Blurring state lines

I’ve had a draft of a post about Caldwell and going home last month for a while now, but I’m kind of glad I waited on it because I feel like I’ve got more recent perspective to add.

The other day I used a Groupon for Cafepress. I didn’t really know what I wanted but I ended up getting these two T-shirts:

The Buckeye State

The Chicago flag

It seemed fitting to get one of each, and represent my old home as well as my new one. Some days I feel like I’ve got one foot planted in Ohio and the other one here.

Regular blurkers know I’ve spent the last several months adjusting to living in Chicago. Getting a job at the tail end of winter made a huge difference, but it wasn’t until around Memorial Day weekend that I started to realize I could get comfortable with this new life, and everything that has come along with it — just in time for what’s turned out to be one of the best summers I can remember. I started hanging out with people at work more and made more of an effort to get to know them, rather than constantly worry what they thought of me and feel afraid to say much. It’s kind of crazy to me now how self-conscious I was because my friends at work are so much more like me than I would have ever expected. We’re at similar places in our lives, doing the same things and just trying to make sense of our surroundings. We’re living in an exciting time, together.

That said, life in Chicago is different from everything I’ve known up until this point. I’m really glad I spent three years in Columbus because I think that time prepared me well for the culture shock I inevitably would have been faced with in coming here.

I went back to Caldwell in June for my niece’s birthday. I got to see my best friends from high school and catch up, and spend a valuable Fathers’ Day with just my dad. It was a short visit, but well worth it.

I’ve been home three times now since I left; In December I went home to break up with someone who was just about to break up with me. In February I trudged back in bad weather to celebrate getting a job offer, only to find my friends were far busier than I was and doing shockingly fine without me around. Last month’s visit was the first time I wasn’t desperate to get home, but simply glad for the opportunity. Going back there now feels so comforting and familiar, and yet so distant, like visiting a past life.

I ramble along in the dark on dirt and gravel roads, leaving my car filthy and choking. It will later wear the layer of dust like a badge of honor, pulling onto my Chicago street as the neighbors gape.

I sit with my friends as we talk about people we went to high school with — who knocked up who, who has a drug problem now, who got fat — as I struggle to match maiden names to the misremembered blurry faces that emerge from the back of my mind.

I go home to find people thrilled to see me, which feels nice, albeit a little bit like a cheap laugh. I spend the next few days adopting and perfecting a slight twang and dropping my G’s. My friends ask me questions and marvel, as they did when I lived in Columbus, at what I’m willing to pay in rent as they prepare to make mortgage payments at one-third the cost. They raise children on southeastern Ohio hourly wages, while I struggle to bolster my savings account despite only having myself and a Target habit to support.

My friends in Ohio are so much more selfless than I am. They are willing to give of themselves in order to better and more fairly reach goals they set in place with another person, knowing there will be sacrifices made all along the way. They can step outside of themselves and their wants and needs and problems in a way that I am not yet capable of. I am too self involved, too unsure of my own interests and too quick to resent anyone else’s attempts to sway my choices.

Brandon’s only real indictment of me after our relationship’s demise was that I was immature, and at the time this seemed laughable to me. I can now see that this reaction only confirms his choice of words, and believe me, he could have chosen far worse. I thought I was the grown up in our relationship, and I hated feeling saddled with that role. But maybe I was wrong the whole time. He was the one who was willing to compromise and make life-changing decisions to keep us going, and I was not. My friends understand this balance like he did; I do not. At least not yet.

The other night I went out with my friends to a co-worker’s new apartment. She’s one of the few of us who’s married but her husband fits right in with us, so their marriage never seems like that different of a dynamic. They recently moved to a place with a stunning rooftop view, and we checked it out late on Friday night in the midst of some pretty intense heat lightning. We all just kind of stood there and stared. I loved the softly murmured reverence we all felt for the Chicago skyline and the awe it still manages to inspire in us after living here for months, some of us years. It’s not a feeling of self-importance, it’s more like a community pride for this amazing thing we all share – it’s beautiful and striking, and it’s ours if we want it.

I am so glad I chose it, and so thankful it welcomed me with open arms.

I love my friends, and I miss my family. Going home keeps me grounded and helps me remember where I came from. I’m grateful to have grown up there and couldn’t have been blessed with more ferociously loyal friends who truly want me to succeed and find whatever the hell it is I came out here looking for.

I remember feeling anxious that night last summer when I told them I was leaving for sure. Those I’d been most concerned about arguing with me just looked at me and smiled.

“It’s crazy. You’re crazy, but you’re going to be fine,” I was told.

So far that sounds about right. It would’ve been harder to take this step without their support, and I’m grateful for it.

Now: who’s comin’ to visit from back home? It’ll be worth it.

Me with my three best friends from Caldwell

A little goes a long way

If you’re my friend of Facebook you may have been witness to the collective gasp that was the reaction to my suddenly being listed as “in a relationship”. (Thanks for the vote of confidence, guys.) How could you have not known about this, you asked yourself? You, who reads my blog sometimes? The truth comes out — I don’t blog about everything. But he’s been around for a few weeks now, so the whole thing seems worth mentioning at this point. Long story short, we work together, he’s funny/cute/awesome, and you’d probably like him.

We did part of a musical exchange this week, in which he gave me a couple gigs of new music from his iTunes library including Frightened Rabbits, Cut Copy, Margot & The Nuclear So and So’s, Mountain Goats, old school Rogue Wave and much, much more. After that I started making a playlist of albums for him from my library. I’ve been threatening to make him listen to Rilo Kiley for a while now, and so this is the conversation we had today when I brought this playlist up.

Surprisingly Okay

Despite this being a short week, it’s felt so much longer, yet with no time to blog. I’ve been busy enjoying my first Chicago summer and all that has come with it, be it the Taste of Chicago, food trucks, fireworks or not shivering uncontrollably while waiting for a bus after an eight-hour shift in retail. It’s the little things.

Now on to something completely different: I may be taking a Facebook haitus for a few days. In theory. We’ll see how long I last before curiosity gets the best of me.

The person I was with from age 18 until nearly 24 is marrying someone else tomorrow, and all our old friends will be there to see it. The inevitable Facebook photos will follow, and while I’m really happy for him and glad he found someone, I suspect it’s all going to be a little strange to take in at once.

That said, it should probably feel weirder to me than it does; but I’m okay. I’ve known since before I moved that this would happen — he proposed days before I left — and now it is. I haven’t talked to him in months, a realization that today astonishes me and yet seems perfectly reasonable at the same time.

We are both so much better off now. He knows it, I know it, we’re all well aware. We made a good run of it for a while there, coming off like a normal couple who appeared to have normal couple plans. Now he really is a part of that, and better off for it.

There’s little to say about it, other than I’m happy for him and pleased with how our lives have progressed in the last 16 months. Not so much the first couple — those sucked. But the rest… they really made all the difference.

I have a couple song choices to share for this moment. They’re both kind of about being selfish and wildly stubborn, but also accepting.

“I Was Once A Loyal Lover,” Death Cab For Cutie

All my friends married each other, both my high school ones and my friends from college. They are all way more mature than I am and managed to grow up to be adults somehow. They have responsibilities and children, some of them have mortgages. I’m resigned to stay the same.

“Good Life,” Francis Dunnery

I found this song after we broke up and it terrified me, and that was before I even knew he’d met someone else. But honestly, I know even if I never find someone, I’ll never regret not dragging him down with me. What I’ve done with my life since then is far better then whatever resentments I would have subjected him to. He deserves better.

Congrats, and I wish you the best.

Fireworks at North Avenue Beach

My friend Brianne asked if I wanted to go to the beach to see the fireworks Monday, and I’m so glad I went. I was afraid it was going to be crowded beyond belief, but we actually got a really great place by the lake and had plenty of room to spread out a couple blankets. Everyone was a good sport about my apparent need to document my first Fourth of July fireworks in Chicago (technically second, but I was an eleven-year-old tourist the first time).

It’s been a pretty awesome summer so far, you guys.

North Avenue Beach, pre-fireworks show

Top Five Trips

1) London, Scotland and Wales, 2005; Family trip. The last trip we took together before my mom got sick. Got to see Abbey Road and eat horrible, horrible English food.

2) Quebec, 1997 (?); Family trip. The thing I best remember is the monorail that went from the upper part of the city to the lower part. Also, I ate lobster for the first and only time in my life.

3) Colorado and San Francisco, 2010; Traveled to Colorado with Brandon to see our college friends Doug and Chandra. He headed back to Ohio and I went on to San Francisco to spend a week with a childhood friend.

4) Cross-country drive to San Diego, 2009. Drove from Columbus, Ohio to San Francisco in three days with my friends Eileen and Liz to help move Eileen out to be with her boyfriend. Made a sweet video (see a few entries down).

5) Moving to Chicago. Not really a vacation, because it hasn’t ended, but it’s been a pretty awesome adventure thus far.

My family at Abbey Road, 2005

Liz, me and Eileen on a day trip to LA

First Chicago hot dog: the adventure continues.