Photo by Jana Marquez
I’ve had the same phone number since 7th grade.
Even though I’ve been calling Las Vegas home for the past 4 years, I have yet to make the switch from 312 to 702. Even though my zip code has changed, my Chicago area code remains, grounding me throughout the changing seasons of my life.
It’s a little piece of my hometown I get to keep as a constant with me, even as I fall in love with new places. When I visited over the summer for the first time in years, it was like nothing had changed. Walking the city was like an old habit. The curves of the roads, the smell of the air, and the noises on the streets were therapeutic for me. It was like I was able to exhale; my mind was at ease. Seeing Lake Michigan glisten under that skyline made me nostalgic for the days I’d run around the beach across from my childhood apartment. I was home, familiar, and safe.
It wasn’t until we were driving around the city late at night, when the bustle of its vibrant streets had died down, that I was overcome with such a heavy feeling lingering in my heart. The bliss I felt would be temporary – soon enough, it would be time to go back to Vegas. Every time I left this city, things felt unfinished. My inner child thrived in her hometown, she felt like a big girl in the big city, and since my time there had been cut short, I owe it to her to go back one day, and experience what Chicago has to offer to the twenty-something version of me who is learning, growing and always eager to explore.
But it is this version of me who has also learned how to call Las Vegas home, discovering the quirks it has to offer, the spots that the tourists don’t know about. I think of late-night food expeditions, Korean BBQ binges followed by satisfying my sweet tooth. Or adding a new cafe to my list of study spots. Or how it is always awake and seems to come to life long after the blazing sun sets. It’s overlooked for being a transient city – visitors come here for some time, and move on to where they’ll actually spend the rest of their lives, but I’ve come to know that Vegas isn’t just a tourist destination, it can also be a place to stay.
My life right now is here. It’s where I’ve discovered my favorite parts of myself and where I’ve met some of my favorite people. It has brought me some of the greatest friendships and loves I’ve ever experienced- the people who feel like home. It’s where my family has grown closer together. And I can’t thank Vegas enough for that.
When the temperature here reaches below 50 degrees and the wind chill feels a little more Midwestern, or when I walk through the city blocks of the Arts District, I feel the subtle whisper of Chicago. I think I’ll always feel the pull of that city. Knowing that even as I’ve grown and changed, it feels the same every time, and that assures me that when I’m ready for it again one day, it’ll be ready for me.
For now, I can look to the future with curiosity and excitement, knowing that wherever I go, whoever I meet, and whatever changes get thrown my way, my area code will stay the same, dialing me back to my roots.