day 4 | Chicago

I met him two years ago and couldn’t remember his name until he started talking. It was is if my soul had floated from my body, become a person and spoke more eloquently in forms of art and community. And then I stalked him mostly because I was encouraged to find somebody who was doing things I wanted to do and work with them. Talk. Whatever, get in their space. 

He worked in the south side of Chicago, an enigma to me. It had a reputation- I had been a downtown girl. But he reawakened a deep passion I had for this city. I was shaking when I introduced myself to him.

I eventually went to see his artwork. And sat at his kitchen table where I drank water from a small bowl. he told me space was important to him. And that’s what he was creating; an artist of space and experience- a place for people to be. To interact. With no agenda. Because if you create the right space, the space creates the agenda.

He is still inspiring and now he has a TED talk. However we seem to misconnect and I still get insanely nervous in his presence. Someday we will have a proper drink or dinner and conversation. But it isn’t now. I’m not ready.

But I met a creative cohort of his. by stalking him, I found Erika through her Instagram account, who is equally inspiring, innovative and believes the best conversations are around beautiful food. And it’s the place ideas grow and are realized.

I’ve emailed a handful of people to meet with me and she was the first who said, yes! And two hours passed quickly as we realized we were kindred spirits. It was refreshing to know there are exciting people who are doing exciting things. And are looking for collaborators. And the list goes on.

I’m not sure what the next chapter will bring but I expect more people like Erika to be around me.  I expect to see big ideas through. I expect to challenge and be challenged. 

I expect a lot of good food.

day 3 | chicago

1264 days, from a countdown I started as a freshman in high school.

I am nebraskan. I am a corn farmer’s daughter. my entire school, k-12, was 99.1% white. Iwas raised in sameness and simplicity. amid hard work done by good people.

Wanting to leave may have been born from common teenage angst but it became my exercise of wanting more. different. deeper. I am driven by this want. this desire. this yearning to be part of something else than what I know.

to see. touch. connect.

And I’ve been at it alone the whole time. Part because I separated myself from the masses. Part because I didn’t want the responsibility of another person’s ability to adapt. Part because I had confidence I would meet good people along the way. I found out I was good at new solo situations.

Returning to Nebraska was a struggle because often times I was uncomfortable. I wasn’t connected to a city that was so well connected to each other and I quickly grew tired of asserting myself into tight spaces. Part because I had one foot out the door. Part because I craved the Chicago urban energy. Part because I have met so many wonderful people since I wrote day 1 is here. and they are not all in one place. Of course my answer to figure out transition is to roam.

The benefits: I can go on a 3 week road trip and have many friends to stay with, dine with, converse with. I know I will only just keep meeting wonderful people.

(this picture was taken pre-road trip in memphis. the tea cosi was used at daily tea time when I lived in Switzerland and was an object of obsession by the coffee mafia [dubbed by housemates because of our serious need for slow morning coffee consumption], partly because of a David Sedaris reference. one of the members made off with it and it now lives in her new kitchen in memphis, keeping the french press cozy.)

day 2 | chicago

I am fine tuning the question I will be asked over and again, what do you do? followed immediately by- oh, what’s next?

There’s an easy answer to give to duck out and curtail any conversation. but that isn’t the point of this trip. the point is, talk. talk more. talk about then. talk about now. talk about what may. However I answer, be honest. be open. be engaging.

What I can confidently say in response- I know what I don’t want. My soul furls at the thought of working in another cdc. The recent taste is still too bitter and I’m not convinced the next time would be any better. I lack faith in the nonprofit system. This is critical processing, right?

I’m not saying this is forever. Chances are high, like 90%, I may eventually go back in some capacity. But in this response, I’ve given myself permission to adapt my role, my approach rather than hear the negative message, easily ready to chant, that somehow I’ve failed. as Seth Godin put it, “it’s not a no, it’s a no for now. that’s not this will never work, it didn’t work this time. but I learned something about what might work for next time…is that something we flee from or is it something we use to tell us that we’re alive?”

One summer I decided I wanted to get paid to water ski. I did some [primitive] research on the internet (this was 2001) and came across a half-season day camp in Maine looking for summer staff who could teach campers how to ski. it seemed interesting, so I applied and within 3 weeks I was hired. I didn’t take the time to read through the entire job description to understand that I would also be a counselor for wealthy children from NYC with terrible pay and long hours. Needless to say, I was shocked by the summer camp staff culture of non-bible camps and the habits of children raised by nannies. I had 4 days off the entire summer. Being constantly around people created a challenge for this introvert but I was lonely for real friendships. In the evenings, I’d get in line to check my email at the one available computer or wait to use one of the 6 pay phones on the side of a barn to hear a familiar voice. or my mom. In recalling a conversation she had with my sister-in-law she expressed how this experience may not make sense now but it would impact me and it could be months before that would be realized; it was now part of my story.

The impact now is significantly more subtle than it was when I returned to Chicago two days after camp ended, a little more world wary. It was important in that moment. It greatly impacted the decisions I made my next year of college. What I am experiencing right now, inevitably is important to what will happen next.

I know what I don’t want. Owning this simple statement is an act of kindness to myself. Somehow it opens up more options. and gives me insight to what I know to be true. already a small light bulb has gone off from a conversation with C’s mother. and I’ve been busy researching new ideas.

day 1 | Chicago

This is a worn path. I’m embarrassed that I entered it into my gps. I know how long it takes and which gas stations are the best. It is never exciting until I see the Sears Tower, and without fail, my heart beat quickens along with the average car speed. I am always taken back to the first time I saw this city at the tender age of 10, not knowing, I would live in between the chaos for 4 years.

When Catherine and I would drive back to campus at night, she’d interrupt our conversation, er, indigo girl sing-a-long  and exclaim, “time out! we live here. in that!” And we’d inhale the skyline of Chicago in its lighted, breathtaking glory. In fact when I flew in a few years later, her soon to be husband picked me up and said he had instructions to take the lake shore drive route. A small, thoughtful gesture from a friend who understands a sight that never grows old.

I remember many of those trips that began when I was 10, but the one that repeats in a haunting way in my memory- the one I left Chicago, my Honda Accord, which still smelled of spoiled ground beef,* packed with my dorm life possessions. I had anticipated this moment. The first college graduate in my family, ready to take on the world.

But I felt more like I was fleeing. Chicago had become limited to my small world and the order I created for myself in those final months. Feeling so lost in its seas of people, I couldn’t find the space I needed to think. Or more importantly, talk. I begun to hate it.

It would take a few months to figure out how angry I was at life’s seeming unfairness and how I felt ill prepared to fight. I was ashamed that I didn’t know what I was going to do next beyond a summer nanny job and a three month trip to Europe.

Most of us left Chicago right away. I tried to sneak out from the last party hurrah. And then I said goodbye to my roommate. Though we had lived with each other for 10 months, we had forged a bond so deep that when I hugged her, I started sobbing and couldn’t let go. And realized that she too was sobbing and holding on. As much as I wanted out, I wasn’t prepared for my small world to be scattered.

Of the many things I have come to realize in my adult life is that my experience is not unique which is not meant to discredit my life. In fact I find it comforting when people can better articulate a time in their life that much resembles mine as they have words; I merely have memories in the form of feelings. I was recently introduced to the podcast on being which will be one of my many travel companions so be prepared for references. In a conversation with Parker Palmer and Courtney Martin about rebellion, they propose that living your life wholly is an act of rebellion. Eventually I may get more into the sense of urgency I live with and dissecting what it meant to me then and what it means now to be a good steward of my life and being present; however, I end with Courtney’s words which if someone told me then, when I was fleeing, well, this story would look a little different. Or maybe I can extend young, graduated self grace that many times we aren’t given the anecdotes until we live them.

“Our charge is not to save the world after all, it is to live in it, flawed and fierce, loving and humble.”

*when I would return to Chicago from NE, I would always bring back supplies such as frozen beef from the farm. Because it was winter I opted to keep it in my car trunk in a small cooler then the dorm freezer. I may have forgotten about said cooler over a 2 week spring break and it still took me a few weeks to figure out  the growing stench in my car. I was driving in Lincoln Park when I finally pulled over and pitched the cooler in a street side receptacle.

| preamble |

“One goes into the forest to pick food and already the thought of one fruit rather than another has grown up in one’s mind. then, it may be, one finds a different fruit and not the fruit one thought of. one joy was expected and another is given. but this i had never noticed before-that the very moment of the finding there is in the mind a kind of thrusting back, or setting aside. the picture of the fruit you have not found is still, for a moment, before you…you could send your soul after the good you had expected, instead of turning it to the good you had got. you could refuse the real good; you could make the real fruit taste insipid by thinking of the other.
…but now i see that it is i who plunge into [the good things] with my own legs and arms…it is a delight with a terror in it!…i thought we went along paths-but it seems there are no paths. the going itself is the path.” 
the lady in ‘perelandra’ by c.s. lewis

two years have gone by since i last publicly published words on the internet. as i read my last entry, the words still ring true. change right now, is inevitable. the thing is though, i’m not sure exactly how. i cannot write a post to quickly summarize the past two years. they are filled with courageous moments, new ideas, shared food and dark places.

when i turned 33, i was warned about the “year of the crucifixion.” but nothing happened. on the first day of being 34, i walked the hills of los angeles, pleading to the heavens that something needed to change. i was unhappy and frustrated. and i was worried that i was merely wasting time waiting for something to come to me. i had become so numb to everything around me, i couldn’t see how to get unstuck.

and then 13 days later, i, uh, resigned.

it’s unnerving to walk into a needed life shift. especially when you can’t control it. but sometimes you are given a shove to what you need.

the crazy thing is, in spite of how badly i want things in my life to change, how i long to live anywhere but here, i find myself struggling to make the necessary next steps. it’s easy to remain discontent with a situation. but to lean on the strength i know i have to make bold strokes that alter the course of my life, i feel weak and ill equipped. it’s an internal battle i want to fight but also want to tun off. because that’s how i’ve been living for the past two years.

i’ve been given a gift of time. tomorrow, i embark on a 3 week walkabout. its mostly planned. i’m not sure what to expect and honestly, i’m poor at planning specific details. i just know that i need to move. i need to change my surroundings.

i need to feel the wild ride i am on.

the simple wait.

That never ceases to end [Well, for another 8 weeks. And then you can refer to me as ‘master.’] And in the midst of the unknown, once again, Of so many different things: job. relationships. travels.

Of trying to find routine and be settled.
To define myself somehow in the complexity I understand of myself

Regardless, I can control what I put in my body. The bread is rising
for sandwiches. And toast: what’s a late evening without tea and toast?
I am sitting with a copy of ‘kinfolk
Gifted from a dear friend who understands my identity
Of bringing people together and eating
Good. Simple. Food.
And the work that goes behind it.  Because even a simple loaf of bread
Takes time.

If I try to rush it before its proper rising, resting and rising again
It is like a rock, better to chuck at the perpetually barking dog in the back alley way.
Than to nourish.

I have been complaining about being in this constant state of unknown
and about being in lincoln, where life moves at a snail pace,
where wearing husker gear is appropriate at any and all occasions,
where brunch is non-existent
and often one can see the bottom of their mug through the coffee poured.
where ‘classy’ means putting a floral design on it
and greenspace cannot be recognized beyond corn fields.

yet all in all
i try to remember the good. and unexpected.
and the beauty in the simplicity. often times, we crave
simpler lives with less material goods
but even simple lives have complications
What is mundane can bring an onset of bored apathy and the gimmees,
or it can push. stretch. create.

Because sometimes we stop thinking about what we eat
As in the same way, we stop thinking about why we are doing what we are doing,
reaching for what is more convenient, Rather than waiting.

Oh I am an impatient person.

before i die.

“That our endless and impossible journey toward home is in fact our home… To envision us approaching and pounding on this door, increasingly hard, pounding and pounding, not just wanting admission but needing it; we don’t know what it is but we can feel it, this total desperation to enter, pounding and ramming and kicking. That, finally, the door opens… and it opens outward – we’ve been inside what we wanted all along.” – David Foster Wallace, Some Remarks on Kafka’s Funniness