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I’ve lived in the greater Chicago area essentially for almost two years now. Sure, most of the time I was cooped up in Evanston, but I have spent a considerable amount of time in various neighborhoods working on stories. And of course, downtown Chicago is pretty much inescapable when you live in Chicagoland. Michigan Avenue, the Bean, Navy Pier, etc., etc. But the trip I took into the Windy City yesterday was different. This one trip to Chicago meant so much more.

We left Bloomington-Normal a little past noon to head to a minor league baseball game in Joliet, my first ever professional baseball game. The Joliet JackHammers. There was once upon a time in my life when I was into baseball. I can’t remember it now, but it was the year a team from Louisville won the Little League World Series. Or maybe it was held there that year. But for approximately three months I was a baseball fan. Let’s just say yesterday’s game was good but not enough to get me back.

After the game, which the JackHammers won against the Kansas City T-Bones, we headed into the city to meet my friends at the Taste of Chicago. Parking during special events are, of course, terribly hard to find. Then we had to pay a horrendous $25 for parking.

First things first. The Taste of Chicago wasn’t that great. It was overpriced and didn’t live up to the hype. And some advice: don’t go with too big of a group. I love people and I definitely didn’t mind my friends bringing other friends, but my invitation to three ballooned into a group of 11, and in a crowded festival like the Taste, it’s incredibly hard to keep everyone together. Despite that, I was still super excited to see my friends, especially my suitemate from this past academic year and my friend whose conflicting academic plans mean that we won’t get to see each other again until 2012.

Beyond that, this trip was the point of no return. In the two weeks I’ve been in Bloomington-Normal, I’d been content about the simplicity of the place. But coming back into the city just felt so much more like home and forever confirmed to me that there’s no way I can truly be happy in small towns. There are some things about us that we just can’t change. I was raised in cities with millions of people so thousands just won’t cut it.

Last night was also the first time I truly felt like I was loving the city. Perhaps it was also because of who I was with, that I got to see my friends and got to be in a more familiar environment. Or perhaps it was because it was the first time I’d visited the city during the summer, or rather, the first trip while I wasn’t taking classes. After the Taste of Chicago we walked around and then ended up sitting up on top of a wall in Millenium Park, looking out to Michigan Avenue, chatting, people-watching, enjoying the night lights. Well, until a cop told us to get off. But having time to do that in the city was rather new and refreshing.

I know I’ll still enjoy stargazing nights in the middle of nowhere and traversing and exploring the natural wonders of this country and others like I always have, but I’ve always been a city girl and that I’ll stay.