Last winter, I set the goal for myself to wake up and watch the sunrise every morning. It was the height of the pandemic and my enthusiasm for online school and my optimism about life was low, to say the least. I forced myself awake at 6 am fighting the sleep from my eyes, dragged myself out of the comfort of my bed, bundled up in layers of mismatched winter-resistant clothes, and drudgingly walked to the beach.
The pink, purple, and red, hues mixing in the sky and melting into the shoreline made every cold morning worth it. I would walk the length of the shore or just simply sit and watch, taking in all that was around me: the young couple walking holding hands, the old man sitting as his dog ran in the sand, the college-aged boy standing next to his bike taking a break from his early morning ride to watch the sun. All week, almost every morning, I saw the same people, all finding their own solitude in this silent moment as the sun rose to mark the beginning of a new day.
As I sit writing this a year and a half later, reflecting on my childhood reaching its final stages before adulthood comes crashing down, my thoughts feel impossible to organize. How could one write a singular piece, sorting through the layers of emotions and memories that surface with each attempt to reflect? How is it possible to find a way to clearly categorize all the ways the last eighteen years have impacted me? However, despite the endless stream of thoughts that seem to be constantly rushing through my head these days, there is one common theme that tends to surface above the rest: my neighborhood.
Despite going to ETHS for the final year and a half of high school and having a parent who lives in Evanston I have grown up most of my life in Edgewater, what I believe to be one of the most beautiful neighborhoods on the north side of Chicago. I love all the old victorian style houses painted in vibrant shades of blues, greens, and even the occasional pink or violet. I love walking through the parks nearby shaded by giant elm trees where picnics lay underneath while children and dogs run joyfully around. I love how the red line and Lake Shore Drive (I know they renamed it but this is way better) are right there. I love how when you’re hungry late on a Friday night there are restaurants of any and all cuisines from Mexican to Ethiopian, Italian street food, Mediterranean, (the list goes on) within blocks of you to order from. And I love that then when you wake up Saturday morning you are just steps away from Clark street where you can get brunch, go to local boutiques, and get a perfectly scooped cone of ice cream.
But my absolute favorite part of Edgewater is the proximity to the beach, and what in my opinion is one of the best beaches in the area. I have grown up spending my summers on this beach: walking the length of the water with my mom, swimming for hours on end with my friends, playing in the sand with my brother, and reading in the sun. This beach has been my source of solitude and joy throughout the last 4 years of high school.
It is memories of that week of bitter cold early morning sunrises during the pandemic that replays in my mind as I try to gather my thoughts on what it means to leave childhood and life as I know it. Each person I encountered on those cold winter mornings, myself included, had found their own small corner of the universe where for a brief moment we all felt connected to a sense of home. Now, as I leave Edgewater, where I have felt this feeling many times, it is up to me to find new places that can become my own part of the universe. I will leave Edgewater, heading to New York City, in search of a familiar feeling in a new neighborhood with new people, places, and adventures. The sun has begun to set on this phase of my life and will soon rise anew as the next phase starts. I wish for us all to embark on this new dawn, we all now face, with the power to discover new neighborhoods where we can find places that bring us comfort and joy in the ways that Edgewater has brought me.