These past six months have been the most radically transformative of my life. Six months ago, to this day, I received a phone call that initiated it all. Almost sounds like a cheesy movie intro. Allow me to backtrack. In March, I was working the front desk at work (at the Dickson Street Bookshop) when I received an email on my phone. It was from the University of Chicago and was notifying me that I could log into my account to view a message regarding my admissions status. It was terrible. I was so nervous, and I didn't want to check while I was at the front of the store, in case I had a breakdown in front of customers. Once I got back to my office, I logged in to discover I'd been offered a position in their Master's program. I was ecstatic. Jumping up and down in my chair kind of happy.
A couple of weeks later, I hitched a ride to Chicago with my roommate's girlfriend and another friend of ours (who happened to be going for their spring break). A friend of mine in Chicago offered to set me up with a job interview at his company, so I decided to go with it. Interview goes well, and on the morning of March 22, I receive a phone call offering me the job. And they wanted me to start on April 2nd. In the timespan of a 10 minute phone call, without talking it over with anybody in my life, I accepted the position and effectively committed to moving to Chicago on nine days' notice. 22 years in Arkansas (with a few months in Tulsa and Rome each) ended in one ten minute phone call.
I toured one apartment and nearly immediately signed a lease. I came back to Fayetteville to finish things up, although I had to go to Dallas for two days to audition for Jeopardy (I think I did well but I don't know if I'll be on the show; they only tell you that you made it if and when they want you to appear, and my window is for another year). I managed to say goodbye to most people, and somehow got everything I needed packed away, and then off to Chicago I went. My first few weeks in Chicago were fine. I was enjoying work. I met a boy and we started dating. I was falling in love with the city.
And then everything changed. Again. I was in Union Station, waiting for my good friend Carlos to arrive on a visit. All of a sudden, my phone notified me of an email. For those of you unfamiliar with AT&T service in Chicago, it's horrible. All that loaded of the email was the subject: "Exciting news from the Institute of Fine Arts!" I started to panic. A month previous I'd received an email simply titled "News from the Institute of Fine Arts." It informed me that I was on a very short waiting list for admissions. Suddenly, three weeks after moving to Chicago to go to school there, they dangle this carrot in front of me—"Exciting news." Commence panic as I wait for the email to load. And there it is: the one program I prioritized over the one at Chicago had finally let me in. It felt like a punch in the stomach. My reaction was visceral and highly negative. But I couldn't run from that news.
This raised the question of what to do with Chicago. After committing to come to New York, I did the only thing I could: I enjoyed Chicago to its fullest. I jokingly called it summer camp. I made some really great friendships with some really great people. And while I was there, my mother sold the house I grew up in and moved (which wasn't on the radar when I left), one of my sisters got pregnant, there were deaths in my family.
I love Chicago. It's an amazing city. As one of my out-of-town friends said, when I was showing him around, "for someone who isn't going to stay here, you're still investing a lot into local pride." It was a city I'd always heard lauded and never expected anything from. And it delivered. But it also felt weird knowing I'd be leaving so soon. Eventually it developed a sort of limbo quality, where near the end I was avoiding making connections I'd otherwise have loved to make.
And then as quickly as I came, I left.
I've been in New York a little over a month now. I haven't taken to it like I took to Chicago. It's a bigger city, and I don't have a job or a fixed routine yet, so I haven't been very social. I've been meeting people where I can but it's still been pretty scattershot. And just like in Chicago, life at home is going on without me: my only unmarried sister is now engaged. Another death in the family.
To restart everything once is a big enough ordeal. And I've done it twice in six months. Never would I have predicted this, but I'm glad I've done what I have: when faced with several life-altering decisions, I made my choices quickly, stuck to them, and executed them all. It was almost shockingly easy. Some stuff just fell into place.
It's not the first time I've made a huge change in my life (although it's by far a rapid succession of those most huge), and underscores what I learned the first time: creating change is not difficult, but committing to it is. But once you're committed, once you accept that change, putting it into action is the easy part.