Chicago

In the summer of 2014, I arrived in this city with two suitcases and an abundance of hope, curiosity, naivete, and a palpable sadness for having just left my favorite city that had all my friends. In two days, on the eve of my two year anniversary in the Windy City, I will be returning to the Northeast. I will be leaving in very much the same way that I came, in a whirlwind of moving stress, with too many things that cost too much to move, and suitcases containing more than the bare essentials. This time, I will be returning to my group of dear friends in NYC, though I won’t be living in the city with them. My next adventure will take me to just an hour north of the city, in a small town that I had never even heard of a few weeks ago, much less considering living in. But that’s how life is, isn’t it? It comes at us in a breakneck speed that is simultaneously exhilarating and frightening. All we can do is either embrace it with as much bravado as we can muster, or shy away and forever wonder what if I took the jump, what if…?

It’s funny how things worked out. I came here almost convinced that I would never quite like the city, because my heart already belonged to another. And yet, in the last half year, I have finally come around to truly appreciating the myriad of things this city offers. From the affordable urban lifestyle, to the plethora of food options, and the accessibility of the city to and from the rest of the world, Chicago has finally won me over. The city has its drawbacks and flaws just like any other city, but its strengths and pros are undeniable. I have finally stopped comparing it against NYC and appreciating it on its own merit. It will never be NYC, because there is only one NYC, but that doesn’t mean I can’t find happiness here. Because I absolutely have, through all the ups and downs, the city grew on me, and often offered more than I gave it credit for.

On the other hand, nothing could have prepared me for the disappointment and struggles that I experienced in my first job out of school. I don’t wish to go into the details here, but suffice to say it was far from the right fit for me in many aspects. However, as one of my favorite saying goes, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. That’s true, though on many instances I definitely felt that it very almost did (okay, I’m probably being a little melodramatic here, but just a little). Let’s just say I left with a little less naivete and hair, and a little more resilience and understanding of the world that will hopefully save me from similar heartaches in my next venture.

And so it is with a dose of nostalgia and a bittersweet sentiment that I sit here in an almost empty apartment beginning to say my farewell to this city that I have come to love. Yes, I never thought I would say this, but here I am. Perhaps it is true that what they say about only coming to fully appreciate something when you are on the verge of losing it. I had some of the worst times of my life, and some of the best times of my life, in this city next to the lake. Rest assured, I am glad I came here. On Thursday, I will board that plane with countless memories, lessons, and yes, a palpable sadness for leaving a city that made an indelible print in my heart and offered me much more than I ever expected.

Nostalgic

I like catching up with old friends. I’m not terribly good at keeping in touch with friends; most of the times, I simply don’t feel the desire to talk to most people. Then there are moments when it suddenly hits me that I haven’t talked to so and so for a very long time. It’s always good when I do start a conversation with these friends and realize halfway through that even though much has changed, we still have the same chemistry as before. It reminds me that no matter how much we change, deep inside, we remain more or less the same people that we’ve always been. Of course, if you allow too much time to lapse without any form of contact, the gap might be too large to bridge. No one should expect anyone to still care about someone that they have no spoken to in a year or longer, but it’s always a pleasant surprise when they do and you pick up exactly where you left off (sorta).

That’s one thing about having been in a lot of places. I have all these different groups of friends, people I met at different times and places of my life. Friends from childhood, from China, from colorado, from Atlanta, from Solon, from Duke, from beijing, from Greece, from oxford, and now from London. Unfortunately I haven’t been able very good with keeping in contact with half of the friends I’ve made, either due to laziness or mere carelessness. But I don’t want that to be the case anymore. It’s not easy to make friends, and even if it is (which has surprisingly been the case for me in london), I still believe friendships are precious and should never be taken lightly or for granted. I’m someone who could never live alone, and I derive such a significant amount of happiness and meaning in life from my relationships with people. 

Hmm…i have no idea how I ended up talking about friends…. What I wanted to do was merely remarking on looking through pictures from the past two years and reminiscing. I like to look back on my life and pick out the brighter moments and savour the happy memories. There’s something very alluring to nostalgia, it’s almost like reliving the past, but in a very selective and indulgent way. The painful segments are no longer painful enough to make you cry, but the happy ones can still make you smile. Ultimately, it makes me much more optimistic about the future. Or maybe I’m just in an optimistc mood.

anytime but now

I really don’t want to write this paper. I can’t remember ever being so averse to a philosophy paper. Maybe I’m just really not meant to be here, or maybe it’s b/c I don’t want to be here that makes more critical than usual. Either case, I just don’t want to write this damn paper. And since when is there an absolute minimum for a philosophy paper?!

So instead, I’m procrastinating indefinitely. Looking through old pictures and being nostalgic (what else is new?). I’m flipping (metaphorically speaking) through pictures of spring and autumn at Duke. I’m remembering the day I spent deliberatingly sitting on fallen leaves just to create a picturesque moment. I’m thinking back to the many times I spent taking pictures at WaDuke. I’m looking through pictures of me as a freshman and sophomore, and wondering if I really looked younger back then or if it’s just me. And I’m looking at bared legs and arms and airy summer dresses and wishing for 70+ degree weather. In the end, I still like the warmer weather better.

But I’m looking forward to this Xmas. I can’t quite remember what happened on the last one. It must not have been spectacular. There was no xmas party, at least no picture to stir my memory. So more reason for my looking forward to the holiday season this year. To snow, to my friends, to the one I love. I’m dreaming of afternoons spent in a snow covered park, laughing and snapping away with my camera, while complaining of the merciless cold. I’m dreaming of rosy cheeks, seeing my breath in the air, losing feelings in my ears and nose, but always finding warmth in a friend’s laughter, a lover’s embrace, and a cup of mocha. I’m dreaming of finally returning to the place, the people, and the life I have left behind and miss beyond words. 

They will come in less than a month, in less than four weeks, in just 27 days. But oh I wish it would come sooner.