Nice family trip to Chicago for the weekend. Looking out across the skyline brings up all the reasons I miss living here. All the reasons I loved calling Chicago home. This city feels like my home town. The variety, the people, the energy, the lights and the design and the art and the endless new things to try. The big city is a place where anything seems possible.
So, I wonder to myself why I left Chicago nearly ten years ago. Left my home town to adopt a new home town in Indianapolis. The old thoughts being to creep in. And questions bubble up…
Did Chicago suck the energy out of me? A big city has an electric energy. That’s undeniable. But where does the city draw its energy from? From those of us too unaware to keep it from sucking our energy. I remember being tired all the time. Stressed all the time. Sad most of the time. Worried most of the time. With everything to do, there seemed never to be enough friends to do it with. There were people who drifted in and out and those I tried to grasp on to. And there were very few close friends to draw energy from. So the energy mostly went in one direction – toward the city. Only seldom from the city or from friends back into my core.
Then there was the flight from the city. First Greg (actually Greg left before I got here). Then Rob. Then Kathy (did she actually leave or did we just stop seeing her when Rob left?). Then Greg and Ann. Toni. Constance became close with here work friends at the same time that I traveled too much for work to become close with anyone.
Speaking of work. From one shit job to the next. What started as just a job to get out of Lafayette and into Chicago became a miserable, dirty chemical plant job and hour each way. Two hours in the car, 8 or 9 at work, tired when I got home. Phone calls from Lazy Bob at late hours. Drinking a bottle of vodka every 2 days and waking up late and hung over to start the whole process again. I didn’t need a big city to do all that. I could have lived in Indy and commuted to the dirty chemical plant job in Lafayette. At least that job was not a shit job. And no Lazy Bob.
My idea was to move to Chicago. But there were no chemical engineer jobs in Chicago. I finally was sick of waiting. I was going to move to Chicago and find any job. Bartending seemed good. I could tend bar and live in Chicago. Not exactly building for the future, but it would get me to Chicago. And in hind sight, I’d probably have close to the same net worth now if I had been a bartender all these years. And maybe a few less worry lines in my forehead. But that’s an alternate universe. Instead, I was talked into the idea that if I were to get “just a job” then why not get a good paying job using my degree and experience? Unfortunately, Joe Rogan had not yet started his podcast or even his stand up comedy career and had not done his rant about the society trap. The problem with using your degree and experience to get “just a job” is that there is no such thing as “just a job” using your degree and experience. I am talking here about “a career” and not “just a job”. “A career” comes with different expectations. Different pressures. A different standard of living to strive for and hold onto. It comes with more to lose if you lose it. Get fed up tending bar for Southport Lanes? Go to Roscoe’s. Get fed up at Roscoe’s or with tending bar in general? Get a job at a hotel or a bike shop or a friggin bookstore or coffee shop for all I care. Point is, none of those jobs come with expectations of longevity. Or suckuperry. The bosses might turn out to be douchebags but at least they don’t expect me to not be a douchebag if the situation warrants it.
Okay, so maybe Chicago didn’t suck me dry. Maybe it was “the career” that sucked me dry. Or trying to pursue “the career” that I never really wanted.
If I sound regretful or melancholy or like one of those shows where some old guy with a face like a map of the Paris underground, it is probably because of all the emotions that come up when I look out across the cityscape. The same old feelings of excitement come up. It’s like I’m back in Grant park at the bandshell listening to Jazz on a balmy September evening. Sipping wine with friends. Knowing I had just moved to Chicago. As I took in the city skyline, I just thought, “I live here now.” And Dolores said, “you will have such a great time here.” And I believed her. See, the job was still just a job. I was in Chicago! And every dream and every walk through the city and every party and every exciting challenge and theatre performance and band and restaurant and every brush with fame and all the fun and love and deep, meaningful experiences were all in front of me.
The biggest difference between looking out across the cityscape nineteen and a half years ago and now is that now the excitement abates quickly, knowing that I don’t live here now. The fun and the parties and the experiences are now all behind me and they were not nearly as plentiful or as meaningful as I thought they would be. Not many of the dreams came true and the brushes with fame were just other famous people who I sometimes recognized.
It’s not all gloom and doom. I am a father. The most important work I could ever do is raising these two wonderful girls. I love it and I can not imagine anything more profound or deep or meaningful than being their daddy.
I guess it’s pretty common for things to turn out differently than you imagine. And as I look out across the cityscape that was to be the empty canvass upon which I was going to create my spectacular, extraordinary life, I am wistful. Not for the life I have created, which I love. But for the life that might have been. That was supposed to have been. But that never got off the ground.
It’s important to point out – especially to those who love me – that I am not regretful of the life I have with you. I writing to understand my pensive feelings when I look at the city. I love this city but I had gotten sick of it. I now love my life in Indianapolis. I don’t at all regret my time in Chicago. I found some fantastic people and had some absolutely great times.
Melissa, Danny, even Greg, Pam, Rich, Vince, Chainsaw, Anna, Pi, Erica, and everyone we used to hang out with (especially the ones I mentioned who left us): I love you and I love the memories we have together.
Constance, Elizabeth, Simone, Poppy, Strawberry, Button, and all my friends and family in Indy and elsewhere: I love our life together. The best is yet to come!