I never thought I would fall in love in college, but I did. And boy, did we fall hard and fast. It was messy and complicated, but amazing. It’s been the best four years of my life.
Oh, Evanston. Your beautiful lakefront trail, your yuppy suburban moms who are somehow very woke, your fine North Shore dining, your farmers market, your complicated history of racial injustice, your quasi segregation that still stands today, your mediocre downtown, your art, your culture, your beauty.
My relationship with Evanston started pretty casual. I had the distinct honor of living in Willard, as close to Downtown Evanston as I possibly could freshman year. We were just getting to know each other. We ate ice cream – a lot of ice cream – together. I tried your finer dining establishments like Flat Top and Chipotle. Things were so simple. I got to know your friends Sherman and Clark, Davis and Chicago.
Sophomore year things really started to get deep. Evanston, I started learning about the things I don’t really like about you. Your history. Your segregation. As our relationship got deeper, I learned about things that unsettled me. Your father, John. He’s no good. Francis Willard was a racist Suffragette. You let a public institution walk all over your people. You continuously build on stolen land. But I continued to get to know you, nonetheless. I took a long walk with you at least once a week, discovering places I had never seen before. I was charmed by Central and greeted by Dempster.
Junior year I tried to fix you. I started teaching a class to local children about systemic racism and inequalities so they could fight back against institutions like yours. I mobilized my community to become civically engaged in your local politics. This was a taxing year for our relationship, but oh boy was it a marvelous one. I started to discover your quirks. Your little pet stores, your deliciously unique food stores like Al’s and Soulwich and Smylie and Hewn, your unique parks, your horribly moody weather.
Senior year is when I realized I can’t fix you, but I sure can continue to love you. My continuing, undying love for you might eventually fix you. I also learned that there are so many people loving you alongside me, hoping for the same things. I distinctly remember taking a nature walk with you, learning about the efforts of local nature lovers to preserve you. I continued to teach, I ventured further, I supported all the small parts of you I could, desperately hoping you would fix yourself.
But now, Evanston, comes time I leave you. It’s hard for me to pull away, but I know that this is what’s best for us right now. We need space and time, so that we can both grow and think. I love you, I miss you. Maybe one day we'll be back together. Thank you for letting me in and teaching me about you, thank you for letting me inhabit you. You have shaped me in a way you’ll never know. This is the hardest goodbye.