I make my way to Chatham on Thursday to begin the actual process of real estate hunting. This trip is intended as a sort of get-acquainted visit, to give me a chance to see what things in my price range look like and to get to know the area a little better. But, just in case, I’ve started talking to a mortgage person and picked up the pace of fixing things up around my current home – if the perfect place falls in my lap over the weekend, I want the option of diving in. Rising mortgage rates are also adding a bit of perceived time pressure.

I experienced a little of what this change might mean, for good and bad, this weekend. Had a wonderful dinner with friends Saturday night, and then we all made an appearance at a Halloween party given by a former co-worker of one of my friends. The four of us are a very tight group, having enjoyed each other’s company for almost 20 years, including trips across the U.S. and abroad. The hardest part of leaving Chicago will be moving that much farther away from these three wonderful people.

But the party (which was preceded by 15 minutes of block-circling before finding a parking space) emphasized how little else, besides these friends, is keeping me here. Where I once felt very tied into Chicago and all its sub-cultures, I now feel like an observing outsider. Part of it, I’m sure, is my work as a freelancer, which can be isolating. In the end, though, I think it’s more a symptom of having reach the natural end of my stay in this city – and the natural beginning of something new.