five years in Madison, Wisconsin: part I

Soundtrack in my head: Nick Drake, “Introduction”

Pelican Stretch Rock Fox River
AppletonOnfoot / Pixabay

Tomorrow marks my five-year anniversary as a full-fledged resident of Madison, Wisconsin. I’ve been meaning for a long time to tell the story about how I ended up here.

On July 30, 2000, I had every reason to be very satisfied with my life in Chicago. I was running a small not-for-profit organization and we’d just finished a strategic plan geared to put us on a course for exciting growth. I was actively involved with a spiritual organization I belonged to at the time, hosting bi-weekly gatherings and taking other leadership roles. I loved my apartment, and I loved my Lincoln Square neighborhood. Life was good.

Yet for reasons unknown to me that evening, I suddenly found myself nervously pacing my living room floor saying, “I’ve got to move to Madison. I’ve got to move to Madison RIGHT NOW.” These thoughts and feelings made no sense.  I felt that my life in Chicago was better than it ever had been before—why would I suddenly want to leave it now?

I’d just gotten back from spending the weekend in Madison with a good friend of mine. For about a year, I’d been making occasional trips to Wisconsin and Minnesota, visiting with and supporting the efforts of others in my spiritual organization, and I thoroughly enjoyed those trips. And, a number of times in the waiting room at a friend’s office, I’d find myself paging through a publication promoting conference facilities in different Wisconsin cities. I imagined myself fantasy-shopping for a new home, looking through a catalog featuring the cities of Stevens Point, La Crosse, Madison, Sheboygan, and others. I didn’t really seriously think I was city-shopping, but it was sort of a fun thing to imagine.

But to move to Wisconsin now? That made no sense whatsoever. So, like all nonsensical thoughts, I dismissed it.

Women S Rights Madison WI
“Go northwest young man.” Goodfreephotos_com / Pixabay

Within six months, my workplace environment took sharp turn for the worse, and the organization began to struggle. Within a year, I’d realize that skyrocketing rents would no longer allow me to stay in my beloved apartment, and I ended moving to a studio apartment with window views of brick walls at either end. And over that coming year, I gradually came to realize that maybe indeed it was time for me to consider a move.

In the fall of 2000, a friend told me she lived in a housing co-op just a few blocks from where I lived. She was one of roughly twenty-five people sharing life in a converted Catholic convent they were renting. Community living had long been a life goal for me, so I began to look at her co-op and went through the membership process there. An opening came up in the summer of 2001, and I applied for membership. To my surprise, I was not accepted.

There weren’t many other co-ops in Chicago that I could apply to, but I knew of another city that had three or four times as many housing co-ops, despite being one-fifteenth the size of Chicago. That place was Madison, Wisconsin.

It was becoming increasingly clear to me that Madison was my destination. I wasn’t still 100% sure of this, but I was sure enough that I decided to start applying for jobs up there. I also began to make regular trips up to Madison to visit the co-ops up there.

This concludes Part I of my narrative as to how I ended up here in Madison Wisconsin. There will be a Part II and perhaps a Part III.

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