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August 7, 2009

Just Who is This Blogger? - The Chicago Years

I graduated from college in my 22nd year, like most college students who go straight through. I'm 38 now. So when I look back on the last 16 years, I see even more that life is a process, full of phases where people important to you weave in and out of your life, sometimes disappearing for good once they've served their purpose and other times sticking around, even if they are on the fringes.

I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in History after ditching Computer Engineering. Needless to say, there really wasn't a lot to do with this degree, other than maybe go to graduate school and work on furthering it into a Master's degree or even a PhD. I thought about it, but one thing I realized was that most institutions required that a Master's student in history know a second language, namely a language relevant to your area of study. Since I had little to know interest in Latin American or Spanish history, my year of Spanish really didn't help much.

So I decided to take at least a year off, earn some money, and see what was out there for me. I knew I didn't want to stay in Davenport, though I'm not sure why. I had lost touch with almost all of my Davenport friends except for Erin and Maria, and there just didn't seem to be that much there for me. I didn't know where else to go, though. That was when my brother and his new wife (less than a year) offered to let me stay with them up in the Chicago area, moving into their new townhouse at the exact same time they did. I have no idea who instigated that idea or if it was mutual, but I thank them both for that.

I thumbed through the want ads, setting up interviews and basically not getting much of anything. One brief job did lead to one of the most memorable moments for me, where I grew to really love my sister-in-law even more than I already did.

I got on at a gas station with the understanding that they'd be flexible because I knew I'd need two jobs unless one of them paid really well. Needless to say, a gas station job wasn't going to cut it by itself. What did this "flexibility" amount to? I worked 2:00-10:00 5 days a week. Those kind of hours cut into most any other part time job that I could see myself getting. I was getting on well with my trainer, and expressed my concerns to her, hinting that I might have to look elsewhere. When I told my brother, he said that it was probably a mistake to have done that.

So, after 8 days of working there, when I go in the next day, the manager calls me in and says that he doesn't think it's going to work out and lets me go. Obviously, the trainer had told him what I had said and he decided to cut his losses before I could leave. I went home, devastated, waiting for the inevitable "I told you so" from my brother. I was up in my room, crying and wondering what the hell I was going to do now, when my sister-in-law walks in the room with a plate containing a huge slab of chocolate cake and a Pepsi. She didn't say a word, just setting it down on the floor and walking out. She knew I needed to be alone, but also wanted to demonstrate that she was there for me when I was ready to join the world again. From that moment on, I knew I had a wonderful sister.

I also never got that "I told you so," which I was eternally grateful for.

Finally, I did get my two jobs, working full-time at Landata, a Title company in Arlington Heights, doing data entry, and then working part time at a bookstore in Yorktown Mall in Lombard. Landata was tough because we were always working 6:30 to 6:00 because we were backed up so far. You could leave "early" (i.e. on time) if you needed to, and I had it worked out that I could do that two days a week to go to my other job. I then also worked it on Sundays. That mall is where I met John, a guy who worked in the comic shop downstairs. We started palling around and had a great friendship while I lived in Chicago.

However, demonstrating again that people sometimes serve their purpose and then fade away, I've lost touch with him since moving out here. He did, however, introduce me to my best friend while I lived in Chicago. After I met John, he started dating Jenny, and I became friends with her too. After they broke up, I was still friends with both of them (which did lead to a few hairy moments, let me tell you). Jenny and I hung out together a lot, with one summer where you could probably say we were dating though neither one of us felt like we were. I'm still friends with Jenny, while John has left the stage. I also became friends with another co-worker, Denise, and the three of us would hang out together a lot as well.

I lived in the Chicago area (first with my brother and his wife, then in Bensenville and Lombard) for 5 years, and to that point, they were some of the happiest times of my life. Once again, though, I wasn't that social. I had my two friends, and that was it. I didn't go to clubs or bars, didn't socialize with anybody else. First it was John, then Jenny, then Jenny & Denise. Despite that, their companionship was so valuable to me that it made up for the fact that I didn't socialize with anyone else. The only other person I went out with was a bowling league buddy, though that was only occasionally other than staying in the lounge after bowling and playing NTN trivia.

This part of my life reinforced the "life in stages" philosophy that I've developed, but it also taught me something else. Things happen for a reason. Whether you're religious and you believe that it's all part of God's plan, whether you're into mysticism and you think it's karma or just how the universe works, everything happens for a reason. That brief period of working at the gas station? I used the last of that cheque and the last of any money I had the day before my first bookstore paycheque. If I hadn't had that job, I don't know what I would have done. John was a bit of a flake, but we got along great together, and he brought Jenny into my life.

I don't know what it is, but there does seem to be some kind of cosmic justice in this world, though sometimes it's not obvious. Sometimes, we never find out what something means. But often, we can look back and say "you know what? That sucked, but if it hadn't happened, then this really cool thing wouldn't have happened either."

I always think on that when I'm going through something tough. It makes me feel better.

Next: Leaving Chicago


  1. Most of what you wrote this time I knew about. I hope Scott & Jenny read this so they know how much you loved what they did for you. I'm sure Scott said he read your blog so he'll show it to her. I can't wait to the next chapter of your life.

  2. Scott mentioned to me that he hadn't read it yet, unless he did so after he called me Friday morning.

    Glad you enjoyed it. :)


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