At 14 W Randolph street in Chicago, Illinois is a small 3 story building, puckered in stucco and around the corner from Old Navy. Long before the pandemic, it functioned as a home for an Argo Tea Cafe.
I tucked myself into a corner of the space in December of 2018, and entered my card information to buy a cheap albeit functional domain for a new blog. I’d been privately blogging since 14, but I decided I wanted something public. For some odd reason, I thought it would serve me well to air out my feelings, cheesy poetry and subpar photography. It’s been over 4 years and it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
I had a monthly budget of about $100-200, since my tuition was covered by my scholarship and my mom allowed me to be a full-time student without the burden of working. I’m grateful. I ordered a black tea bubble tea with raspberry every weekend as a treat and break from dining hall food.
The site that I used was, a single-scrolling page that often forcibly reloaded once I’d written way too many shitty poetry entries. Broke and hungry to keep word-vomiting, I reached out to an indie website maker and asked for a free license since I was a student. I kept that site for three years, detailing my first breakup, roommate horror stories (and the sweeter ones), film philosophy, trying lexapro, entering my 20s during the lockdown, and more dramatics.
I go back to it when I’m feeling unsure, and lately, it seems like I’m always feeling that way.
At the beginning of February I settled into a tiny Airbnb in Mount Washington, where I immediately felt at ease from the pressures of my hometown. I’d begged and pleaded with the universe, my bank account, and my sanity to leave and try something new for like, 2 years. Before I had even left home I spent a good week or two walking in the parks I frequented during lockdown – winding up foliage-ridden trails, thinking about what the future would have to offer me.
I figured things would immediately shift and everything I’d dreamt about would be within arms reach. There aren’t a lot of comedy clubs in Kansas City. Open mic nights aren’t common, aside from the indiest of indie filmmaking groups, being there was like being on a stranded island hoping for cable.
Now, I’d finally left for the west coast like I said I would and I felt all kinds of wrong.
Off Sunset Blvd is a Guitar Center with parking in the back – I completely missed it and parked on some side street where I lugged my first electric guitar. It’s a white Squier bullet mustang, and I picked out a purple paisley strap for it. I’ve played it once since buying it, ’cause I hate being in the new apartment.
When searching for a long-term stay, I started to grow nervous about my budget and what I’d be able to find. The idea of roommates has crossed my mind more than once, but not knowing anyone here (aside from my cousin, who already has a solid living situation) left me on the market for a studio.
I found one with a green door, trifold windows, and a cute micro-kitchen, set in one of the most desirable neighborhoods in the city. I signed the lease and giddily moved in…I’ve been in it for 11 days and I’ve wanted to rip my hair out more than once. I’ve felt incredibly stupid not seeing the problems – the traffic noise is unbearably loud and no amount of white noise could possibly down it out. Aside from 33 decibel earplugs, the constant roaring keeps me up.
Honestly, I didn’t want to include anything about the apartment fuck up, cause I already cried enough about it and didn’t want anyone to *know* I was an idiot – but then I’d be omitting important things and important lessons from the blog I hope to reflect on in years to come. So. I spoke with the leasing manager and agreed to break my lease early, which has served me well since the back week and a half has revealed a series of other issues, including a spider infestation, severely leaking windows (nearly causing water damage), and management entering without notice.
Like. Fuck.
Aside from that, I’m seriously doubting the move altogether. I’ve had countless panic attacks and spent hours crying, trying to sift through the thousands of thoughts that rocket through my mind per second. I know moving is hard, being alone is hard, and change is hard. This, however, feels almost unmanageable. It feels dark and volatile – again.
I found a new apartment and ordered a cashier’s check with the first and deposit. An hour before going to sign the lease, I called my family crying about the possibility of hating the new place, too. “Should I just come back home?” I said, barely about to enunciate through painful sniffles.
I’ve always, always, always had this massive fear of failing, and of facing the unknown. Since childhood. Therapists have told me it’s rooted in perfectionism, which also seems to a general source of my anxiety. I can’t help it.
The idea that I make such massive, stupid mistakes makes me so upset. Like the lease. How did I not notice the noise level when I was touring? The windows were open, it was a loud group viewing, and still – it’s common sense, right? I guess not.
I’ve spent the past two weeks going back and forth about whether or not coming here was a mistake. When I fill up my gas tank and add up the cost of a month’s worth of the easily-burned liquid, I get anxious. That maybe I can’t afford to be here. I check out the Instagram pages of people a lot more experiences than myself and notice the four thousand dollar cameras. I have a $50 camcorder from Mercari that takes a micro-SD card.
The rain has been non-stop. I can’t help but feel like I somehow brought it with me from home. Like I’m this weird cartoon character with an eternal gloomy cloud over my head. I just don’t know.
I don’t feel happy. It could be the apartment. It could be that I’m alone. It could be that I genuinely don’t want to be here. At least, not now. The idea that Los Angeles might not be for 23 (almost 24) year old me is a very plausible one that makes me nauseous. That would mean I’d not only spent a pretty penny to get here, but wasted time.
Everything has felt like a stepping stone the past few years. There’s a little pond in Antioch park back home, where stone squares mark out a pathway across the water. They’re a little spaced out, so you rock back and forth as you make your way across. With each step, I think to myself “left, right, left, right…” til I get to the end. Just this one, then that one, then three more… and this feels like that.
I’m worried that I’m not living my life to the fullest because I’m always thinking out the future and what’s next. I’m never fully present. The last time I was present was when I was 19/20, a year before the pandemic, pouring my heart into everything I came across. I missed theater so I took performance art. I was determined to write movies so I strategically piled on credit hours to earn a double minor. I’d passed by The Second City so many times, I finally enrolled in a class.
At the time, I had a private room in a four-bedroom apartment. Laundry was downstairs, so I’d lug down my dirty clothes and spend a good hour next to the dryers writing in a $3 notebook from Target. I detailed, in prose, struggling immensely with depression and anxiety. Spiraling and seeing no way out, other than creative ventures. I had felt so sick I finally caved and tried medicine and therapy.
There’s an excerpt from my old blog that details it well:
I don’t think I’ve come to terms with change: as much as it is exciting, it can be unnerving.
I was in therapy at the beginning of this year and Jay, (said therapist), recognized how worried I got about the future, and how much the concept of time stressed me out. I’d sit in this massive chair and cross my legs and squeeze my hands together and shift every three seconds cause sitting still meant being present, something I hate to do.
Jay basically told me: we can’t control a lot of things. In fact, we can’t control most of the things that happen to us; we can only control how we react to these things. (Apply this to Kierkegaard’s reaction to create his own purpose in response to ‘the absurd.’) And as much as it makes me nervous to think that I really can’t change a lot of the circumstances surrounding my life, the challenges provided by these obstacles kind of excite me.
And I’ve changed so much (thank GOD). But change happens so fast sometimes you don’t even know it’s happening. In a way that’s kinda cool ’cause you’re like, “Wow I did that shit and I didn’t even know I was doing it!!”
That shit is scary though., too ‘Cause as much as we can see change happening, there’s so many more instances where we don’t see it happening. You blink and you realize everything is so different now.
Well, I’ve blinked and things are different again. And the same. I feel anxious like I did before, the kind that requires medicine and talk therapy. THAT feels like failure. I am in fact being challenged. Mentally.
So. Where does all this leave me?
If I keep breaking down daily, I’m not really sure what other choice I have besides going home and figuring things out. The thought of my friends knowing I’d changed my mind in less than a year makes my eyes immediately water. Home has always been tiny and word gets around before you can even form a defense in your mouth. I know people would know. I know that my uncle, who casually said, “You’ll be back” in my grandmother’s kitchen before I left would be correct. I’d be back.
Likely just as depressed, and even more confused. Definitely saving again (not that I’m in a fiscally bad place now) and thinking about the next steps. School? I always said I wanted my Master’s, and that’s still true. It’s one of the main reasons I made the move, which, in retrospect, should have been accompanied by an acceptance letter…
I came to take non-traditional classes as well, which my family has continued to stress the importance of. I came to make new friends, try new things, and see a bigger chunk of the world, or at least, the states.
In the back of my mind, I see Chicago again. I haven’t stopped talking about it since I left, I know my way around, and I know it has more to offer than home could. That being said – wouldn’t it be the same thing as running back home with my tail between my legs? Going back to what’s familiar.
My mom was on the other end of the phone the other day while I sat in my car, silenced by the rain on my roof. “You can come back home and I won’t be disappointed in you. I just don’t think you’d be happy for a long time. I don’t think you’ll find what you’re looking for here.” Unfortunately, she is right. “And no, grandpa wouldn’t be disappointed either. He’d be happy you even tried to see if it was for you.” She knows me extremely well.
I think this is just adulthood. I think it’s scary. I think you’re always going to wonder if you’re making the right decisions, or at least mitigating as much damage to yourself as possible.
But I’m so confused. I feel even more lost than I did before. I don’t want to go back home. I don’t feel comfortable here. I don’t want to be disillusioned running back to Chicago, because it’s also a possibility. I don’t want to assume that New York is the better fit either – I could pick up and go just as easily as I did here, and feel even more conflicted. Do I backpack across Europe? Do I finally book the excursion to Japan with my little brother, and explore Kyoto and Osaka?
Do I continue with media publishing? Do I want to work in music? What do I do with my screenwriting? Is there even a point to it when so many of those doors are closed, opening only for $12/hr? I don’t know! I don’t know.
Do I go back to school like I said I would? Do I dig myself 80k in debt for LinkedIn job postings to acknowledge my new degree and offer $18/hr? Does anybody know anything at all? Because I don’t. I am nearly 3 months from being 24 and it seems like I’ve spent almost half of my 20s unhappy. I don’t know how to fix it.
I don’t want to look back at myself in 10, 15, 20 years and think, “Yeah, I got my career where I wanted it to be but I missed out on the joys of everything else and experimenting with life.” All I’ve ever done is function around my pipe-dreams and it’s not that I want to give up on them, I just don’t want to miss out on life for them. I don’t want to work 3 jobs to pay rent, get less than adequate sleep to stay on the bottom rung of a ladder for 10 years and be the screamed-at assistant. I just refuse.
A la Paul Rodgers: “There’s a problem in our industry that the more you kill yourself for a movie, the braver you are and that’s bullshit. We can do our jobs and we can live our lives, and the more fully we can live our lives… The better we can do our jobs.” There’s so much truth to that. There just is. I love the success stories of people some 30 years booted out of the industry clutching the most noble awards, but the idea that we (women, people of color, underdogs) have to go through unparalleled lengths to do so…is just not it. It’s not what I want.
I want to work towards my goals and live my life. I shouldn’t have to choose between happiness and success. I don’t want to.
I don’t want to stay where I feel sad. I don’t want to be around people that make me feel sad. I want to realize how non-permanent things are, and change my mind whenever I want. I want all the comedic, painful, real life memories. That’s what makes great writers, anyway.
When I write, it’s not about the day-to-day of my job (which I do like, very much). It’s about the moments that are very, very human. Like being the only person to show up to group therapy. Coming home tired with a TV dinner and realizing you don’t have a microwave. Listening to Stevie Nicks in a cafe under the rumbling brown line. Taking piano and singing lessons in a walk-up warehouse where every Tuesday I’d sing Elton John’s ‘Your Song’. Spending your birthday in urgent care because your brother broke his foot. Stealing toilet paper from an upscale Italian restaurant.
I’m just not happy. Not right now.
It might be my shitty apartment. I have a new lease that I’m terrified of disliking more, but I’ve had the conversation over and over again – I’ve decided to give it time. Buy a carpet or two, and a platform to get my bed off the floor. Take a writing class, show up at acoustic bars and go for a bike ride. If I still feel the same in a few months, I’ll head back home and re-think things.
I’m trying my hardest to not let this feel like a failure. Or like a waste of time. Trying new things (even if you don’t like them) should never be a waste of time. I could change my mind and decide it is the right fit. I just don’t know yet.
So I’m gonna give it time and see. I’m going to spend it learning, and learning isn’t failing.