Updated: Jul 24, 2019
I moved to Chicago on a warm summer day in Mid-August. I remember it distinctly because it was the weekend of the Air and Water Show, and I had no idea why there were so many jets flying above my new apartment.
It was 2004. I had graduated college from Central Michigan University the year prior, and after a year-long stint as a newspaper reporter in small town, middle-of-nowhere Michigan, I decided it was time to throw my belongings into a U-Haul and give big city living a try.
But I knew it wouldn’t be all adventure and Sex and the City glamour right off the bat. I was unemployed. I moved here with a friend who had a job lined up. I did not. I was confident (oh youthful optimism!) that I’d find something as soon as I could put a Chicago address on my resume. And even if I couldn’t find a respectable job, I’d make my way a la Coyote Ugly (minus the bar dancing and skimpy outfits) by working in some restaurant or bar until I found a job writing in some capacity – a job description that more closely aligned with my calling.
I walked up and down Cortez Street those first few weeks, using El Barco Mariscos – a Mexican seafood restaurant located on the corner – as my beacon and guidepost. It’s shaped like a huge blue boat so it’s hard to miss.
My luck was better than even I anticipated because I found a job as a newspaper reporter in the suburbs a mere two weeks after moving to the city. Fifteen years later, I still can’t believe things fell that easily into place.
My career has taken many twists and turns since then, but today, I had a full circle-moment.
I spotted El Barco Marisco’s up on the left and turned onto Cortez Street. I passed the homes that for the most part look unchanged since I lived there and parked my car midway down the street. A former colleague lives on that street – just a mere four houses down from my old apartment.
We caught up, talked business, and I told her how I could help get her online presence up and running while she starts an exciting new venture. Yeah, it was a pitch. But it was one of those pitches that does not feel like a pitch. I truly want to see her succeed and would be happy to play a role in helping her realize her big, audacious goals.
I left that meeting with the promise to send over a formal proposal and get cranking on things come August 1.
I’ve always hated the “Where do you see yourself in five years?” interview question. I have a hard time predicting or trying to predict where life will take me. So far, I can’t say I have methodically planned my life five years ahead. But I do know, I am really happy with the path I’ve taken.
As I walked up and down Cortez Street 15 years ago, I don’t think I would have guessed that the first job I accepted in Chicago would be the first of many. Or that I’d be here 15 years later with two Chicago born and bred kids and a little bungalow on the northwest side of the city. And that one day, I’d come back to Cortez Street as a business owner, pitching my services to someone who lives in one of the single-family homes I used to ogle at. I’m happy I am still here.
And I’m happy that Cortez Street continues to weave itself into my Chicago adventures.