Connecting the Dots: Midwest Trip Update
The Second City
I spent the first two and a half days in Chicago staying with a friend. This I have learned: if I ever find a friend with whom I connect really well but circumstances prevent us from really developing our relationship, it is worth it to go out of my way to make things work. This person I met in a random Earth Day event. We mulched trees together, and had an amazing conversation. Then we never saw each other again until nearly the end of the year, when we checked out a museum and did homework together. Then, just when I thought there was no way we could possibly have managed to maintain an actual connection, after more than a year, we met up again, picked up where things had left off (or almost as if we'd still been in touch and continued developing the relationship), for a music show. I noticed I was always really happy with this person, no matter what we were up to, but didn't bother pursuing the relationship because of various circumstances. Then, nothing for a year and a half until...I show up in Chicago.
The fact that I could stay with this person for the better part of three days, with less total time than that spent together in four years, speaks volumes for the quality of our relationship, and about her as a person (and me as well I hope). I'd say I wish I'd invested more earlier, but then things worked out pretty well, so maybe what I did put in was just enough. Still, I kind of wish I'd seen more of her in college, when it didn't take a 3 hour plane ride to have shakes together. And if she's reading this, thanks for being an amazing person and sharing your courageous view of life with me from the start, and thinking to invite me to all those awesome events and call me out of the blue.
This wasn't the first time in my life I neglected a high quality friendship and instead focused on working on ones that were clearly not going well. When you find a relationship that runs smoothly, no matter what, where you can pick up conversations as if you never left them off, where the conversation never runs dry and silences are comfortable, drop everything and cultivate that. I've been lucky to usually get second (and third) chances, and I usually get my act together, but these relationships are the ones that last and really add to our lives. For me, they have always been with sincere, honest, self-confident people, the kind of person I aspire to be as well. These are the people that make me happy, just being around. If they are far distant, pursue them, and if they are nearby, take full advantage of proximity. Because there is nothing more valuable in life than our relationships, and there are no relationships more valuable than those that enrich us and make us happy so naturally.
How do you recognize these relationships? When you linger for hours after a cup of coffee, following one topic with another and losing track of time, that's a good sign you're on to someone special. An irrational enjoyment of walking around in thunderstorms with said person is another good sign, but that might be specific to me.
Moving on North
The next phase of my journey was up to visit my sister and her family near Madison. They have become my closet extended family since I went to school in Chicago. I spent two Thanksgivings with them, and visit whenever I pass through, which is fairly frequently. But I never really let myself get involved in their lives, always feeling a little transient. After all, I'm just barely an adult (in theory) while she's got three kids, a husband, and a house. I feel like a young nephew of hers, but I am her half-brother. Generally, I spend most of my time playing video games with her sons, my nephews, but I want to be more involved in her and her husband's life as well.
So in the past few days, I've done my best to actually speak my mind, treating myself like a mature person with ideas worth listening to, someone with something to contribute to her life situation, even if those ideas are not communicated to her directly. I am trying to be a good uncle, with something to share about life and growing up for my nephews, instead of just a fun uncle (which I do as well). I guess being out of college gives me some credibility.
Incidentally, I seem to sleep really well here at my sister's house. It is a place and a family I feel very at ease with. Another sign perhaps that I should spend more time around.
Tomorrow, I head to Minnesota and up to my old summer camp. I don't know what discoveries I have yet to make. But I am learning that the lessons I need to learn will reveal themselves as I go.
Learning as I Go
The neat thing about this trip so far has been that I didn't know why I was so compelled to get out here again. In Chicago, I ended up only seeing this one friend and my old RH, even though I had planned to meet others (plans fell through). When I got there, I realized that the reason I'd come was to figure out exactly the depth of a relationship built on distantly separated episodes. It seemed unusually fulfilling, against all inclinations, and I guess I needed to test that and see if it was sincere. Arriving in Wisconsin, I didn't really know what I'd be up to, but a strange compulsion to involve myself led me to try that out and find it answered a lot of lingering questions.
I have no idea what awaits me in the northwoods. There will be plenty of time for that.
Note: I apologize to any friends in locations that I didn't see or notify of my coming. I had a lot of people to get in touch with, and I may have simply forgotten. It's hard to keep track of people these days when everyone is moving around, and it's also possible I was under the impression you were somewhere else. My means of travelling around should be improving even more soon, so let me know and we can arrange a meeting.