Saying goodbye to the last vestiges of my Illinois citizenship
Yesterday I went to the DMV in Brooklyn to trade in my Illinois license–which expires in two months–for a New York license. This past year, I was called to jury duty in New York State and federal court, and I also voted in a New York election for the second time in my time here. I’ve lived here for nearly five years, so I guess it’s safe to say I’m now a New Yorker, at least officially speaking. At this point, the only existing government document that attests to my Illinois origins is my birth certificate (I think). Of course, hundreds of photos and memories and my childhood bedroom–which my parents have not (yet) turned into an exercise room–attest to the first 23-years of my life I spent in the city of Chicago and the village of Wilmette. As I write this, I’m getting a little sentimental. I still feel an immense amount of pride coming from Chicago. My family has extensive roots in the Windy City, even though many of us have escaped from its extreme winters and flat topography.
I also still maintain what I think is a Chicago state of mind. Chicago combines traits of the Midwest–niceness, practicality–with traits of urbanity–culture, energy, intellectual life. It is also immensely beautiful–the lake, the prairie. There is something quietly momentous about the idea of a city that has risen out of a flat plain to become one of the most beautiful, vibrant, and beloved cities in the world. Even though I have adapted many New Yorker traits, I still consider myself ultimately a Chicagoan and a Midwesterner.
I’ve spoken with many fellow Midwesterners who now live in New York about our dual identities. A few times we’ve shared the observation that we feel more Midwestern since we have lived in New York, even if we’ve let go of some of our Midwestern sensibilities.
Before I moved here, I did not think of myself as regionally marked, and then when I arrived, I realized that I was outwardly nicer, less aggressive, and more private than what seemed to be the norm here. These traits do not necessarily help you in New York, although people who abandon them entirely don’t realize that sometimes they can help you immensely. I haven’t had to let go of niceness or lack of aggression or privateness, I’ve just had to figure out when I shouldn’t be too nice or when it would help to be more aggressive or to be more forthcoming. My hope is that I can become a hybrid of what I like of the Chicago area and what I like of New York. An Eastmidwesterner, or something like that.
Oh and that New York State driver’s license cost me $66. Welcome to New York.