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30 lessons I learned in 30 years

It’s amazing how it has taken me 30 years to learn most, if not all of these lessons. While it continues to be a struggle to implement these ideas into my everyday life, I trust that these ideologies will lead me down a positive path. Therefore, I can only imagine what the next 30 years have in store for me.

The following are my truths I hope to live by.

  1. Always choose love. Even if you give it to those who don’t want it, you will somehow get it back ten times over.
  2. You attract what you really want by saying, “no” to things. This is why it’s ok to say, “no.”
  3. Embrace who you are in front of everyone, but be wary of who you attract because of this.
  4. Not everyone who fights to be in your life is good for you.

5. Run toward the people who make you feel good. This will make is easier to leave those that don’t.

30 lessons

6. There are all sorts of ways to connect with those around you.
7. Perspective and gratitude are important practices. You gain perspective and gratitude by stepping out of your comfort zone and meeting different types of people.
8. Comparing your pain to others is the same as comparing your success. Pointless. We are all here experiencing our own versions of the same wins and same losses. No one is no better or no worse.

9. Growth is painful. Fortunately, that pain is temporary.

10. Expressing your emotions and sharing your truth in how you feel is a strength; not a weakness.
11. Pay attention to how things genuinely make you feel. Mentally, emotionally, and physically.
12. Rest is important. Prioritize it or you will pay for it later.
13. Being fit is cool and all but moving your body in a way that feels good; is good for your body, mind, and soul.
14. You can’t truly love someone until you truly love yourself.

30th Bday

15. Take time to understand who you are and enjoy that time.

16. People don’t change on your time.
17. All “no’s” in life lead to a greater, “yes.” The trick is maintaining patience in order to find out exactly what that “yes” looks like.
18. Losing your patience and wanting to control a situation are one and the same.

19. The only things you can control in life are the choices you make daily, and how you react to the choices others make.
20. Don’t lose how you feel while trying to understand how someone else feels. 
21. You don’t need to spend money to show people you care about them. Especially if you don’t have it.

22. At the same time, if you can make time to see those you love, it is always time well spent.

30th Bday

23. Continue to also make time to pursue the things that bring you joy, even if they don’t bring you a paycheck or cost you money.
24. If you have only 24 hours to do something you really want to do, those short hours will be worth it in the long run.
25. Get rid of everything that no longer serves you. Photos, journals, clothes, gifts, everything. That energy stays with you without you even realizing it.
26. You can’t save everyone, and not just because you only have two hands, but because some people don’t want to be saved.
27. Even if you have a “good point,” you don’t always need to say it. Sometimes it’s best to stay out of things, stay quiet, listen, and observe.

28. Oftentimes people are a mirror for you, if you look closer.
29. Don’t hold yourself back from doing something you want to do, in order to make others feel comfortable.

30. Life is never boring. And certainly not your life.

30 balloons

Can’t believe I’m going to 30 in 2020!

Let me know which lesson resonated with you the most in the comments!

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Six values Chicago gave me

2018 was a great year. I lived in Chicago for the first half of it, completing a little over a one-year contract for work. Living in a new city, I felt as though I was constantly exploring and learning new things. While the first half of my stay in Chicago, in 2017, was the most I had ever used FaceTime, also full of friends and family visiting, I became fearful that wouldn’t be the case in the winter. Fortunately, it wasn’t.

The following is my best attempt at summarizing everything into six separate chunks.

1. Explore

At the beginning of the year, I saw Buddy Guy himself perform at Buddy Guy’s Legends. I had never heard of him before, but quickly learned he is a legendary Blues guitarist and singer. He has worked with some of the great’s, including Jimi Hendrix, Carlos Santana, and John Mayer. I was witnessing a true musical craftsman that night.

Out of all of the tourist attractions, the aquarium is by far, my favorite. I have a great love and appreciation for ocean life, but if for some reason you don’t, well then, I’m not talking to you.

Arguably, the best view of the city is at London House. It overlooks the Chicago River and almost makes you feel equal to other tall buildings surrounding you. I went multiple times, wanting to share the view with other visitors. Cindy’s Rooftop and the Signature Room are close seconds. In my opinion, those views are of the city, as if you are a far away observer, while the view from London House reminds you that you are smack dab in the middle of downtown Chicago.

2. Mind

Winter is tough. At a young age of growing up in Michigan, my mental health wasn’t affected by the effects of winter. Well, it may have been. I just have no recollection of it. Perhaps, I blocked it from my memory.

Finding ways to escape and calm your mind I believe to be important for everyone, especially in the winter. Which is how and why I read a lot in my spare time and rediscovered my love for yoga. This was the first time in my life I became on a first-name basis with a yoga instructor. It’s difficult to put into words how valuable that was for me, without even realizing it, until it was over.

3. Money

I paid off a significant amount of student loans and credit card debt. Those major things alone would have been enough, but I also treated myself to purchasing Beats headphones, something I had desired for months. It is one of the few, tangible items that genuinely add value to my life. Most importantly, I finally got a passport. This year, I’m going to put at least one stamp on it.

4. Work

I finished a complete draft of my book; a goal I had for nearly a decade. Then I queried countless agents, pitching the idea to them as best as I could. Most declined, some I never heard back from, few wanted to read it, and only one gave me constructive criticism. While I have yet to be a published author, I have one goal to be proud of. I wrote a book. Whether everyone in the world read it or not, is irrelevant.

I went through an interview process for a TV show. I never heard back. Not if they went with another girl, the show didn’t get picked up, production was delayed, nothing. If I’ve learned anything from trying to be a part of the art and entertainment industry it’s that nothing is ever certain and to just let everything roll off your back. I’m just happy to be given opportunities.

I killed my improv Level D performance at Second City. Having a lot of support in the audience for that show helped. Having awesome classmates on that stage with me helped even more. Afterward, I saw two Second City shows, a luxury I wish I would’ve taken more advantage of as a student.

5. Play

I was a part of some legendary events, like celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago and being on a float of the Pride Parade. I couldn’t help but feel like I was a part of history experiencing those two things.

Boystown quickly became one of my favorite neighborhoods to go out in. It’s not hard to fall in love with cheap drinks, good music, and people who dance.

I also crashed the bachelor party of my prom date in 2005. At the strip club, I couldn’t help but think, if only we knew then what we would experience together now.

The night before I moved away from Chicago, I threw a dope house party. Something I had always wanted to do was even better because my apartment technically wasn’t mine. Yet it was full of friends I always had, ones I made, and even girls I worked with who happened to be in town. And then we had the simple luxury of walking down the street to bars we frequented. The location was stellar.

6. Family

I experienced the architecture tour with my parents and also went to Wrigley Field with my dad, a place that had been on his bucket list his entire life.

While it’s hard to narrow down all the valuable things Chicago gave me, I realized that career opportunity had given me so many more opportunities. Besides tangible items and things of monetary value, I see things differently. I have grown into a different woman. One that still has work to do, but is adjusting accordingly.

It’s nice to look back, but it’s essential to look forward.

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New York City

This time, last year I was in New York City. It was the first trip I took for myself in I don’t know how long. Maybe ever. Although I had been to the city, at least three times before, it was always brief. There’s so much to see and do there, it’s impossible to get it done in a short amount of time. The following is what I was able to accomplish in a long weekend.

Food I ate in New York City

As someone who is a huge fan of desserts, it has been a goal of mine to indulge in a beignet for years. I’ve always heard how delicious they were, so much so that my friends named one of their dogs after them. When my friend discovered this beautiful, little French restaurant called, Augustine, I knew my dream would come true. This was the perfect place to enjoy my first beignet as it was more delicious than I could’ve ever hoped for.

Later that weekend, I had an amazing Easter Sunday dinner with three very dear friends. We met at a nice restaurant, Dell’anima and laughed endlessly throughout our meal. Our waiter got a kick out of our desire to share a four-course meal, as we ordered one entree from each section of the menu. I can’t remember if we ordered one or two bottles of wine, but I know our mouths were wine stained by the time we got our bill.

Things I Did in New York City

I visited the Oculus building for the first time. Before going inside, my friend and I paid our respects at the 9/11 memorial. Something else I had never seen before and was overwhelmed by the number of names inscribed on the stones. While the Oculus building is mostly shops and restaurants, the design of the building is magnificent.

The Rockefeller Center is another infamous spot. Ice skating can be a bit expensive, so I had fun simply exploring the building and enjoying the view.

Also, I saw the Statue of Liberty for the first time. Although, I almost didn’t. Someone mentioned something about a boat and as I waited for one in a large building, I got that funny, familiar feeling that I was lost and doing something wrong. Thinking I was going to the Statue of Liberty, I almost ended up on the Staten Island ferry. Fortunately, I had the courage to ask the custodial staff of the building to make sure. They were very helpful while looking at me in amusement. After walking in the rain in the right direction, I boarded an overpriced water taxi, but hey, I saw her.

I treated myself to a Broadway production and saw The Book of Mormon. It was hard to choose which show to see, but I was more than happy with my decision. The show was original, hilarious, well-written, and full of a talented cast. There were so many shows to choose from, but I believe picking that one was the best decision I could’ve made. If you love musicals or the writers of South Park, this is the show to see.

I also saw the Grand Central Terminal and the Roosevelt Hotel. Both of which are exquisitely designed buildings. If you’re a big movie fan like I am, the Grand Central Terminal is a set location for multiple films. Some specific examples that come to mind are Friends with Benefits and the recent film, Second Act. 

Friends & Family

My parents met in New York and lived in a few apartments there together. Although I didn’t get to go inside to their specific apartment, I did see the building, the lobby, and the hallway leading up to their front door. I Facetimed my mom so she could see the building and walk me through a part of her past.

I got to see my Godfather, for the first time in almost four years. He met me at a bar in Times Square after a long day at work. Those few hours we got to spend chatting and catching up went by too quickly but was meaningful and memorable.

That entire weekend, I had the best amount of quality time with such a great friend of mine. Besides indulging in restaurants and dancing at 1Oak, we explored Brooklyn together, for the second time in 3 years. We chilled on the Williamsburg bridge, a reminiscent memory I was fond of with her, the first time I went. It’s interesting that the best view of New York City is outside of it.

New York City Locals

I walked a few blocks with a homeless man. I remember standing on a corner, debating going out of my way to avoid him. But then I was reminded how lately I felt I shouldn’t judge books by their covers, so I stayed put.

He looked at me, alone, and asked, “Are you sure you want to go to this way? It’s kind of dangerous.” Which was probably the last thing I needed to hear. The light changed to “Walk,” and the look on my face must’ve made him regret that statement because he recovered with, “Come on, it’ll be fine. I’ll walk with ya.”

I must admit, I wasn’t exactly thrilled to hear him say this either. He walked ahead of me at first for a while, talking over his shoulder about the neighborhood, what streets were ok and which ones weren’t. When he asked where I was going, I was hesitant to tell him which hotel I was staying at and acted as if I couldn’t quite remember, speaking vaguely of the street corner instead.

Then he began telling me some of his life story and how he ended up to be where he was. I wish I remembered more of the content of our conversation, his name, or what street corner he said was his post. What I do remember is him stopping in front of my hotel to simply say, “Thank you for not judging me and being afraid. It was nice talking to you.” As if he knew that was my inner conflict the entire time.

I realize he may be the exception, not the rule to such encounters, but it is one I’ll never forget.

Gotta love New York City.

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Tom – The Ostrich Man

I have known Tom since first grade. He was my friend that lived the next street over, who for some reason found the stupid things I said entertaining. Often, Tom was the only guy in a group of girls. I have vivid memories of him across the classroom in American History and sitting at our table at Catechism.

He was the kid skateboarding on his half pipe in the backyard, and the friend I couldn’t catch in hide-and-go-seek tag. Seriously, he was freakishly fast and he knew it. He taunted me once, slowing down in speed, allowing me the false belief into thinking I was close to catching him. Each time he casually sprinted away with such large strides that I quickly gave up. It was then that I gave Tom his acronym, The Ostrich Man. I don’t know how I would feel if someone called me, The Ostrich Woman, but Tom was a good sport about it. Again, I am amazed at the dumb things I have said that he found funny.

Since then he has continued to make time to see me even long after I have moved away.

The Infamous Time in St. Pete

Keeping up with Tom, rather trying to keep up with Tom has gotten me into trouble more than once. The worst time, or the best time, depending on how you look at it, is right before going into the new year of 2013. Tom and his family were in St. Petersburg and my sister and I drove up to see them. We pre-gamed during a drinking game called, “ride the bus,” that I haven’t played since and the rest of this story will explain why.

After the pre-game, we danced and drank in multiple bars in St. Pete. Later, I found myself puking outside our hotel and in our bathroom. The next morning I had numerous missed calls and texts from Tom. His third text read, “Bark twice if you’re in Milwaukee.” 

When I met up with him the next day, I didn’t feel much better, periodically going to the bathroom for false alarms. At the worst possible moment, (once my sister was driving on the highway) I had to throw up for the millionth time. Unable to hold it in, I re-enacted Alanis Morissette’s music video, “Ironic” as I leaned the entire upper half of my body out the window and vomited on the side of my car, at 70 mph. I threw up so much I popped a blood vessel in my eye. It was red for two weeks.

That is sadly not the last time I have thrown up after drinking with Tom.

A story I have kept to myself

This is a story I’ve never told Tom. In fact, I debated not sharing it at all. But sometimes the stories you are afraid to say are some of the best ones.

Over five years ago, a couple of us went out in Ferndale and had an afterparty at our mutual friends, Joey and Heather’s apartment. Before Uber, without a car, and at 5 AM, I realized I had no ride and no plan on what I was going to do. Saving me, Tom took me home. On the way, he asked if I wanted McDonald’s breakfast and I agreed, looking at him like the brilliant man he was.

Walking down the hallway to his bedroom, my heart began to pound as I panicked over what, if anything, was going to happen. Suddenly, I wondered how I could’ve been so stupid and found myself in a bedroom of a close friend I had never even kissed. Slowly, I entered, surveying the room, before turning around to see Tom standing in the doorway. He smiled at me and said, “Ok, I’m going to sleep in Alex’s room. He’s out of town. I’ll see you in the morning.” Then he closed the door and left me in a room to myself. I have trusted him ever since.

Partying Too Hardy with Tom

Most mornings after a night out with Tom, I woke up with my hair sticking out from all ends, sweating out alcohol, and feeling like death. Meanwhile, Tom would be sipping coffee, reading the morning paper, and asking what we wanted to do today. I would glare at him like the freak of nature he was and ignore his question. The only thing I was doing that day was dying a slow death.

Once, I stood in Tom’s bedroom doorway, half asleep, half drunk. While he brushed his teeth, I talked about how crazy last night was and how lousy I currently felt. When he laughed I looked at him and realized I was talking to his dad, John.

Another morning, I woke up in his basement. As I sat with my head in my hands, I heard someone laugh and clear his throat. I looked up to find John sipping coffee a few feet away. There was a glass of water and a plate of vitamins on the table in front of me.

Later, as Tom drove me home, I calmly asked him to pull over. “You going to throw up?” He asked as he veered into the parking lot of a miniature golf course. “Yup,” I answered, before swinging the door open. When my vomit was pink and tears came out of my eyes, I heard Tom moan, “Oh, you’re rejecting everything.” The lovely vitamins John lent to save me, were now on the pavement in liquid form.

When Tom Met Meredith

That was the last time I saw Tom before he moved to South Carolina. I knew he was going to meet someone there. I told him that before he left. The immense relief I feel that the person he met, is Meredith, is greater than I realized.

For quite some time I was nervous that my friendship with Tom would one day come to an abrupt end. I feared he would be with a woman who wouldn’t understand our dynamic and vow that he would never speak to me again. Seeing Meredith as this matching light of his feels like a giant exhale. Tom has always been this silly, kind man who is somehow now outmatched by his match. Meredith is this breathtaking relief of a woman who mirrors Tom.

At an after party of a wedding, I watched her attempt to save a moth, that our friend, Joey caught first and ate in front of her. She screamed in agony while the rest of us laughed hysterically. Therefore, I didn’t have the heart to tell her I kill bugs on the regular. Well, until now.

Their wedding is this May in Mexico and I am more than delighted to be a guest.

A Simple Thing That Meant More

After South Carolina, Tom was given the opportunity to travel for work, specifically working in Orlando on occasion. On one particular visit, I showed him my new apartment and we got lunch down the street. Except, the only spots available to my new neighborhood was parallel parking. I failed my driver’s test three times, because of parking. Parallel parking wasn’t even part of my exam. To say I am terrible at parallel parking would be an understatement.

While panicking in the driver’s seat, Tom offered to park my car for me. Much to my astonishment, Tom parallel parked my car, from the passenger’s seat. He literally leaned over me, with his left arm, turned the wheel one way and then the other, while I tapped on and off the brake pedal. It was probably one of the best parking jobs I have ever seen and hands down, the most impressive thing I have ever witnessed to date. Furthermore, it is also one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me. I could have cried.

Happy 30th Tom. I don’t know how we got here so fast, but I’m glad we are here together. Meredith is so sweet she makes my heart hurt.

Please don’t make me puke in Mexico.

Comment below to wish Tom a Happy Birthday too!

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Goodbye to Chicago, the people

Last month I said Goodbye to Chicago, the city, in terms of neighborhoods, places, and things. This time, more importantly, I am saying Goodbye to Chicago, the people. They were the ones that truly brought life to that city.

Goodbye Old Friends

If you’ve had the privilege of seeing me dance at a bar as if I’m in a music video, you will find that I’m not so special once you also see my friends, Justine, and CJ doing the exact same thing. Nobody else needs to be there. Nobody else needs to be watching. Nobody else even needs to be dancing. Those two are my dancing partners. Leaving everything we had on the dance floor, sweat, glory and all, is one of the many ways I will remember Chicago. Now in all future occasions of life, I will search for them on a dance floor.

Goodbye Chicago the People

As wild and good kind of crazy, as my friends Mike and Rachel may be, seeing their storm actually calmed me. There was never a dull moment at their apartment. Even now, as I am I not there, I know something is going on. Laundry may be stacked up to the ceiling. Pens from Amazon may be scattered all over, as well as dollar bills and spare change.

Now with their newborn son, I can only imagine their new chaos. Yet, I always admired their ability to entertain each other and find humor in life circumstances. More importantly, I was genuinely comforted to be in the presence of true love. It gives me hope for myself. They set a goal for what I’m looking for. They showed me it exists.

Goodbye the Brumfields

Rachel also continues to get smarter, which I’m sure she loves seeing I think this. Her logical perspective helps bring me back down from an emotional turmoil I can find myself worked up in. I am forever grateful to have a friend since first grade who continues to make me laugh and keep me so grounded, in my life.

Goodbye to that Chapter

Leaving those people wasn’t necessarily hard, because they have been in my life, nearly all my life. I know I will see them again. I have said goodbye to them, more times than I can count. Saying goodbye to the people in Chicago, specifically goodbye to that chapter of our lives can feel overwhelming if I let it. I didn’t cry and I haven’t yet. If I ever do, I’m sure it will sneak up on me. Those cries are the worst. Next thing you know, you’re crying in the Target parking lot, while a song from 2004 plays on your radio.

Goodbye Chicago the People

Goodbye to my main chick

Mikeala was a co-worker I knew for years, who became a great support system and my go-to girl for anything and everything while I was there. Our nights were filled with discussions of our goals for the future, analyzing past relationships over a bottle of Rosé, ordering another Espresso Martini, (even though we really shouldn’t), and dancing until we sweated out the calories of our full course dinner. I will forever miss our days and nights at Soho House. We would be there for hours, without any idea where the time had gone. Never underestimate the importance of single girlfriends. She was my rock in a hard place and I miss her dearly.

Goodbye to Chicago Soho House

Goodbye to Chicago, my Improv Class

My Improv class reminded me of how alike all humans are. In a place of vulnerability, it’s impossible to not relate to one another. Listening leads to understanding. Laughter helps too. Receiving compliments from my classmates made me feel good and want to lift others up. I miss that random bunch and will carry the experience of Second City with me far longer than I anticipated. One teacher in particular really pushed us to be the best we could be and was helpful in directing us. That class was a good way to close my Second City experience.

Recently, my entire class FaceTimed me after a sold-out performance, they organized themselves. Immediately, I realized how much I missed them. More than I thought I would. They were at The Vig, a restaurant bar we frequented after class and performances. So much so, that we became friends with the security guard, Ron. They were asking me questions like, “Are you coming to visit?” and “When are you moving back?” and it oddly made me panic. Like, Crap, should I? Am I not done living that life? Am I truly saying goodbye to Chicago, the people? I suppose I need to go back and visit to know for sure.

Chicago Second City Class
Some members of my class at The Vig

Goodbye to Chicago, my roommate

While living alone was nice in my first apartment, with winter coming I was happy to come home to a roommate. Hibernating indoors makes it easy to not see or interact with humans for at least two days. Alicia and I were co-workers, who had never met before, but I immediately found it comforting to have someone who felt everything I felt.

I laugh every time I think of us searching for the remote through blankets, lying in our “forts,” our feet in the chairs in front of us, while we lied on the couch. Binge-watching television in the winter feels less pathetic when someone is next to you doing it too. Same goes for drinking pop with pizza and breadsticks from Happy Camper, at least once a month.

I’m grateful Alicia got me out of the house to do things I normally wouldn’t have. Although she is far more intelligent than I am, able to appreciate museums and artwork, I’m just glad I can say I went to the Art Institute, the Chicago Culture Center, the Field Museum, and the planetarium. Even more than that, I went to sporting events, without a boy or alcohol involved. She was the best co-worker I could’ve asked for. Always working hard and pointing out things to me in a way that either made me feel validated, or bewildered that I hadn’t realized it myself.

Chicago Blackhawks Game

Goodbye to my new friends

All of CJ’s friends positively affected my life. In a city where I often felt lonely and clueless about how to cope with winter, I walked into a room full of strangers who lit up at my presence. They made me feel so welcome, always offering compliments as if I was the coolest bitch in the world. Some of the most fun I have ever had in life was with them. I am forever indebted to CJ who spoke well on my behalf, including me in anything and everything he was doing.

With the friends I had, I realized weather conditions didn’t matter. If anything, it made getting together and having fun that much more important. There is such a great sense of community in that city. I was blessed to be a part of it all, year round.

I do miss Chicago. I thought I didn’t, but realize I said that to make leaving easier. I suppose I miss the people there, more than the city itself, although it was beautiful. Aesthetically, I loved living there, the atmosphere; it’s entire ambiance. It was my, “kind of town,” but I don’t know if it was my home. I could definitely go back to visit, as often as life allows. Then again, I never thought I would live there until I did. Time will only tell what’s in store for me next.

Goodbye to Chicago, the people, sounds so final. I will see them all later.

MegazineGoodbyeChicagoThePeopleBoystown

Let me know what your favorite part of reading this was! If you’re one of the people I talked about, tell me your favorite memory!

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Goodbye Chicago, the city

I procrastinated writing and editing this. Don’t ask me why. My best guess is I was telling myself, “it wasn’t ready,” and I would get to it eventually. I needed personal time and wanted to enjoy my time off. Realistically, I think I didn’t want to come to terms with the fact that my time in Chicago was over. I’ve only been gone for a few months now, but it often feels like a lifetime ago. Sometimes I can’t believe I was just there and soon, I know, I will be shocked at how long it’s actually been. I didn’t anticipate leaving Chicago and being back in the Sunshine State to be bittersweet.

After living in Chicago for a little over a year, I have to say I take pride in the fact that I have a clear visual and general knowledge of many neighborhoods within the city. I can wholeheartedly say, I know that town and I will miss it.

MegBarrett_GoodbyeChicagoCity
Cindy’s Rooftop

Besides living in Chicago, living in the neighborhood, Logan Square, feels like a century ago. I moved in, in April 2017 and out of it by November. It’s barely been a full year since I left that part of Chicago and sometimes that place feels like a distant memory. What I can recall is this.

Living there felt tough sometimes, because it’s on the west side, a good distance from everyone and everything. For someone new to a city, and a big city at that, I’m rather proud of myself with how much I stepped out of my comfort zone to adapt to my new environment. The first time I rode the bus felt confusing and terrifying. The first time I rode the train, I went in the wrong direction. Also, confusing and terrifying. Toward the end of my stay, I rarely got lost and only felt confused or terrified over different aspects of life. I grew to love Logan Square, based on its culture and colors. Without a doubt that neighborhood has character.

I made friends with a yellow Labrador named, Olive, who lived down the street from me. Her owners never knew about our relationship, so our visits were brief and secretive. This sounds creepier than I want it to, but it’s the truth. I actually befriended tons of pets, none of which were mine. Having a liquor store across the street was dangerous, but amazingly sold some of the best avocados. I loved having easy access to the library across the street as well. For a while, there was a local produce grocery store that I occasionally shopped at when necessary, due to spending over $50 on essentially hummus, carrots, yogurt, and strawberries.  I guess you could say I became a well-read, well-nutritioned, drunk. If that gets me closer to channeling Ernest Hemingway, I’ll take it.

There is also a Hispanic culture there, mostly Puerto Rican, which I found comfort in, missing the vibes of Orlando and Miami. Overhearing the Spanish language felt like home. I enjoyed running and working out at two local parks, and made the best of my circumstances, riding a bike to and from work every day on the 606, also known as The Bloomingdale Trail. Riding home with the sun setting will go down in history as one of my favorite views. I wish I had a photo, but every time I tried, it never did it any justice.

My apartment was pretty up to date with nice counter tops, an Apple TV, a fancy AC unit, a good washer and dryer, and hardwood floors. My favorite part was I lived alone and slept anywhere I wanted. The neighbors were pretty cool and not very loud. The more I write this the more I genuinely miss it, whereas before, I couldn’t wait to get into a new place.

All different views of Humboldt Park

Thus, moving into the neighborhood, Old Town was a nice change, especially being above a good family owned restaurant, Nookies. I became on a first name basis with one of the employees there, Speardon. Personally, the biggest perk was being a quick walk to Second City. Alright, being a quick walk to Second City and the bars. I also splurged on a gym membership to Equinox, because it was across the street, and ultimately left me with no excuse to not go. I got my money’s worth going 3-4 times a week, sitting in the sauna and the steam room after every workout. I could probably count on my fingers and toes the amount of times I showered at my apartment, rather than the gym. Which was preferable, because the water temperature at that apartment was less than ideal. It’s funny how when I lived in Logan Square I admired older Chicago apartments, because they felt, “authentic.” Yet, when I found myself in one with loud floorboards, a creaky dryer, and a horrible Wi-Fi connection, I was no longer impressed.

The grass is always greener, friends. Remember that. There’s good and bad with everything. I think the character of a neighborhood can make up for its location and vice versa. Still, I can genuinely say I was happy with both apartments, for multiple, different reasons. I was beyond grateful to be in both.

Rather than riding a bike, I was able to walk to and from work from my new apartment. A twenty minute, mile walk, that was well worth it every time, due to being indoors for at least seven hours a day, every day. This became a daily thing for me starting in March. I once made the mistake of walking to work in January or February when it was eight degrees outside. I was fooled by the fact that the sun was shining. I ran to work, out of actual pain and pure fear that my legs were going to get frostbite. I wore cropped leggings, a rookie mistake. I learned a hard lesson that day. After that, if the temperature was below freezing, I took the bus. That walk and those twenty minutes of personal time and solidarity, is something else I already miss. I never realized how important it was for my mental health to be outside, year-round, until I lived in Chicago. I took it for granted in Florida.

As soon as it began to warm up, it was amazing to be reminded how many people actually lived in the city.  May was the most I had seen humans in months. Before there would be nobody outside except for the homeless and myself. Suddenly, it was Memorial Day weekend and I found myself on crowded sidewalks. Want to now how many times I was in the way? All of them. I was in the way every time.

As I’m reflecting on all this, I’m now wondering if because I knew Chicago would one day come to an end, I knew to appreciate every second of it. Usually, you don’t even know you’re living some of the best times of your life, until they’re over. This time I knew. It’s odd feeling nostalgic for a place, people, and a time while still living in it. When I think back on my time in Chicago, it will always come back to the people. The friends that visited, the friends I already had, and the friends I made. I truly can’t say enough about the people. Everything else was just a bonus.

What’s your favorite thing about Chicago? Or what was your favorite thing about reading this? Let me know if I left anything out!


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The Importance of Being Present

Earlier last year and even into the year prior, I came to the conclusion that I was rarely present. I lived in a different city and felt I wasn’t even taking full advantage of it. When I was asked questions like, “How do you like Chicago?” or “What are your favorite things about Chicago?” I felt like my answers sounded like I was listing off a resume for an interview. I began to ask myself, “Is this my life or what? Who am I? What am I doing?”

There would be days I had off work, particularly in the winter, where I would take a personal day. I’d set everything aside for “me time,” but felt as though I hardly enjoyed it, because I was thinking of other tasks I should’ve been or needed to be doing. For someone who claimed to be exhausted and needed rest, I was a walking contradiction as I worked myself up to the point of inner anxiety. It was as though I forgot how to relax. The entire time I was “relaxing,” I was in my head about something. Something stupid, I might add.

I felt as though there was never enough time. As if I didn’t even know what I was doing or where the time went. I always hoped to be utilizing it properly, but found it rather difficult. I was constantly thinking about what was to come, or what happened in the past that shouldn’t again. Yet by doing so, I wasn’t serving myself or anyone else properly. I was coming to the realization that moments spent in your head, filled with worry and distractions, especially while with your loved ones, are times you don’t get back. They are time wasted.

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Falling asleep at night was the only way I found peace. By losing consciousness I was no longer thinking negatively. Whether I was worrying about my career moves, guilting myself for being alone and not hanging out with friends, obsessing over a man who didn’t care, or scolding myself for not being as fit as I imagined for my body. Only to wake up and start the vicious cycle all over again. I began to see how much I exhausted myself and understand, that I truly was my own worst enemy. I knew I was trying, but I also knew I could do better, a lot better.

Thus, I dedicated my time at work to be the most productive, and my time at home to relax. But as my writing process and submitting to agents for my book came to an end, I suddenly felt like I didn’t know what I was supposed to say or do anymore. I felt stuck. Then I understood I should surrender to that. I don’t need to be doing something all the damn time. Waiting is something.

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The unknown after Chicago loomed over me. How my job wouldn’t be the same, as well as my environment. Then what would I do?  What was next? I would have months ahead of me to figure this out, but the obsession continued. Until I finally realized, I don’t even know why I care. Why am I worried? I continuously remind myself that I never know where life is going to take me, but I trust and know something will happen, as it always does. After all, I was living in Miami, without Chicago on my radar when the opportunity presented itself. That’s why being present is so important. For life is always changing, mine especially so. It’s impossible to focus on the future, because I genuinely don’t know what it may bring.

Now I appreciate how things take time and those things are based on the choices I make. So, I’m happy I’m trying to make good ones.

Right now for me, I need time to truly focus on myself. Not think I am, or tell people I am, but truly enjoy my time alone, and not in such a way that I’m searching or waiting for something. I’m no longer in a rush to find answers and know everything. I know I have a lot ahead of me and that I’m doing my best.  That’s all I can do. I need to enjoy this time of working on my own. Working on my self, my relationships, and my craft. I have everything I need.

Life is good. I am blessed. I am at peace. I am present. I am here. This is my time. This life is mine and mine alone. Being present is a good feeling.

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Let me know if this resonated with you at all in the comments below! Feel free to share, if so!