Posts Tagged ‘chicago’

Here’s the thing: when I decided to marry Kristl and settle down in Chicago, I thought the idea of “Life by Wandering” was kind of done.

The idea being that I would live a whole bunch of different places, and get to know this country, this world, by living in for a year or two in them. The best way to understand a place is to live in it, get to know the locals, make a few friends, set down a few roots, and pick up the essence of the place.

I’ve done this in several places in the midwest: Grand Rapids, MI; Toledo, OH, Detroit, MI; Chicago, IL (yes, the actual city of Chicago.) I’ve also lived in Denver, CO, San Francisco, CA, and Tokyo, Japan. Some of these places I only spent a couple months. Some I spent years. But up until my relationship with Kristl, I was convinced that I was going to be constantly on the move.

Bear with me if you know this, but Kristl was an acupuncturist and she had a significant brick and mortar practice. In fact, by the time she decided to sell that practice and move on, she had her own practice space with three treatment rooms and was grossing over six figures of income. She was successful, but it was unlikely that we were going to leave Chicago with that kind of career.

However, my dream of travel, living all over, and seeing the country and the world in a very intimate way didn’t die. It intensified, and I wasn’t alone. About a year ago, Kristl heard a podcast interview of a couple who both have location independent jobs and live in an RV together. And they weren’t in their 60’s. They were a little younger than us.

An RV? Remote work? Location independence? These terms were like fresh spring water after a long walk in the desert. The truth behind Kristl’s practice was that it was successful in it’s own right, and it was paying the bills, but it wasn’t touching her student loan debt. Also, she felt chained to it. We love Chicago, but we were both ready to try something new. We reasoned out some viable timelines, two to three years to build up the practice and transition out, five years at most. I would do farming and sustainability coaching. Easy-peasy.

Then I had a life threatening illness in May and the picture changed dramatically. A cozy three to five year plan seemed foolish. Why waylay your life goals when you never know how much time you could have?

We decided to move to North Carolina in the fall. Kristl would sell her practice. We would start a business together. We would figure things out. The most important thing was to be healthy, to find joy, to move closer to the goal of being able to freely see more of the world and by that understand more of who I am.

We moved at the very end of October. It’s mid April now. This road has not been easy. I am not a natural entrepreneur. I have learned much about myself, and I have had opportunities to redefine many parts of who I know myself to be. I think if you knew me in college or grad school (or even high school, if we’re going that far back), you’ll find me a much less flamboyant, more willing to listen individual than I ever was.

Regardless, I realized that I thought I had to completely let go of this wandering dream to be with Kristl, and suddenly here we are, in a much bigger way, pursuing it together. I never would have thought to pursue remote work or to start my own business to live in many different places. It is through this partnership that the legacy of Life by Wandering lives on.

We are getting our things in order. We may well be in North Carolina for a while yet, but that dream is slowly becoming a reality. The nuts and bolts of a life of real travel are coming into focus. Time is a construct, frustrating though that truth might be. Anytime something is trying your patience, remember that you don’t know all the beauty, magic, and infinite good that is taking place to make the thing you are waiting for come into being exactly as it is supposed to, at exactly the right time.

Allllllll of this is to say that I LOVE that I don’t need to rename or restart my blog. I can just restart exactly where I left off. If you ever feel like you are a wanderer, remember you don’t have to wander aimlessly, you can wander with a purpose. You can wander with a map, and use Google maps. You can live your life by wandering and see the whole damn world. That’s what I’m doing.



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Here’s my first post written on my phone. WordPress actually has a pretty functional iPhone app. I don’t need to be sitting down at a desk to make things happen. Fabulous. I just found out I have many hours of floating holiday time to use up before July 1st. I won’t go into why I have to use these hours here; no room to explain my ignorance. However, I am now saddled with a fair amount of summertime to fill as I wish. So, what am I excited to do? Well, I want to go to the Art Institute and/or the Museum of Contemporary Art. I want to take a neighborhood tour and a kayak trip down the Chicago river. I want to eat at places that are cheaper and perhaps better during breakfast or lunch (Donut Vault, Waffles, Xoco). I want to sit by the lake, work on my tan, and go swimming. I want to just hang out with my cat, my girlfriend, and her dog. (I might even take the cat to the vet, shhhh!) I want to hit up some local farmers markets and cook up some great meals for karmainthelkitchen.wordpress.com. Basically, I want to do it all. Summer in Chicago is pretty fun and June is the best month. Maybe it wasn’t a huge mistake after all to mismanage my time off. I get to take advantage of my hometown, which has so much to offer. All this is to say, my summer as an adult goals are pretty similar to my childhood summer goals, perhaps with less obsessive reading of teen novels and more Segway tours.

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If you are a loyal reader, you may have noticed I haven’t posted in a while.  You’ve noticed, or you haven’t. I’m not sure I have more than a handful of loyal readers.  Probably because  I can’t seem to get into a habit on this blog.  I should force myself to take up daily posts for a while, even if the content is reduced to what I’ve been reading in the New Yorker lately.  Or my random thoughts about the real draw of late night dance parties.  Or my feelings about the cost of living in Chicago and how your spending rises to the cost and you just forget how much other people might not be spending elsewhere.  I could also post the terse little poems I write on the L platforms while waiting for trains that seem to never come, until they do.  They are short, self-centered and patently unimaginative, but they are something.  There’s a lot I could be doing with the time between waking and sleeping that I don’t seem to be getting around to doing.  I have been busy, however: working out, singing, networking, cooking, dancing, reading, traveling.  Let’s hit on some of those topics.  Hit it, yeah.

About working out, I think maybe, finally, I am growing up in this regard.  Or maybe I’m making friends who prioritize physical fitness and inspire me to do the same.  Basically, I’m tired of looking at my body and thinking, this could be so much better if I did x, y, z.  So, now I’m doing x and y, at least.  We’ll see about z.  I’ve started working out during my lunch break, attending the core class, and pitched an idea to the fitness coordinator to do a summer fitness competition, which she picked up.  So, 40 days of fitness starts June 1st.  It’s like lent for my lazy ass.  I’m excited and not just about the prizes.  I’m also working on my jump shot.  I want to be a constant contributor to my bball team next year.  I want them to trust me with the ball.  It’s a nice thought, but what this all comes down to is my refusing to accept that the best I ever was was in high school or college.  Sure, I have some injuries that will make things more difficult, but there’s no reason for me or any human to believe that they’ve topped out, that they’ve hit the peak and are doing down indefinitely.  Improvement is always possible, as well as new growth.  Giving up is the only insurmountable flaw.  You can overcome anything else.  The best book I’ve read in the last 2 years is called The Brain that Changes Itself by Norman Doidge.  It tells some incredible stories about stroke victims and paraplegics regaining use of their body parts and all kinds crazy ways people and doctors have figured out to rewire the brain.  At any rate, it makes me want to ask more of my body in my brain.  I don’t want to have to lose something to appreciate what I still have. Anyone who is human and has at least a high school reading level should read this book.  I will keep recommending it you until you do.

This spring, I decided to buy a subscription to The New Yorker. This has proved to be an excellent use of my money.  It gives me something less heavy than a book to carry on the L.  It gives me articles of the highest quality on current events.  First hand reporting on events I only heard about vaguely in the news.  It tells me about things I’ve never even considered: turkish soccer fans, the psychology of high fashion, laugh yoga, etc.  And the fiction is edgy and there’s poetry.  I’m really in heaven here.  I feel bad for neglecting my books, but seriously, I read 4 out of 5 days and I’m still two issues behind.  It’s great, I feel smarter, better informed, and I have conversation starters galore.  Conversation starters which likely will come in handy at speed dating next week, (wink,wink).

I went to New York a couple weeks ago.  It was the culmination of a year long plan to go there with some of my friends from Ravelry and eat a lot of delicious food and enjoy each others’ company.  It amazes me still that people you meet and converse with mostly online can be excellent friends with you in person.  It also could just be this specific group of people who are most delightful.  Anyways, I could tell you all about the food I ate there, and really some of the flavors keep coming back to me, like the full sour pickle, the pork fat based ramen broth, the blackout donut and so forth.  Good stuff.  But the reason I brought it up is because I wanted to compare New York to Chicago.  My expectation was that I would find New York kind of dirty and too busy compared to Chicago.  I thought the busyness would overwhelm me, but what I found overwhelming was the sheer size of the city.  It’s like 5 or 6 cities all linked to one another.  I never feel like Chicago is overwhelming because I can calculate exactly how long it would take me to get to the lake or the suburbs I grew up in from pretty much anywhere in the city.  Those are calm easy places for me.  So if I know that I am within a 20 minute walk to the lake or a 45 minute train ride to the burbs, I don’t feel the need to escape.  Escape is always there.  Always available.  So, I’m not sure I could live in New York. But visiting, visiting is nice.  Real nice.  I’m also supposed to visit D.C., San Francisco, and Rome in the coming year.  I thought I was going to make it to Argentina, but I’m not confident it’s going to happen.  Living in Chicago, while not madly expensive, does not leave a lot for the savings.  I do what I can.  I do what I can.

I guess this has been more of an update than a typical, inspiring post from yours truly.  Well, the part about fitness and not accepting limits was kind of inspiring, right?  Sure.  My next post is going to be a music post, so you audiophiles can get exited about that.  Also, I get a lot of publicity when I post and tag about music.  And what blogger doesn’t like publicity? Until then, don’t let anyone, especially not your own doubts, tell you that you can’t do something you want to do.  You can do whatever you want.  Do it.

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I’ve committed to telling a 5- minute story next month at this local story telling night in Bucktown (?), Chicago. To prepare, I’ve been thinking over my life, recent and past, to come up with a story befitting the general feel of the event.  We went in November and it was a lot of stories about drunken hi-jinx, family events, unbelievable happenings, but all humorous for the most part.  So, I guess I’ve been trying to think of a story in that genre.  I think the best stories are barely believable.  I think I’ve been through some barely believable events in my life, but I’m not sure any of them are solidly hilarious or equaling right ’round 5 minutes.

Since I’m having trouble coming up with one solid story, I’ve started thinking about some triptychs of shorter stories I could tell from my life.  Examples would be: three stories about dramatic injuries I’ve gotten in non-dramatic ways, three insane things which have happened to me on public transit, or three instances of my parents doing something that makes me cringe.  I’ve landed on “Things my father shouldn’t say, but does anyway” for the month of January.  And since I pretty much write like I talk and talk like I write, I thought I should write it out first for the 3-4 people who actually read this blog on a regular basis (you know who you are!)

BrasMy father is a 60-something ex-marine, ham-radio operator, and part time church leader.  He was in the marines in the early 70’s, was a navigator on one of the planes which could have dropped a nuclear bomb on Moscow, if the cold war had gone hot.  His way of communicating is a hodge podge of 70’s marine jargon, downhome country boy drawl, educated blather, and the occasional clever pun.  He usually entertains the friends I bring home to no end, because he is nothing if not gregarious and always has something to show off or embarrass me with.  He is set in his ways and likes to recount to me all the brainwash runoff he learns from FoxNews whenever the conversation goes even a little political (or sociological or economical).  While I find that aspect of his rhetoric irritating, I do love talking with him in the moments where he’s being real and honest and not trying to multi-task while talking to me.  We’ve had some good talks, Dad and I.

However, there are times when my dear father says things he should never say, especially not to or around his only daughter.  The first example of this goes back to my grade school years, where, befitting a man of his background, my father would use the word “hump” in place of the word “carry.”  This is not unique to my situation, I realize, but imagine how mortifying, upon reaching puberty and the understanding of what “hump” can mean and hearing your dad say, “hey, you want me to hump this bag home for you?” “I’m going to hump this downstairs.”  “You shouldn’t hump this all the way home if you don’t have to.”  No, no, no… no one is humping anything; especially right now, especially not my book bag.  I think I might have explained its meaning to the modern ear at some point, because he doesn’t hump my bags anymore.

Just the other day, we were driving in the city, and we were on a north-south street, trying to find an east-west street to go west on.  We found one, and upon making the left, my father said, “ah, yes, penetration.”  Ah, yes, penetration, because that’s not awkward and sexual at all.  But of course, in his mind, he was thinking about flying a plane in the military.  I can guarantee it, 100%.  But there I am in the back seat, exchanging flustered glances with no one, shaking my head.

The last, and perhaps best, example I have for you happened sometime in my early college years.  My dad and I were having a heart to heart about life and the future and such things.  I was, for some reason, inspired to gripe about about my cup size (maybe a sign that I am my father’s daughter).  I was concerned that my less-than-abundant endowment would make me less attractive to likely suitors.  And I’m sure Dad started off with some uninspiring platitudes about that not mattering and what being inside counting… and then without any warning, he provided me with what ended up being the take-away message: more than a mouthful is wasted.  More than a mouthful is wasted, sort of a flat-chest centric belief, wouldn’t you say?  I mean C and D breasted women seem to be pretty attractive to a lot of people.  People who likes curves in particular.  I guess maybe this pronouncement by my father was more than a friendly encouragement to a daughter sans boobs.  It may be the closest thing to a sex talk we’ve had.  And at that time, I still had a virginal understanding of the world.  I can’t even say that those kind words from my father were not well placed and gave me a little more confidence when faced with a world full of enormous boobs.  However, when I recount this story to my friends, they are almost always flabbergasted that a father would say that to his daughter.  I shrug my shoulders; what can I say, it’s something my father said.  There’s no stopping that train.

Anyways, that’s the basic gist.  I don’t know if it’ll ever make it to the streets.  I’ve been really into talking about my father lately, for whatever reason.  Maybe by the third thursday in January, I would have thought of a better story to recount.  In other news, merry christmas.  I have a few days off, so I’m going to try to get a few more posts in before the beginning of 2011.

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As you may have picked on, in the last 6 months, my life has gone through a lot of changes.  I was pretty damn depressed, because of a lack of social support system in a woe-begotten city.  My job was overly demanding, and I was not healthy enough to deal with the stress of it.  So, I quit my job, I left that city, and I moved home.  I bought supplementary health insurance, got a refund on my car insurance, and devoted myself to full-time job searching.  I rented an apartment in the 3rd largest city in America with a good friend and within a couple months, I landed a good job in that city.  Now, I spend 5 days a week commuting an hour each way, morning and evening, to a job on the south side, while live 2 blocks from Lake Michigan on the north side.  It is a good life, but I never thought it would happen to me.  I also never thought that it would suit me.

Growing up, especially in high school, when we would caper “downtown”, I would find it exciting and rewarding to lead whatever group of friends to the right L stop and the right location.  It was something we would do with the tenuous permission of our parents and almost always in large groups.  I had my 18th birthday party at Ed Debevic’s (a trendy 1950’s-esque restaurant where the waiters are paid actors who give you a hard time and occasionally stop for dance numbers.)  It was exhilarating, gutsy, remote.  It was Chicago.  But I never even briefly considered living here.  I never gave colleges in the city the slightest consideration.  Frankly, I wanted to be further away from my parents than that.  I also wanted to be further away from my high school friends too.

So, I got away.  I spend 4 years in Grand Rapids for college, only returning to the Chicago area during the summer between my first and second years.  Subsequent summers took me to Japan, and Denver, and eventually (after graduating, Toledo.  Toledo was where I attended grad school, and the second summer there I spent part in the UK and the rest in San Francisco.  I was a world traveler, I was an absorber of metropolitan landscapes.  I was prepared to move anywhere, tackle any region, and make a place for myself there.

I took this optimism to Detroit and was met with apathy.  I really was mostly unable to find any like-minded people or at least people with similar interests.  Drama upon drama (and legitimate reasons) aside, I had to come back to Chicago. And I knew, for some reason, this was my time to live in Chicago.  To really get to know the city I had grown up so close to.

I was worried at first.  Having just come from a difficult situation, I knew I needed all the support I could get.  And I definitely needed a job.  But now that everything is in place, and I have a social network, a job, and enough activities, visitors, and errands to keep me comfortably busy, I feel very much at home. The thing is, I thought that the city would wear me out; I thought that I would get tired of being surrounded by people, sounds, and lights all the time.  But really, that hasn’t happened.  If it’s too loud at night, I stopper up my ears with earplugs.  If it’s too bright, with the city light pollution, I have an eyemask.  If I feel closed in by all the buildings, I just walk down to the lake front.  Rather than an enemy, the city skyline is a friend.  I greet the city each day exiting my stop on the red line.  Technically, I’ve just ridden under it, but seeing the skyline from that bridge makes me feel like the day has started and I can go on.  It’s anchoring.  It’s solid.  And for all intents and purposes, it’s a permanent thing.

I also thought I would miss nature.  I mean, walking through a quiet woods is something that really makes my soul feel peace and makes me feel centered and whole.  Well, turns out, Chicago has trees.  And parks, and a free zoo, and a nature preserve with numerous species of waterfowl.  It’s pretty damn peaceful.  Even walking through a quiet street can be spiritually edifying.  I do miss the woods, but I’m not suffering or displaced.  If all else fails, I can sneak out to the suburbs and sit on my folks’ patio and watch the creek creep by.

So, here I am, sitting in the city of Chicago, in my apartment, with all my stuff.  There is no way I would complain about how things have turned out.  I’m so glad I had the strength to do difficult things and take care of myself over my career or other people’s feelings.  Careers are made up anyway.  You can form a career, but no one really needs one.  And I’m always scheming ways to start a new one.  It’s exciting.

As always, I appreciate your comments.  Cheers.

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