Thursday, September 2, 2010

(Mrs) Adventure #18: A Note of Thanks

I’d like to offer that as I type this entry, Sheryl Crow’s catchy tune, “A Change Would Do You Good,” is pumping through my head. But I can’t. Because in place of that socially acceptable song, some God-awful European cacophony titled, “Manboy” is actually spinning on repeat.

There are times when I wish I were (was? whatever) normal and occasionally, times when I get a little tired of laughing it off when people call me ‘crazy’ in what I hope is a lovable way. Ok, let’s be honest. I usually like it, embrace it and even cultivate it but if one catches me in the wrong mood there are times when I want to look at the person and say, “You know what’s crazy? The fact that you walked out of the house wearing that and thought you looked even half way presentable. Nice face.” Normally though, I just smile, laugh and agree. Admitting to crazy is a defense mechanism that I think those of us who always felt a little bit on the outside clung to before anyone else could whisper underneath their breath: ‘That girl over there? She’s nuts. (Or insert your insult of choice).” It’s always easier to literally beat people to the punch line before they figuratively beat you to what feels like a punch.

If I were to offer instead an admission, I’m sort of glad that over time I’ve developed this roll with the punches type attitude. I never realized how much it would come in handy until I married into the Marine Corps. As I am quickly learning, being married to anyone in the Marines has two distinctive sides. Fabulous perks: someone actually packs your stuff for you and for free, your husband or wife looks like some sort of fitness poster because it’s required of their job and there’s a giant grouping of others in the same situation going through the same thing that always seem to be there to comfort in a moments notice. There are also downsides. Long months spent apart, late nights and early days and inevitably when the Marine Corps says MOVE! you don’t get to say, “No, I’m cool. But thanks!”

But seeing as my husband and I have spent exactly three weeks together without major interruption since we started dating and were subsequently married, I decided that we should probably, at least at one point, actually live closer to one another than 8000 miles.

Unfortunately, the inevitable results; I must bid adieu geographically speaking to all the people that I love and cherish in my life (my husband aside).

And I’m having a little trouble with that concept.

In the past three and a half years that I have lived in Chicago, I have met a bevy of soul mates. No, not in the romantic sense, but in the actual sense of the word: people who just get you, who click with you and people who come into your life for a reason in order to help you grow, change and at the same time care unconditionally. I’m still shocked by my good fortune.

There have been people that I have met and we’ve formed very quick and close and strong friendships. There are those that I cherish but time and work have pulled me from them occasionally but I still keep them close. And I know and I hope they know that if trouble were to arise I am but a quick jaunt away.

More importantly, I have found people in this magnanimous city who for the first time have allowed me to drop the comical or self-protective attitude every now and again; people for whom I do not feel responsible to make laugh or make a joke at my expense to achieve their acceptance and/or friendship. That is priceless.

As I packed up the final box in my apartment, I found myself in a full-blown anxiety filled panic attack of tears and self-doubt. ‘What if,’ I thought to myself, ‘I never find this again?’ It is not as though I am leaving to some far off base in Cambodia, but just the simple realization that geography won’t always be as simple as a red line or a cab ride away.

You see, when I was younger change was exciting! Change meant a whole new group of people to meet, cultures to explore and the possibility that life would offer some exciting career move or adventure at every new turn. Certainly, that all still rings true, but there is a distinct fear that settles in the heart of anyone who knows that their changing travels will take them away from what is true and pure friendship. I already have a difficult time enough knowing that some of my best friends live in California, St. Louis and Manhattan, and now I am to do that over again?

Admittedly, I already feel the need to pump up the jokes or the laughs or the smiles that will coat my being like a protective shield of armor for those that I meet in my new home.

In attempts not to come off sounding like a paranoid schizophrenic, there is a very real fear I have that new people who meet me may judge me. Maybe it will be my hair? Or my laugh? My outfit? My religion? My questioning of religions or religious practices? My politics? Or maybe wholly for reasons unknown-someone just won’t like me. It’s happened, it’s happened to all of us and we as a whole can’t always escape the occasional unfounded judgments of others. I know that we’re supposed to move on and grow up and this stuff isn’t supposed to bother us after the eleventh grade, but I would be lying if I didn’t say that gosh, sometimes I still feel like that plain, invisible girl in high school that used to stand in the bathroom and watch all the beautiful and popular blonde girls do their hair and makeup and laugh about their flirtations with boys while I applied my Bonnie Bell lip gloss and kicked at my chunky Doc Martins.

Looking back, that seems silly. But what has happened as a result isn’t all bad. Having built up that armor has led me to meet some of the most fantastic, wonderful, incredible and amazing people in Chicago. They are the ones who I would like to gather in a foxhole, make a fabulous fire outside, roast marshmallows and chocolates and laugh until the sun comes up. You all certainly know who you are, and for those of you that are questioning it: if you are reading this, then yes, I am speaking to you. (Unless you, person who continually sends me club invites is reading this, then you could probably just stay in the Chi).

But of course, that laughter won’t be because I’m trying to impress someone or trying to make someone laugh so that they give me a chance or don’t completely think I’m awful or a total dweeb. It will be genuine and truthful and most importantly, grateful.

I will never fully be able to understand the gifts that Chicago has blessed me with, but I will never, ever forget them. If I had my way, I would hatch some sort of diabolical plan forcing all of you to move to the great state of Virginia and while I was at it, I’d grab my other best friends from other states and move them there, too.

I’ve loved Chicago; I’ve had lover’s quarrels with Chicago. I’ve loved the blissful summers and cursed the torrid winters. I’ve loved the sense of freedom and the tree-lined streets; I’ve rolled my eyes at the politics and grown angry about the crime. I’ve made friends with those from all different walks of life and I’ve made better friends with those I’ve known all along. I love the winding river and the tour boats that drift aimlessly down the canals as I’ve hated the suburbanites and out of towners as they’ve made the streets claustrophobic and occasionally dangerous. I love the bars on every corner and I’ve hated the stumbling drunks. Most of all, I’ve loved sleeping beneath the blanket of city lights knowing that there were millions out there just like me squinting at veiled stars and wishing their most feverish wishes. There is genuineness to Chicago, even beneath its steely and crazy armor; there is a sweet simplicity to its people and environment.

So, I’m not so sure if this is a long-winded rambling entry of any sense, but maybe it’s more of a letter of gratitude. That or it’s starting to sound like a weepy suicide note of sorts. Yikes, not my intention. Ya’ll gonna have a tough time getting rid of me, geography or not.

Thank you, everyone, for accepting me and being my friend these past few years. Thank you, Chicago, for making me in some way the person that I am today (good and yes, even bad). Thank you for showing me that although I still feel and will probably always feel like that totally dorky teenager in the high school bathroom, it’s OK to be a bit nerdy.

And sometimes, it’s even fun and perhaps required to be just a little bit crazy.

To steal the motto of the United States Marine Corps and to use it completely as it is not intended (if only for this one time) I say to you all: Semper Fidelis. Always Faithful. I will always feel that way about each and every one of you. And I can get down with that.