In many ways my move to Chicago was a fail. I hardly left my apartment, I quit my job before my new one started, causing me to run out of money and get behind on rent and student loan payments, I did not venture far from my neighborhood for pleasure, and I foolishly chose to live above a loud bar despite every inclination that it was a bad idea. Furthermore, I wastefully spent money in moments of panic: a cab ride once, a couple train trips home, a phone that I didn’t end up needing. Finally, I didn’t love improv and I didn’t go to a single gay bar.
The move has not been a complete failure, though. Perhaps what you could count as markers of success were the two dates I went on, one with a girl and one with a boy.
The girl was Dominican and from New York, and despite my Dominican and from New York friends’ Angie and Sisco’s encouragement to pursue it further we kind of stopped talking after I canceled our second date. She made a lot more money than me and it made me uncomfortable. I’ve never been comfortable around people who have a lot of money. I am content with little and I perceive that a lot of them see it as a moral failing or that they think I am annoyingly miserly.
The guy I went on a date with was a folk and blues musician who’d lived and performed in Brooklyn for a few years. He looked like Simon or Garfunkel, and we were coworkers at the coffee shop where I work until he got fired. On our date he was appalled that I had never been to any of the Chicago museums, and I felt ashamed and annoyed. That was only one of three momenta in which I realized I should not have agreed to go out with him. The second was when I caught myself looking longingly at a very affectionate lesbian couple in a nearby booth and the third was when I found myself wondering how hot his mom was.
Perhaps the most interesting of my Chicago successes was landing a job at a high end European coffee shop in a mostly Jewish affluent Northern suburb where Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was filmed. My boss is a short and sweet but ill-tempered Polish lady who sends me home with sandwiches on Sunday nights. I eat them at the empty old train station where a Clint Eastwood movie was once filmed while I wait for the inbound METRA. There’s a girl who works at the coffee shop who is 18 and reminds me a little bit of myself at that age. I immediately liked her when she greeted me with genuine bubbly enthusiasm on my first day and even more when her crazy came out a few days later. She said she was probably bipolar or something else because something was not right with he and she had just started therapy. I took comfort then in knowing that my own madness would receive nothing less than appreciation and interest from her. She told me one day that I don’t seem that much older than her and that even thirty year olds are like babies to her. We are the only two lower middle class people around on any given day in that yuppie hangout.
My successes in Chicago are overshadowed by my failures, though. The biggest one being my failure to enjoy myself. And the biggest impediment to my enjoyment of Chicago has been the sinking feeling of “oh-my-god-I-am-28-and-too-old-for-this”.
The sinking feeling is horrible and simply not going away. I have been sad to the point of wanting to die for things I didn’t do in my earlier twenties. I am trying to do those things now in Chicago but I am afraid my window of opportunity passed a few years ago.
At the age of 28 I want to do things a 22 year old does. I am at the age where people settle down but I am not ready to do that yet. There are experiences I have not yet had that I feel too old for, like traveling and doing crazy things. And now I am about to commit to a new job that pays well enough for these things but its in Chicago and I am not sure I want to stay in Chicago for that much longer. I like Chicago but I don’t nor have I ever loved it like many people seem to. I’d be happier with a simpler life in a farmhouse or a hobbit home, in quiet country with green hills. But right now I want to be out seeing the world and experiencing new things.
How do I make peace with the past? I wish I’d graduated from college at 22, then traveled and done crazy things for the next few years so that by now I’d be ready to settle. I did not enjoy improv like I think I would have if I’d pursued it a few years earlier than now. Maybe it is time to accept that I never pursued acting, let go of that dream, and begin my writing journey. I’ve already reached the foothills anyway, by blogging and practicing when I can. Relationships, not work, are what make life worth living, though, and sometimes I don’t care what I do for a loving as long as I enjoy it a little.
Another nagging problem is the feeling that I’ve dried up and lost my fire. I am afraid I’ve been acting 40. I am not 40 yet. I am 28. Since the meaning of being 28 varies from person to person, I will say that or me, since I am a late bloomer, it means being a baby girl 28-year-old and everything is new. And that is the mindset I want to have when Christmas break is over and I go back to Chicago on Sunday.