertained. He needs to eat. He needs a diaper. He needs.

I also pump all of his milk, which means I either have to get home to do this, or bring everything with me and do this at a certain time, either in my car or the nearest electric outlet. I also can’t spend money without thinking of that kid.

Forty five miles does not sound long. But with only one direct route into city limits, one in which rush hour traffic or a minor accident will cause travel times to double, it feels a lot further away.

Last week, after finally catching up with one of my nearest and dearest friends, I made the mistake of not keeping track of the time. Stuck on 90 in bumper to bumper traffic with a hysterical baby, two hours overdue on pumping (read: very painful boobs), I swore I wouldn’t do this again any time soon, at least not without considering these factors more carefully.

Yeah, it’s my fault for not planning better. I could have left earlier. I could have brought my pump with me. I could have drugged my baby for the ride home (JUST KIDDING, GEEZ). I could have not have taken him with me at all! (This is also a good time to mention that yes, I have free childcare from my parents, but I do my best not to take advantage of their time and energy.)

This is just one example of why my interest in venturing into the place I formally called home and loved with most of my heart is waning.

Yes, I had a great time a couple of weeks ago when I hung out with my former roommate and friend, eating the impossible to find in the suburbs Thai food, dancing with people who were born the year I started high school and ending the night at my favorite karaoke bar.

But my near empty wallet reminded me of how much I used to spend without thinking on meals out, Uber rides and rounds of shots.

The exhaustion (OK, hangover) from the night took two days to get over. And maybe that wouldn’t be so bad if I didn’t need to clean, do laundry and keep this baby alive.

And no, those things in it of themselves are not difficult, especially when I have help and two of the three are things every person needs to take care of. But the last is an extra added thing that makes the difference.

I don’t want to sound like a hypocrite. Yes, i ask a lot of my friends when I invite them out here. I’m not oblivious to the royal pain the ass it is to come into the suburbs. I know it’s not fun to have to account for three hours of total travel time (sometimes more!) To be totally honest, if you’ve made the trek out here one time, that is enough for me. I hope you know how much it means to me.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I want to be there for your shows, your birthdays, your get togethers. I do. I really do.

Just not enough to put myself through the stress of what seems to be a simple thing, but is actually a very layered event in which the timing has to be perfected and is wholly unpredictable.

I hope you understand. I hope you know that my not being able to make it is not a reflection of how I feel about you.

-Carly

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