My good friend is in town all week. We moved to Chicago around the same time and over the period of a few months, we had some crazy times. Tonight we decided to go to see Hangover Part 2 in her old neighborhood and between the craziness of the movie and the memories that naturally cropped up, I was left feeling a little sad.
I really like my life. I have many, many wonderful aspects. And in no way do I desire to be back in the days when I was drinking until 3am and then getting up and going to work. No thank you. But there is something special about that time in a person’s life. I think this is especially true when you move to a city in your early 20’s. You begin to accomplish all of these things that would have seemed too scary or intimidating before: navigating a train system, finding your local Target, starting a new job, having to make new friends because you only know 3 people. It’s a natural time for risk, a time when you have no other choice but to risk. And it’s a time when you can see very quickly how strong you are.
I’ve been in the city since I was 22 and, as with any other transition in life, I’m acclimated. I know my routes to work, I have my group of friends, I know the places I like to eat and when to avoid Wrigleyville. All of those parts of life that as you live longer in a location become commonplace. To get on a train now, even in another city, is not exhilarating or scary, it’s mostly just stinky. And I tease my husband because we hibernate all winter, choosing to spend our time curled up on the couch. Six years ago I went out all winter long, hair-ruining beanies and all.
Lately I’ve been in search of this excitement (I mean, needing to blog in order to take risks?! Come on…). I think I’ve secretly been wanting to reclaim some of my youth. I can remember multiple parties that I showed up at during those first few months in Chicago where I only knew the person I was walking in the door with, couldn’t care less who lived there, met random people that I never spoke to again and danced with strangers. I went to a similar party recently and all I could think of (apart from feeling ancient) was that I needed to be careful not to spill a drink on the couch and I better ask the hosts about themselves so that I don’t seem rude. Very polite but also pretty lame.
But in talking to my friend about this and reminiscing with her, she brought up a great point: no time in our life will ever be like that again. And she’s right. But in addition to that, I realized that I don’t want that life again. I think I’ve always gone to extremes. At that time, I was at a crazy extreme of myself. I was exploring who I was without my husband, without my family, without more than a few people who knew who I was before the city. I almost needed to go to that extreme in order to realize what I wanted.
But then I went too far in the other direction. I became safe. I became the kind of person who over analyzes every aspect of my life, down to will this person hate me because of one word that I said that was not perfect. I’ve gone from a crazy extreme to a guarded extreme. I think I’m afraid to let go of that earlier version of myself because if I cling to it, it’s still in me somewhere. But if I let it go, then I question if I’ll ever find those feelings of freedom again.
Maybe that’s what this years journey is about. What I’m really looking for is balance, the somewhere in between the extremes. But first I have to jump out there and accept that that portion of my life is over, has been for sometime. And while I felt so alive during that time there is no way I’ll ever be able to recreate it. In order to move into a new way of feeling alive, I have to stop wanting that piece of my past.