Friday, May 8, 2009

Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda: A Friday Tribute to Appreciating the Now

Today is one of those days where I am giving myself a big mental ass-kicking for quitting my job at IU. A serious ass-kicking. What I wouldn’t do to be Alison Hamm, Content Specialist, right now. Because if I was, I’d be managing an intern—a decently paid intern, at that—instead of actually being the lowly, unpaid intern with no work to do. The sun is shining! It’s Friday! If I’m going to be sitting in an office, I’d love to be actually working on something. BAH. But alas, this is not the case. I have officially been dicking around on the Internet for three and a half solid hours. I don’t even have a Starbucks buddy up here (Work Wife Jen, I need you!).

Okay, so boo hoo me. I’m an intern again, waaah waah waah. I miss being a professional, full-time employee. Yada yada yada.

I guess I just keep waiting for that “ah ha” moment up here in Chicago, when suddenly it all makes sense and I realize that I made the right decision to come up here. You know, when I get hired for that perfect job, and everything turns into rainbows and unicorns.

But then again, maybe we don’t all have those moments—maybe it’s not the case of it being wrong or right. Maybe it just is.

I think that’s the problem when you build something up in your head—Chicago was always part of this fantasy life I had for myself, so when I actually made it a reality, my expectations for what my life was going to be like up here were a little ridiculous. I think I envisioned living in a loft downtown and being a famous columnist in six months. (I also think I’ve been watching too much Sex and the City.)

From the time I was 17, before I’d even been to Chicago, I was telling my mom that I wanted to move there after college. Then, right before I started at IU, I came to visit. That sealed the deal for me. I was definitely going to live in Chicago one day. I knew it. I talked about it all through college with my roommates.

Then, graduation day came, and the reality that it was time to become an adult hit. I was lucky enough to land a great job working for Indiana University’s Office of Creative Services, and so my plans changed. Looked like I was staying in Bloomington. But I loved Bloomington, and I loved being close to my family. It made sense.

Yet still I was unhappy. My friends had all moved on, and I was still in Bloomington. I was tired of Bloomington! I was supposed to be in Chicago! I was restless. I had to get out. I was missing out on something bigger. Every time I’d go up to Chicago for a weekend to visit friends, I’d think, this is where I’m supposed to be.

And because—aside from a semester in London—I’d never lived more than two hours away from home, I took for granted how great that is. And also because I’d gotten hired for every job I’d ever applied to, I arrogantly thought, no big deal if I quit my job. I’ll find a better one in Chicago.

So here I am. Living in Chicago isn’t exactly what I thought it would be—I got a well-deserved kick in the ass when I realized there are about a million other ambitious young writers and editors out there—but it’s still exciting. I can’t regret leaving Bloomington, because then I’d always regret not following my dream to live in this city.

But some Friday evenings, I’d give anything to be able to hop in my little Neon and make the hour and 40 minute drive from Bloomington to Knightstown. I’d gotten so used to that drive on 37 over the last six years that I would make the trip basically on auto-pilot. The best part of that trip was turning on to Mill Road and pulling in the driveway of my childhood home, where my dad would always meet me out on the back porch and grab my bag for me. After I’d make my immediate bathroom run—an hour and a half is too short of a drive to make a pit stop, and too long for me not to guzzle an entire bottle of water—I’d meet my dad in the kitchen, and he’d say, “Ready for a beer?”

There’s something about sitting in my dad’s kitchen, drinking a Heineken with him and telling him what went on that week, that always made me happy I was in Bloomington. It was the best way to spend a Friday night, geeky as that might seem. And even better if some of the other family came by to eat dinner with us. It was home.

Of course, although I definitely appreciated those moments at the time, I appreciate and miss them even more now. (Kind of like appreciating having health insurance and a salary.) But I’ve realized something: I can either wallow in all the things I miss from home, or I can appreciate all the great things about being in this city. Like my friends. Like Kuma’s Corner. Like my adventures on the blue line. Myopic Books. Hipsters galore. The list goes on. And I might bitch about waiting tables, but without that experience I wouldn’t have met some really great people. I’ve met some pretty awful ones, too, but that’s just material for my book.

And I’ll get that great job eventually. Maybe there won’t be any rainbows or unicorns, but I’ll sure as hell be more appreciative this time around.

Besides, I can still hop in my little Neon and drive to Knightstown to have a beer with my pops. The drive is just a little longer now.


  1. Good post overall, but I think your pursuit of a "Starbucks buddy" is misguided. Starbucks is what we drink down here in Indianapolis. You need to find some kind of independent chain. Caribou coffee at the very least. Oh yeah, and you need to start to like drinking coffee. Have a good weekend!

  2. Oh hush. Starbucks just happens to be right around the corner from my office. And they make damn good chai lattes. What can I say.

  3. Oh Ali... I am going to use proper grammar for this post and this post only. First of all, you don't care for unicorns and I am pretty sure you will find some snarky comment at the sight of a rainbow.