In Which We Move to Chicago

6 Jul

Chicago Skyline

I’m not sure if I’m more relieved to have finally made a decision or more scared that we’re moving to Chicago.  But we are.  Moving that is. To Chicago.

Let me tell you how it all went down.

In early March, Southern Methodist University of Dallas (SMU) was the first school to let us know that they had accepted Peter into their two-year MFA program.  Not only that, but they awarded Peter a full academic scholarship, plus an assistantship, a small assistantship, but still worth mentioning.  Bingo.  Grad School can happen without a move.  Let’s jump on this, I said. In total, they awarded Peter over $100,000.  Not bad.  SMU is known for being highly selective and stingy with their awards, so let’s just see this for what it is…the right choice.  Let’s confirm our decision and be done with this – that’s what I felt.

Mind you, I was 30 plus weeks pregnant, desperate for some closure and ready to know what our future looked like, and really excited about the idea that we could stay in Denton and I could stay connected with my work here.

Then we hear from School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC).  Peter applied to this school knowing that it was a long shot.  Everyone told us that scholarships were few and far between. But seeing as how this was THE program Peter really wished he could land, the third top New Media Program in the Nation, second only to Harvard’s,  and it has a 90% placement rate post graduation, and it is only a two-year program, Peter thought he would give it a shot.  SAIC offers Peter a partial scholarship.  Oh wow. This is getting complicated.

We take SAIC’s offer into serious consideration.  We would need to take out a lot of loans to make this work.  Too many, in fact.  There’s just not enough money available for a family of four and a dog to live in Chicago.  Oh, well, I said…let’s move on.  You can have a successful career wherever you go.

Did I mention that Peter intends to teach at a college level?  New Media is an up and coming art field and it’s pretty exciting to be a part of right now.

Then we hear from University of Houston.  They award Peter a full scholarship into their MFA program.  Woah. Uof H has a strong artistic community, much stronger than Dallas. Maybe we should think about this.

Then the deadline to let SMU know if we were accepting their offer came around.  But we still hadn’t heard from Denver University, University of Texas, or University of Texas at Arlington. What should we do?

Peter asked SMU for an extension, and they agreed.  They gave us another two weeks. Hopefully we would hear from the other schools by then.

We hear from UT, they place Peter on a wait list.  Essentially, if anyone they offered a position to in their New Media MFA program says no thanks, they will then offer the position to Peter. Oh man, wouldn’t it be great to live in Austin again?  Oh wow.  Let’s keep our fingers crossed and let’s pray and hope that someone says no, because being with our community in Austin would be fantastic.  Let’s hope we hear something soon.

And so we waited, and waited.  And waited some more.

On April 11th, we hear from UT.  There is no space for Peter.  We learn that we will not be going to Austin.  I’m sad, but ready to get some closure too. Okay, looks like SMU it is.

But wait, we still haven’t heard from Denver, or University of Texas at Arlington?  How can we make a decision until all the cards are on the table?

Peter talks to me about how much he wishes it could work out for SAIC.  This is ridiculous.  It’s just not possible.  Let’s move on.  Peter lets SAIC know we cannot attend.  They write back saying that they will extend the offer of acceptance and the award for at least a year. If our circumstances or our perspective changes, let them know ASAP.

That’s cool, I guess.

On April, 13th, Noah Luke makes his arrival into our world, and Peter starts to feel more pressure to make the right decision for our future.  Good, I say.  We need to finalize this decision.

So, without hearing from Denver or UTA, Peter tells SMU that he will accept their offer.

AWESOME!  Now let’s pack up our house and move into a bigger place, this two bedroom is too small for us.

We start packing up.  We find an awesome three bedroom in Denton that’s just perfect for us. Peter will take the train to SMU.  Maybe I can start working again once Noah is past all this crazy colic junk.

In the middle of June, two days before we sign our lease, Denver University lets us know that they have awarded Peter a full scholarship into their three year MFA program.

Which means, we could be moving to Denver.  Maybe signing a lease right now is a bad idea.  Sadly, we let the house go.

OY.  You’ve got to be kidding!

Denver was Peter’s second choice.  His first was SAIC.  But they didn’t offer a full scholarship, but Denver is, and they’re giving the option of Peter doing an MA in art History and an MFA in New Media.  Two grad degrees ain’t bad.  But what is their assistantship?

They promise to let us know, administration is a mess, they tell us, which is why the delay in letting us know Peter was accepted in the first place, but they will give us word on the assistantship ASAP.

And so we wait.  Meanwhile University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) let’s us know that Peter was accepted into their program and awarded a full scholarship plus a very sizeable assistantship.

Okay.  Now this is getting confusing.

What do we do?

Since UTA isn’t a very high-ranking school and their New Media program isn’t well-known, and Peter can’t take the train into school, (We are a one car family) we decide to say no to UTA.

But dang it, if we still haven’t heard from Denver.  This is getting stupid.  Let’s just confirm our decision to move to Denver and then we will figure out what their assistanship is once we are there.  I mean it has to be better than SMU’s measly 150 a month, right?

July 1st, Peter writes SAIC to find out if they have any further funding available….

They do.  They offer a 20% increase in award money to Peter plus a work-study program.  They also offer more money for personal loans.

What?  Oh, okay.  Now this changes everything. SAIC is workable now.

Yes, we told SMU that we would attend a while ago.  But SAIC is a once in a lifetime opportunity.  So, SMU is not going to like that we are telling them no thanks after the fact (and I do feel bad about that).

We may have more debt post grad, but Peter has a greater chance of a stronger, better paying career afterwards.  SAIC is to art, as Harvard is to law.  It’s a huge deal.

And when I see how happy it makes Peter, it makes me happy too.

And believe it or not, we still have not heard from Denver.  (you suck, thanks for being such an administrative mess)

I’m scared to move to Chicago.  Seriously.  It’s a big city.  And it’s as cold as it is big. But it’s just for two years, and it’s for the benefit of our whole family.  Going to SAIC gives us a stronger chance of success post grad than any of the other schools.  So, yes, it’s more of a gamble up front, but less of a gamble afterwards.

We have some good friends in the area.  Good friends, who are even now helping us find a place. Good friends who will help us make the transition from Southern living to city life.  We’ll be okay.  In fact, after these last six months, I’m pretty sure we will be fine.

And me, I’m excited to live in a place that doesn’t have the washer and dryer in the dining room.

SAIC starts at the end of August.  We are still in the planning stages of when we will make our arrival.  Which means, I don’t know when we are leaving Denton, but it will likely be the second week of August.

Dear Texas, I love you. I love the friends that you gave me.  I love the experience I’ve had in this amazing place.  Your summers are a beating, but you make up for it with people who are as big-hearted as you are wide.  Thanks for being a place I could call home.



12 Responses to “In Which We Move to Chicago”

  1. Angie July 6, 2011 at 1:14 pm #

    Congrats, Peter! This is super awesome! I LOVE Chicago!! Yay!!! And it will be great at the end of summer and in the fall!! Yay!! August / September are WAY better in Chicago than TX. Yay Yay!

  2. Michelle July 6, 2011 at 1:36 pm #

    Whoa. That’s a lot to take in. I can’t imagine having to work that out while pregnant, while studying for the LCCE, while giving birth, while caring for a newborn AND a toddler…it makes me anxious just thinking about it. But it also makes me confident that you and your family will survive the transition and ease into Chicago life just fine. You will do great.

    AND I have never been to Chicago! A new place to visit!

  3. Erin July 6, 2011 at 2:15 pm #

    Wow, Joy! This is so exciting!! Chicago is a wonderful city. I think you’re going to like it a lot. I used to live just 3 hours from it on the other side of Lake MI, so we’d go there on weekend trips and my mom lived in Skokie on the north side for a few years and loved it.

    The winters are, indeed, cold, but there are way more pluses than minuses. I’m not really a big city person, but Chicago doesn’t intimidate me like other big cities because it’s so easy to get around in. Everything runs parallel to Lake MI so it’s easy to get your bearings. You’ll be near the beach (!!) and tons of neat ethnic neighborhoods, great museums, the aquarium and planetarium and Ikea!!

    Summer and fall are so nice up there. I vastly prefer those seasons up North than in the South. Midwestern people are usually pretty friendly and straightforward.
    Best of all, tickets from Nashville to Chicago are usually really cheap and it’s only an hour flight, so I will TOTALLY come and visit you!!

  4. Jim Patterson July 6, 2011 at 2:22 pm #

    Great story, I only stumbled onto this because I get updates on anything published about UT Arlington. Glad you considered UTA, but sorry it is not up to top standards. It’s on its way, believe me, much improvements in past few years. I’m sure you will enjoy Chicago for a few years and then it sounds like you’ll have your choice of anywhere you want. Good luck! – Jim

  5. Bethany July 6, 2011 at 2:41 pm #

    Wow! That sounded so stressful! What a relief to have finally made a decision! I know someone with a 3 year old girl who has outgrown some cute winter coats if you want. Just send me the address to send them. :)

  6. Ann Pittman July 6, 2011 at 8:34 pm #

    hooray! that’s awesome!! amy lives in chicago, you know. and in june (of 2012), she’s moving to Portland for a year, so if you need a two bedroom apt to rent next year, try hers! :) wow. that’s super great. congrats y’all. that’s amazing.

    • kim peters January 13, 2012 at 9:58 pm #

      I stumbled upon this post researching housing options for my 22-year-old daughter, who will be starting grad school at SAIC in July 2012. We’re from smaller towns in the South, and she’s crazy excited about this move while I am cautiously excited because she doesn’t see danger anywhere and thinks everyone is wonderful. Can you tell me anything about this apartment that might be available in June?

      • Ann Pittman January 15, 2012 at 5:31 pm #

        Hi Kim, it’s actually a condo and it’s in Humbolt Park which is not the safest part of Chicago, but it’s one of the most financially accessible parts of chicago. If you want more info, go to my blog, click on EMAIL ME and we can correspond personally.

  7. abigail July 7, 2011 at 12:19 am #

    Joy, this is all so exciting for you and Peter! And a bit daunting too. :-) I am so thrilled that he was able to get into his first choice. That is just amazing. Praying for you in the process of moving and adjusting. You are amazing. Love you loads.

  8. Rebecca Holland July 7, 2011 at 10:50 am #

    Yea Chicago! My birth place:) Now I have a reason to visit there! I will pray for smooth move there. And in the words of David Rudolph- “traveling mercies” :o)

  9. Sarah Stephen July 15, 2011 at 3:20 pm #

    OH man! that is so exciting…and yes, scary! This will be a great adventure for ya’ll!
    Congrats to Peter on (appearantly) being amazing!

  10. Meaghan McCulloch November 18, 2011 at 4:00 pm #

    so needed to read this…as our Arizona move is up and coming I am flooded with many similar feeling

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