Wednesday, May 10th, 2017
With the number of days until my 20th birthday growing smaller, the number of nights I lie awake consumed by anxiousness continues to grow. I lie awake and think about what being 20 means. As a kid, 20 seemed like forever away. It seemed like the age when I would have it all together – the set career path, the serious boyfriend, the stable friend group. And here I am. My dream job changes everyday. I’ve never had what I would call a boyfriend, let alone a serious one. And I believe with all my heart that I haven’t met most of the people the Lord wants me to walk this life with.
My teen years haven’t been the teen years shown on television screens. I got the straight A’s, I walked away from the boy, I didn’t go to the college party, I applied for the internships. I have been left to wonder if I really had teen years – if I’m going to look back and regret not acting young like all the country songs told me to do.
But the more my nights became filled with these endless streams of thoughts and an overwhelming amount of sleep deprivation, I realized that, yes, my teen years haven’t been what one would deem as normal. I walked the streets of Chicago as an 18-year-old. I strolled singly through Millennium Park after visiting the Art Institute to conduct research for an art history midterm. I’ve hopped onto the Red Line and made late night runs to the Walgreens on Michigan Avenue more times than I could begin to count. My teen years weren’t filled with parties and concerts and crazy nights and young love. But I wouldn’t change them for the world.
A few nights ago, I was walking down Michigan Avenue at 8:00 p.m. all by my lonesome after I enjoyed a Saturday evening at a nearly vacant downtown Starbucks. And I kind of had one of those “this is it” moments. And I can’t really explain it. Pure contentment is a good start. Comfort, yet discomfort. Knowing that everyday this place will continue to push me so far outside the small area I find comfortable, yet knowing how far I’ve come. Knowing that if a friend walks away, if a boy chooses someone else, I can walk down Michigan Avenue by myself at night.
This city has taught me what it means to cohabit with millions of people, and how to be alone. I walk comfortablely through a city enveloped by darkness and filled with strangers solo. The cat calls don’t scare me – frustrate me a little, yes. But I’m not scared. I’m independent. I’m free. I love to spend Saturday mornings strolling down streets my shoes haven’t yet touched and memorizing sidewalk cracks I may never see again. I love knowing that there’s always something new for me to experience, even if it’s a few blocks away. I love walking by people and knowing that they can write their own stories about who I am, but they won’t ever know the honest one.
Years from now, I know I can look back on these years I spent in this city as ones that shaped me. I know there is a special strength that comes out of conquering this place on my own. Will I want these years back – probably not. But I’m always going to be grateful that I had them.
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