As I exit the swinging glass doors of the Department of Something-or-other in Chicago’s City Hall, a million not-so-nice phrases pass through my mind. I enjoy them for a moment before asking God to forgive me for having them… and for enjoying them. “We closed at 4:30,” the lady said, and her eyebrows creased toward the center of her face in such a way that for a moment I was honestly embarrassed for expecting service. That is, until I check the clock upon leaving the office with my tail between my legs. 4:31. “You’ve got to be kidding me!” I say aloud. “What the f@*#?” My cheeks grow rosy with anger as I make my way back to the elevator. As I go my body lurches stop-and-go like a first time stick-shift driver. Should I exit in defeat? Or go back and at least give her a piece of my mind? (Like I said, I later repented.) I exited in defeat. The elevator sang out its ding of arrival at the main lobby, and I am suddenly exhausted from the day. Chicago’s City Hall smells stale and dirty, as if the tar of a thousand cigarettes smoked long ago still lingers on the wall. Or like a naughty security guard frequently sneaks one after hours. Alright Chicago, so this is how it’s going to be? I wonder. I’m more discouraged by the fact that I don’t want to enter a new place–a new life–with bitterness than I am with the fact that people are effing jerks. And on that note, my feelings settle into a general place of despair.
Outside on the street, I begin to feel like a small town girl in the big city. Taxi’s honk. “The El” shivers. My nerves fray. In the past I’ve found The Windy City to be rejuvenating. But that was when I was a visitor here. Visiting is a lot different from living. Perchance, belonging. The key to a visit is that you get to leave in the end, and so you drink up the difference and celebrate the place for what it is–a noisy city with Midwestern soul. ie. the same people who cut you off on the expressway still smile and hold the door for you on the street. Walking through the streets now feels a lot like if I found out I was named sole guardian of a child I always liked but never thought I’d have to love. You know, in that way. Well guess what? The parents are dead and I’m adopting.
OK. Perhaps that’s a bit dramatic, don’t you think? Just a tad.
But I found myself escaping to a happy place again and again. Like the narrator in Fight Club with the chemical burn on the back of his hand, I kept slipping away to a better place. But there was that jerk Tyler Durden always there to bring me back again, saying, “No. You need to feel this. You need to become numb to this.”
Did I just reference Fight Club on my blog? Please tell me I did not just do that.
I think I did.
I’m Jack’s complete lack of surprise.
Happy places that come to mind: Water. Lots of water. I could never live any place that wasn’t at least near water. It’s a lifeblood issue. Thank God Chicago satisfies at least that. Adventure #1 after moving in tomorrow will be to find where there is a lakeshore I can go to and just be. With no one else around. With no honking taxi drivers or subways!! Ann Arbor. In particular, the woods near Argo Pond where I used to run. I love to run in the rain, and I have this recurring picture of how this all came together beautifully on a summer’s day. I was running through the woods, the Huron River on my left, when it began to rain. And for a moment I just flew down a winding dirt road as the rain hit my shoulders and rustled the trees. And yet the sun was still shining. Brilliantly. Crystal Lake. The dock. How the minnows come and nibble at your feet. The complete and utter quiet but for the rush of the lake at the shore. The way the sun sets over the water. Troy. I miss him so much right now. Not as a boyfriend. But just as a friend. I miss my friend. Losing your best friend makes you feel like you haven’t a friend in the world. I feel lonely.
I wish for crickets and campfires and the slow burp of frogs in the summer night’s air. I wish for the smell of pine and wood chips and forsythia. And if a car must rush past me, I wish for the soft whoosh of a car on a country road out front of my grandma’s house up north. If only they made noise machines like that. And if sounds could be smells? Oh man, I’d buy that candle…
But then, as I stand near the busy window of Crate and Barrel, shoppers whiz by only feet away–we are separated by but an inch of glass–I am lost in thought. I squeeze the handles of an Egg topper over and over again, partly trying to figure out what it does exactly (it does this), and partly thinking of how I finally understand why so many artists–at least the ones I identify with–critique the norms and flow of urban society. (The other shoppers around me either thought I was retarded or that I just really like to top my eggs.)
I was thinking, I want out. Which makes me sad, because at the same time I want this so bad. And I’m also so thankful. But, can I be honest? I am so, so, so, so scared. I just want God to hold my hand or something. I cried on my way to my first class. I’m crying even now. But my mom asked as I drove us over there, “Are you sure you want to do this?” I didn’t really understand the question. The dress is bought. The cake is glistening. The guests have arrived. The last bridesmaid has gone down the aisle. Am I sure I want to do this? I am already doing it! It’s already done!
“No, I’m supposed to be here. I know that much. I just wish God would tell me a little more. I wish He would tell me that it’s all going to be OK. I wish He would just show me how it’s all going to fall into place. I’m scared. I’m so scared,” I cried. Then my mom brought up something we had talked about earlier on our way down to Chicago–how in choosing his punishment for taking a census in Israel, David said, “Let us fall into the hands of the LORD, for his mercy is great; but do not let me fall into the hands of men.” She said, “Just remember that even not knowing what God has in store, it is good that you are in His hands and that you yourself don’t get to pick and choose your future. God’s hands are better than man’s hands.”
“I know,” I said. “Still, I just wish that I knew…”
Later on, in my first grad school class ever, I relaxed. I still felt lonely, but not quite so alone. Undergrad was different somehow. I miss it. I miss how two other people from my high school went to U of M with me (yup, only 3 people from my stupid little high school got in…) and this bonded us together. I spent a lot of that fall hanging out with one of them. It was comforting. But now I have no one. I am completely and utterly bereft. It is new. It is different. Perhaps someday I will be able to look back and see it as “fresh”–a “fresh start.” But right now everything just seems foreign and murky. The good news is, at least, that I already know which church I’m going to try out.
My prof said something as we put pens to paper for our in class exercise. “Who cares what you write! Pretend like you’re writing for the worst scripted reality show on television ever. Be crazy. Let it fly!” And I thought about this last night as I sunk my sleepy head into my pillow. Let it fly. Who cares what others think. I am here for me. I will prove myself to me. God didn’t put me here for nothing. Everything is going to work out.
So I’ll put my pen to paper (no matter how much it sucks compared to what others may write). I’ll smile and be friendly (no matter who decides I am interesting and who thinks I’m just not worth the time). I’ll fall into the mercy of His hands (for his mercy is great and much greater than man’s).
Even if at this very point in time it seems more like a fall, I’m going to let it fly.