Last weekend I went home.
Not to that home, the home I grew up in (although I did go there as well). I went to the place I consider to be more of a home to me than anywhere else I’ve lived: Chicago.
I had long weekend at school which conveniently coincided with marathon weekend in Chicago. Since the Chicago Marathon is one of the top five marathons in the world and since I’m a bit crazy about these sorts of events, I decided to spend Saturday and Sunday in the city. After a few e-mails back and forth with my old internship site, I had my entire weekend booked.
I took the train into Chicago on Saturday so I could work my old internship’s booth at the race expo. My train was late (naturally), so as soon as I got into the city I went into Hardened Chicagoan mode: power-walking from Union Station to Jackson so I could buy a CTA pass with exactly as much money as I would need for one bus ride and two train rides (also so I could look distinctly non-touristy as I boarded the bus 😉 ). Hopped on Bus #3 and headed down to McCormick Place.
The expo was, in a word, overwhelming. I knew the race was huge and I knew the expo would be even bigger, but wowza. So many people. So many booths. So many running related things. I love race expos, so I definitely enjoyed myself.
My internship sponsored an event after the expo, and I and the person they hired to replace me were the official name tag hander-outers 😛 . Honestly, it was about as intern-y of a task as I’ve ever done for the place. When I was their actual intern, I did actual work–writing, social media, that sort of thing. I can recall one task I had to do in those entire four months that was delegated to me because no one else wanted to do it. It was fantastic. And to be completely honest, I hardly minded handing out the nametags. I’m not the best mingler in the world, so having a specific job with very easy social interaction roles (“Hi! How are you? What’s your name?”) was perfectly fine with me.
Sunday was race day. Originally I was supposed to take pictures for my old internship, but no one remembered to bring the camera from the office on Saturday, no one wanted to go retrieve the camera on Saturday night, and I brought no cameras aside from my camera phone because I was told I would be provided with a camera (hence the dire lack of pictures in this post). I traded media passes with someone who did have a camera and ended up with the job of doing man-on-the-street interviews.
My task was to find average people, however, and since your average marathon runner doesn’t finish in just over two hours, I had a lot of time on my hands. I wandered around the course, watching the elites go through the two-mile mark, the 13-mile mark, and the 100m left mark. True story: the winner of the marathon arrived at the finish line about 10 minutes or so after I did. I left the 13 mile mark between 15 and 20 minutes after he passed through, and it took me probably 20-25 minutes to walk from the 13 mile mark to the end of the race. He ran half a marathon in that time. Insane!
I managed to convince a few people to give me their opinions of the race a few hours later (a much harder task than you’d expect! Even with my media pass I think people thought I was one of those people…you know, those survey, “Do you have a minute?” people that stand on the street. Definitely not). I had a bit of time to kill before I needed to head back to Union Station to go to my house-home, so I sat in Millennium Park under a tree and simply enjoyed being where I most belong.
Here’s what I realized in my 28 hours in the city: I need to be back in Chicago. I honestly don’t think I could be happy living anywhere else. When I’m in Chicago, I’m a different person. I’m the person I want to be. I have confidence in Chicago, confidence I don’t have in my “real life” at school. I’m happy when I’m in Chicago, and when people ask me how things are and I say, “Good,” I’m not lying like I am most of the time. People ask how my trip to Scotland was, how my summer job was, how my senior year is going, and my answer is always, “Good.” But nothing has felt good since I left Chicago. Everything’s just felt okay. Nothing measures up, to put it the way one of my friends did when I tried to explain all of this.
I’m just under seven months away from graduation, and slowly the pieces of what I want to do after I graduate are falling into place. Occupation: something involving active sports, writing, or a combination of the two. Location: Chicago. Obviously just knowing what I want won’t make it happen, and there’s no guarantee that this time next year I’ll be living in Chicago. But I have an iota of direction, and that’s a fantastic feeling.
If you could live anywhere, where would it be?
How did you come across your first big kid job after graduating from college?