Be Terrified, Always- On My First Year in Chicago

A year ago today, I said goodbye to an ex, called my best friend up and unleashed this awkward laugh-cry that would later be synonymous with my time in the Midwest, finished packing the bulk of my things, ran into an almost lover on the way to a concert, rocked out hard to Fitz and the Tantrums at the Paradise with a good friend, and went to bed feeling like a tremor.

Two days later I boarded the bus to Chicago.

In the past year I’ve moved three times and have gotten two jobs. I held my niece for the first time and drove half way across the country in snow and ice to do it. I started writing again and I saw people respond both positively and negatively to it. I’ve fallen in and out of love. I’ve met some of the most interesting, self absorbed, shy, social, hectic, wonderful, flawed, frustrating, refreshing people I have ever known.

When I make a list of all I’ve done and what I’m doing it makes my head hurt. When I think about how high the highs were and how low the lows were, I feel sea sick and forthright at the exact same time. I think I come off looking more or less complete but feeling like I just walked out of my own subtle version of the apocalypse and I want to shake someone and ask them, “Did you see that ?! Did you see all that crazy?!”

You’ve been reading for how long. Have you seen all my crazy? Is it even considered crazy anymore? I’m still trying to answer that one.

At any rate, below I’ve made a list of thing’s I’ve picked up along the way- lessons the past year has forced into my hands and made me keep:

– We all got scars and stories. No one’s completely innocent or evil. At the end of the day we are all just scared little children hiding behind the date on our birth certificates, using it to mean more than what it actually does.

– You can stick up for yourself without being an asshole. You can get what you want without being an asshole. Despite those truths no matter how good you are, you are an asshole to somebody. Try to minimize that assholery for the sake of your own psyche and for the people that have to put up with you.

-That being said, accountability is everything. If you’re going to be an asshole, wear it like a studded belt and own it.

-Despite what those list articles tell you, it’s ok if you’re 28 and don’t like brunch. You’re not a terrible human being you spend your funds on concerts and not investing it in a 401K. You’re not less cultured if you haven’t been to Europe. Where you are is just fine. Pat yourself on the back sunshine, you’re doin’ alright.

-The associated gag reflex of your generation trying to stereotype you to make themselves feel less alone is completely normal. Just make sure you brush your teeth after if it turns into a full out vomit.

-Don’t be scared of your feelings. No one is an island. The village that raised you as a child will be raising you until you’re dead though it’s residents will change a thousand times over.

-Fear and stress can do one of two things-It can paralyze you or motivate you. Let it motivate you in the direction of resilience and candor. Diamonds start as coal. You have to sand some surfaces in order to make them smooth. Soft hands don’t make music, calloused ones do. Cliches become cliches because they are more or less true. I talk a lot when I’m uncomfortable. Are you still reading?

 

Be terrified always. At least a little bit, anyway. Dance in, revel, and wrap yourself in that terror. The best thing I’ve acquired in the past year is a healthy apathy of the comfortable. It’s made me so exhausted but I never have felt more alive.

So here’s to another year of leaky ceilings and thirty racks, to long nights at the office and brief convos with strangers who later become friends. Here’s to the shower beer that didn’t result in crying and pushing through the last mile of a slightly longer run than normal. Here’s to putting in your several cents but letting life place your order.

From the first year to the next one. Bring it on.

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When I was a teenager it was like poetry shot out my fingertips. I was inspired by the turn-style in the subway. I got sonnets off my locker combination. I could summon my creativity in the same way the guys at pubs in Wrigleyville could spit out failing pickup lines after only three beers. I was on figurative fire most of the time. My silence meant I was writing in my head- and I was always doing it even in my sleep.

In a time when responding to life was as easy as breathing and I only had to engage in the ways I wanted to. Now I engage in all ways, simply because I understand that it’s not only part of who I am becoming, but it’s part of who I need to be. The poetry doesn’t always come out in words, sometimes it’s in the dance of a crazy day at work or figuring out new ways to level up dinner tine. Sometimes art is biting my tongue when I feel like a firecracker, and letting it out when I’m more like a dirty floor. 

Sometimes the theatre is in reducing my headspace to the white noise of my city, with an encore of the fan circling above my head.

The past month and a half has been full of adjustments. From moving, to adjusting finances and new tasks at work, I’ve been growing in ways I never thought possible, and stretching parts of my being that I was certain did not exist. That’s no excuse to not write. In fact, that should be even more of a reason too. Those drinks I’ve been looking forward to on my walk back home from work should have been new word docs that I would switch between. I should have spent less mental energy focusing on how tired I was. 

But I didn’t, and tonight I start playing catch-up.

In a weird way though, between my job and my prose I can’t help but think this is the closest I will be to the feeling of being a mother with two young babies.  The spit up is spaghetti sauce from eating lunch at my desk.  Instead of feeding two other people I am feeding to nagging parts of myself that won’t take turns at being relentless. In order to grow I will have to stretch. I am investing in two futures that I pray will run parallel.I will likely be just as tired as I am energized-in awe by sheer beauty of it all.

And I will love it ruthlessly.