I’ve been remiss at updating since I arrived in Chicago, overwhelmed with a life I didn’t anticipate. It’s been a roller coaster from the moment I stepped into the city: a sure promise of good things to come.
For the past two months I’ve hardly done anything toward my journalism goals—partly due to working 50-60 hours a week at an unexpected, navigating through distractions and new opportunities, adjusting to a new city, trying to figure out my personal life, connecting with new people, networking—oh, and recooperating from the exhaustion of college. I wish I’d had time to breathe before jumping into the working world, but I’d rather be overwhelmed with a packed schedule than miss out on what’s landed in front of me.
Yesterday as I walked back to work from my daily coffee break, I caught the scent of it in the air—that insatiable hunger and drive to adventure. I smiled to myself—never would I have thought I’d be walking back to my music industry job in Chicago! Suddenly a post I wrote a year and a half ago popped into my head. From January 2011 (half-way through junior year and serious contemplation for the future):
Tonight resolved something in my heart that I’ve been struggling with for so long. The age old question, really. Should I stay or should I go?
My year of adventure seems almost a lifetime ago. I came home exhausted and depleted and found something I didn’t expect—solace. I thought I’d hate every single moment of being home; instead I found comfort in the roads and buildings that had watched me grow up. The presence of old friends and acquaintances melted my heart. Recognition is a beautiful and priceless thing. It reminds the soul of its value and work in the lives of others. A shared history produces bonds not easily shattered.
I was surprised the wanderlust that rocked my soul so tenaciously throughout my childhood and teenage years had died away. My life, my friends, my church, my community were exactly all that I’d ever dreamed of and this time I could truly appreciate them as an adult. The beauty of life now seemed too wonderful and precious. For the first time in my life I found myself actually contemplating settling down and making a life for myself here. Not moving back abroad, but staying here, finding a job, buying a house, getting married, raising my children and establishing a role for myself in this community. (I told this to a friend of many years who almost fell off her bench.)
Recently, sickness has kept me in seeming solitary confinement for quite some time. Removing yourself from everyday distractions helps you get perspective. I began contemplating where I was, what I was doing, what I had hoped to do and what I want to do. For the first time in a long time I started dreaming again. I started thinking about what I wanted to do as a child and what I still want to do now. There’s a big ole world out there that needs exploring. There’s so much life to be lived, so many people to meet. Why oh why would I want to stick myself somewhere prematurely? I don’t want to rush life. There’s too much time in the future, once I’ve run out of steam or have been swept off my feet. No need to stunt myself, right?
I’m going places. I’m going to do big things. I’m going to meet amazing people and have life-changing adventures. I repeat. I’m going to do big things and I have no intention of trying to prematurely force God’s hand.
Tonight is the first night in years—literally, years—that I’ve begun dreaming again. And dreaming I am. In the words of George Bailey, “I’m shaking the dust of this crummy, little town off my feet and I’m gonna see the world.” And I am. I will.
I can hardly believe it, but it’s happening. This deep-felt desire for more is slowly being realized before my eyes. It’s not what I thought it’d be—that’s for sure—but it’s tangible in every new sight, smell and conversation.
It took a slight relapse of trying to write the years ahead to fill the full punch in the face. I too easily forget myself and the spirit of adventure key to my soul. I try to settle the future—essentially taking out the mystery while its the mystery I actually long for. I’d backslidden even within the few weeks I’ve been here.
Today as I walked back from my daily coffee break, I caught the freeing scent—the aroma of joy—and I burst into smiles. Even now, I sit in a plush chair at Caribou grinning to myself as I think of where I am. Such dreams, such goals, realized. Seriously, how am I here?
I never knew I longed for city life, nor did I think I would (ever, ever, ever) move to Chicago. I love how life jumps through twists and turns which keeps my interests alive and allows me to pursue opportunities I’d never consider. As I think back on my vast experiences, I’m blown away.
Returning to the office, I sat at my desk where music unleashed another wave of excitement: the album I discovered as I excitedly and anxiously dreamed of my coming road Chicago. I felt the butterflies in my stomach reminiscent of the beginning stirr of love: the joy, the anticipation, the expectation. I stepped back and sank into the sublime.
I’m here. I’m experiencing everything I yearned for. Everything that began stirring in me again a year and a half ago is realized in the very room I sit, on the computer I type, in the city whirling around me. That tinge of love I feel is real. I’m in love with where I am: both geographically and personally. I couldn’t dream these opportunities, experiences and friendships. Every corner I turn seems to hold new surprises and learning experiences and people. Just as I did in the UK, I’m free. And I’m transforming into the new, refined version of myself.
Chicago’s not perfect (just look at the news), but no place is. It can be lonely, stressful, and overwhelming. And I really do get homesick. But the fact is I’m exactly where I wanted to be and I’m building a life for myself here in the Windy (and hot) City.
This next year will be amazing, but even now I must remind myself of my dreams: to see the world, touch people’s lives, speak the truth, work for justice; to experience the beauty of music, art, architecture, food, and life. I don’t know how this will manifest itself, but I yearn with all my heart that these intentions remain pure. Forget the money (though enough for shoes would be nice), forget the furniture, the car, the vacation, the concert, the clothes; forget incessant partying, surface relationships, power and manipulation. I want more.
I just have to remember that.
So, my first step in the sublime adventure brings me to Chicago. Perhaps the same insatiable spirit will come over me again and I’ll end up in Nigeria, then London, then Singapore. Or maybe I’ll stay here. Or maybe, maybe, maybe.
For now, I’m clinging to gratitude and the butterflies of tomorrow.