Seattle to Chicago – Speeding Up and Slowing Down

imageAfter struggling to survive in the fourth most expensive city in the USA (Seattle) for the past 6 years, we finally decided to pack up our meager belongings and take the 2000 mile journey back to our hometown, Chicago. Chicago, where the average salary is closer to $40,000 a year vs $100,000 for an entry level engineer at Amazon. Chicago, where plumbers, gardeners, teachers, lawyers and Walmart workers all live on the same street. Chicago, where I can hear 5 languages when I enter the Harvest Time Foods family grocery store, including Spanish on the piped-in radio station.  Chicago, where I just experienced a glorious month of August, swimming in Lake Michigan and spending every day at the beach, reading fun novels and letting the sun heal me.

I have done this journey before, always alone with my son Avante, packing up a truck full of stuff, attaching a tow dolly, driving the car onto it and hauling the entire load across mountains, deserts and lone stretches of road where “no services” signs bring up fears of breaking down on a 90 degree day far from a town. My husband Johnny always flew before us, setting up a job, a place, finding a community.

I have moved from Portland to Chicago, from Chicago to Seattle and now from Seattle back to Chicago, criss-crossing the country over a 10 year period of time, trying to find a home where all three of us (mom, dad and son) can find our way, make friends, learn, grow, prosper, and be healthy. If I could get back the expenses for gas, hotels, truck rentals, security deposits, and start up fees for utilities, we could have probably put it down on a house somewhere, set up shop,
built a home and a business and a life for ourselves…

But we didn’t. We were and are gypsies, acquirers of experience and friends and music and art and festivals and new foods and new languages. We are rich in memories and references, great at conversation and story telling, funny and vibrant and full of life. We have always done what we wanted to do and followed our bliss and up until now, this act of ‘living our right livelihood’ has made perfect sense.

Up until now. In about 30 days, I will have the honor of celebrating my 50th birthday, and this has brought up all sorts of questions about where a person is supposed to be at 50, what they should
have accomplished, what they should OWN and what this birthday means in a global/celestial sense. Lots of fun topics that used to keep me up at night before I enrolled in this 35,000 Calorie Challenge at my YMCA. I have to exercise, hard, for an hour a day, for 100 days straight. Today is day #10 and I have alternated with water aerobics and 10 mile bike rides, every other day. These days I sleep like a baby, out of exhaustion.

However, the questions still tug at me.

Who evaluates our success? Us or society? How much is enough to have earned, accomplished, experienced? Why are we satisfied with what we have at certain points, and woefully disappointed in our lot on other days? Especially when it is the same lot, the same job, the same apartment, the same family.

But it is not the same. I am new here, in my old/new city. Trying to find work and friends and sanctuary in a fast-paced world. Trying to fill my days with structure and purpose and productivity, whether it’s cooking for my family, working with a student or sculpting my body at the Y. Either way, I just want to feel at home in my skin, in my relationships, in my two-flat apartment with it’s wood floors and 1902 wainscoting trim around the ceilings. Waiting to exhale and hopefully stay put for a while – my spirit and pocketbook can’t endure much more change.