Greetings from Indonesia. It’s been 10 days since I left the U.S and it’s already felt like a whirlwind—returning to Asia, bouncing around places familiar and un-.
I wanted to post some thoughts on leaving Chicago before I did actually leave, but I didn’t get a chance to. So I’ll post what I had written (you’ll see it’s still not finished) and give some updates after that.
I’m going to be leaving Chicago. Fairly soon.
I’ve been here for 33 months. Pippen’s number. Maybe that means something, though likely not. What 33 months does mean, though, is the most I’ve been in one place since college. My Pilsen apartment here the most I’ve lived in one place since my parents’ house. This has been a home. That was already a home. That will always be home, even when it’s not.
And so I wanted to write a bit on leaving and remembering and home.
I’ll start with coming back. I called it my “Ithaca”. I have a soft spot for Odysseus and though there was no Penelope, there was some sort of fighting off sirens and plotters led me back here. I just don’t know what those things are or were.
When I got back, I felt lost. I had been a nomad for over 5 years. I wasn’t one anymore. I got a place. I got some life essentials I didn’t have. A garbage bin. Forks. A bed.
I read this wonderful letter fifty times. I posted a quote from it on Instagram with the first picture of my Pilsen apartment—where I was for 24 of those 33 months.
I was looking for something. An answer to why I came back. Why I had sort of lost the desire to be a nomad. I wrote this. I wrote a lot more that’s in some notebook somewhere.
I met a girl. I had my Ryan Adams ‘Dear Chicago’ moment on Friday after work.
I had a job I liked. I worked hard at it. It helped me adjust, it gave me new friends, new experiences, and a cache of good memories.
I saw my friends. I hadn’t seen some in years. I saw them a lot and it was tremendously comfortable—full of laugher, life. Wholehearted goodness.
I saw my family. I had only gotten to see them sporadically, and always on my schedule (when I’d be returning). I got to see my baby sister grow up, my other sister live her dream and succeed. I got to spend more time with my parents and take from them more important lessons on being an adult. More pictures, more smiles, more of them in my life.
So why leave?
Well, that’s a complicated question but one I’ve answered several times for people. The short of it is two-fold:
(1) I love travel and recognize that life events will shape my opporunities to do so: and
(2) I’ve wanted to write a novel since I was 15 years old and I have a sort of window to do so now that I wanted to take.
So I march on—to Asia and into my soul to extract whatever writing talent I have in there to draw out onto the proverbial page.
On leaving Chicago, though, few thoughts stick with me.
Do you know the now-infamous David Foster Wallace speech on “water”? If you don’t, check here.
What the water here refers to is the mundanity of everyday life. The check-out counter at the grocery store. The trifling through of email. The plans made, cancelled, rain-checked, etc…The day in, day out stuff.
He goes further into what that means, and since it was done as a commencement speech, proceeds to give graduates advice on what watter means to them.
For me, in these particular thoughts, what I come to is that Chicago is the most water. Or the place of most water? The deepest pool? I don’t know how to articulate it (change)
Can something be that? Are there levels of water? No, but there are levels of society, of everyday-ness, and this place is the most for me. And that’s not a bad thing. Sometimes, on crushing days of brokenness, this is the most splendid of all things, to be held in comfort and in what I know. The alternative? Well, travel has almost no comfort to step into. It is life constantly thrust at you. And that gets me down, but not as much as it pumps me full of energy, of vitality. And it makes me forget about water, which I have not yet learned how to swim through. I see these commuters and ask, “what spirit is getting them home?” and what I’m doing is really asking myself.
Big cities amaze me. So many people. Everywhere I go there are people. Who are they? What do they think when they see me—that I’m just another person in this metropolitan wallpaper. Chicago has this. Others do too, but since I call Chicago home, it has a more sincere oddness that so many others make this their habitat, and that they move. And some own boats. And some are working three jobs. Some get off at four in the morning when no one is around and I am fast asleep. Where do they eat? Shop? Is anyone in this city of 3 million thinking of me? See last four lines.
My sister asked me what I’ll miss the most about Chicago aside from friends and family? I had to think about it. Chicago has a lot. Some things I don’t like. Nothing I ever missed so badly I needed to see it when I got back. Away from here, it was easy to criticize Chicago. The sports bar city. The big four firm city. The segregated city.
But I’ll miss it. Even those things.
What I said was nostalgia and sentimentality. The streets here can provide that like no other city can. Memories written into glass, dunked in potholes. I know the Ogden exit is close to the United Center from being a kid. I know how the John Hancock stands proudly at the end of Lake Shore coming down, like you’ll drive right into it. And I always love these things, even if they’re drowned in the water that we’ll never get out of it.
Because no place else is home.
Okay, so that was my post. I wrote that about two weeks ago, maybe three. And to read it now is nice. I do miss Chicago. I always did miss Chicago, but the world is so big and full of everything that I wasn’t ready to stay?
What happens later? To come home or not? I haven’t the slightest ideas.
For now, I can tell you this. I just had a brief but oh-so-wonderful foray back to South Korea with some great friends. The memories and laughter were overwhelmingly postive and brought me back to a sentimental happiness from and for my time there.
And now? I am sitting inside my “villa” in Lombok, Indonesia. Yesterday I surfed in the morning and laid on one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen (the one pictured). And I’ve resumed my writing.
I am still adjusted to whatever this is—travel, lifestyle, whatever—but I’m not too worried. I have words and maps ahead of me. And those that know, know those things sit at the foot of wherever I go.
Ciao for now. Thanks for everything to those back home. More updates somewhere further up along the road.