10 October, 2008

Reinventing the Mundane

I've been lucky to have traveled and lived all over the world. Chicago is now the city I've spent the most time in, and I've been feeling incredibly restless for the past few years. The wanderlust is really getting to me!

When I first started looking at law/graduate schools, my choices were all over the map-- Paris, Rome, London, Montreal, Sweden, Germany. Anywhere but the United States.

One night, my parents sat me down to go over my choices. They, more than anyone, understand my wanderlust. They paid for all my language lessons, bought me foreign CD's, encouraged me to develop a diverse group of friends and instilled in me the passion for culture and travel. So when we sat down at the dinner table that night and my dad asked me why I was applying to out-of-country schools, I was surprised. I wasn't expecting having to defend my choices. To me, it was obvious. How could I spend another year here? There's no culture here, I said. No warmth from people, no passion for life. It's a 9-5 existence where people look forward to their measly two weeks of vacation during which they aren't even able to tear themselves away from their blackberrys. How could I spend another year here when I felt like my soul was being stiffled?

It was then that my dad said something that has stuck with me ever since. He said, eventually, you will feel like that no matter where you go. The grass is always greener on the other side and no matter where you live, the mundane will always catch up with you. Even if you are surrounded by beautiful buildings and interesting people, you will still feel lonely sometimes. They key, he said, is to surround yourself with good people who have the same love of culture and passion for life that you do. That way, no matter where you are, you will never feel alone or stiffled.

At the time, I didn't believe him. I thought, no matter who I surround myself with I will always hate it here. It's been a year since that conversation, and I have to say, my father was right. I've surrounded myself with people who love what I love, and I've made numerous new friends who are travelers at heart, like me. Instead of constantly planning the future and my move to Europe, I began to enjoy my time here--I've explored the city, found small cafes that remind me of those in Paris, joined language groups and stocked up on foreign reading material.

The past year has flown by and, while I still feel in my heart that I belong in Europe, and am still hell-bent on moving there next fall, I realize that I no longer feel stiffled. Sure, I still browse dozens of expat blogs a day, my ipod is devoid of any songs in English, and I'm constantly on cheaptickets.com browsing airfare deals to Europe. But I'm realizing that I need to enjoy, really enjoy, the time I have left here because although I may not miss Chicago, I will miss all my family and friends.

“People travel to faraway places to watch, in fascination, the kind of people they ignore at home.” - Dagobert D. Runes

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