When people write about their weekend in Chicago, their stories are typically filled with touristy attractions, adventures at Cubs’ game, trips down Michigan Avenue, and many meals of pizza and hot dogs. But that is ‘them’ and this is me. The difference between my weekend in Chicago stories and theirs is this simple fact: I live here and they don’t. As I’ve commonly addressed in previous posts, Chicago is a different city for those that live & work here and those that play. Trust me, I’ve learned that lesson firsthand and it’s one of the reasons why I love having guests in town since I can be a tourist too!
This weekend I tried my best to balance both worlds, leaving me with the question- How is it already Monday?- due to how quickly it flew by. Waking up this morning was rough, to say the least. For a groggy few moments, in the absence of my morning radio DJs, I pondered if it was indeed Sunday. Wishful thinking? I promise I tried being productive today, but I kept getting distracted…by everything. I have a love/hate relationship with those days especially because I’d rather being having them anywhere else than Skokie. I won’t indulge you on the rumblings going on in my mind today. Instead I’ll tell you all about my weekend and why I chose the title of this post. (Quote by Howard Thurman)
Saturday was the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Illinois’ annual Wish Ball and given that I was actually going to be in town, I volunteered for the event. I was anxious because it was my first Make-A-Wish volunteer event in Chicago, but I’d done others for the Columbus Chapter when I lived there two years ago. My anxiousness and sleepiness turned into anxiety as I found myself in a panic to figure out what to wear to ‘the Ball’. Don’t worry, this is far from a Cinderella story. There were no glass slippers on my feet and the #8 bus was my transportation for the evening. However, I did have my little sidekicks- my Starbucks baristas- who complimented my dressy look and provided me with the magical concoction (1 Grande Soy AmeriMisto) to get me through the evening. Those boys and girls are so good to me!!
Upon entering the venue I was overcome with a rush of joy. Being a part of Make-A-Wish makes me feel alive. I cannot explain it but just knowing that I’m helping in some capacity makes me feel good…makes me feel like ‘me’. For as long as I can remember, the Make-A-Wish Foundation has always had quite an impact on me. I used to love reading the stories in the newspaper and Highlights magazine when I was younger, overwhelmed with empathy for these kids. However, one story really touched my heart during the spring of 2006, right after I graduated from OU. In fact, I was still in Athens when I read this story in the Athens Post. The story was about an OU student, Michelle Little, and her battle with cancer. Here is the article. You know I still read this every now and then. It serves as a reminder of how important the work of Make-A-Wish and Child Life have always been to me. Not like I need one anymore now that I know exactly what’s important to me. But even with that being said, on those what am I doing with my life? days, reminders like this come in handy.
Back to Wish Ball, as I’m sure you’re curious to hear about it. The event took place at University of Illinois- Chicago Forum and dining area was elegantly decorated for the these An Enchanted Evening. Men looked dapper in suits and tuxes, as women dressed to the nines in fancy gowns, sparkling jewelry, and designer shoes. But beyond the glitz and the glamour, the true stars of the evening were the Wish Kids. (I got chills just writing that.) I encourage you to read more Wish Kid stories at www.wish.org and if this strikes a chord with you, then VOLUNTEER! Search for your local Make-A-Wish Chapter and contact the Volunteer Coordinator. If you live in Chicago, visit www.wishes.org or send me a note and I can tell you more about it.
Oh and I made a new friend on Saturday! From the moment Noelle introduced herself to me, I knew she was my kind of people. I had such a great time with her that night and such good, honest conversations. I felt so comfortable talking to her. I’m telling you, I was ‘me’ that night. The ‘me’ that I’ve been trying to bring out here in Chicago. On Saturday night, it was came out to play and that felt so A.MAY.ZING.
There are two things that I really learned from Saturday night:
1. Make-A-Wish is definitely for me, whether it be employment and/or volunteering, I have found my niche.
2. I’m never going to be wealthy. The elite class is definitely not for me. While some were nice, others…well, not so much.
Okay, Sunday was Play Time. The Pride Parade took over my neighborhood- literally. Walking to the train today was an experience in itself. I reminded me of the morning after Halloween in Athens, expect there were a lot more rainbow stickers and colorful feathers all over the place. But let me tell you more about the parade.
If you’ve been to a Pride Parade before, you know the lovely shenanigans that go on. Well Chicago’s Pride Parade is no exception and it could very well be a thousand times worse because of the crazies that inhabit this city- and I’m not talking about the lovely and wonderful gays!
So as I predicted, I am kicking myself for not taking a picture of my magnificent Starbucks baristas who were all dressed in rainbow-colored shirts and beads. Add the great pop music that was playing all day long and, as one of the baristas said, “It’s PRIDE at Starbucks!” Not knowing about the weather and Karrie’s plans, I camped out earlier that morning by the big window as a back-up but we ended up staying there. Not whether or not you want to see the photos, here they are for you. Just a few to show you what it’s all about. Oh, and the Stanley Cup did come out for the celebration.
Sure the Parade was fun, and I could certainly go on and on about short silver spandex, yellow banana hammocks, drag queens, and skin, skin, and more skin…but I won’t. Instead I’ll share what I learned from the parade. (Note: Unlike most people there, I was sober.)
The Pride Parade was more than just celebrating the LGBT community. It was a celebration of Self-Acceptance, Confidence, Love, and Beauty. At the beginning of the Parade I found myself thinking, how is she comfortable wearing that? and I could never go out in public looking like that! As I saw more and more people scantily dressed with a huge smile on their face, I realized that they were saying This is me! This is who I am. I am PROUD to me be!
I attended the Parade to support my gay boyfriends and the LGBT community. Never for the life of me did I expect to learn a lesson there, from people dressed in short spandex and rainbow boas nonetheless. But I did. I learned that I am who I am. The only person’s opinion that matters is my own.
I had this epiphany this morning, before my coffee, that I am a gay man trapped in a female’s body. Need a second to do that math? Let me explain. There are days when I want to dance in the middle of the streets, saying “Oh no, honey. That’s not the right outfit for you.”, and make out with boys at bars. But I don’t- well the latter unfortunately doesn’t happen any more, but college was a different story. As a young single, white female I feel like I’m stereotyped to be a certain way. Why? I mean I love myself more than I ever have before, but I still feel pressure from society (and others, unfortunately) to present myself a certain way. Sure, I’d love to strut my stuff in sexy little, atypical number but I never really do. Yesterday’s romper was a step for me, and hopefully I’ll keep testing the waters- fabulous and class of course!
I said that there was a reason for why I chose this quote for the blog title. This weekend I witnessed and experienced firsthand what it means to be alive. The line, Stand for something or you’ll fall for anything, has been playing in my head since Saturday- when all of this aliveness seeped thru my system. Knowing what I believe in, what I enjoy, what makes me feel alive coincidentally draws awareness to those things that (for dramatic appeal) make me feel dead inside. Unfortunately this weekend intensified that feeling for me in one particular area: my job. I strongly dislike admitting that, but after feeling so alive with my volunteering at Make-A-Wish and Children’s Memorial, I realize more how the other is not for me. But it comes down to the same thing, what can I do? I’m doing my best to keep myself feeling alive by volunteering as much as I can; however, just spending 8-8.5 hours in the office today and another 2 hours+ community made me long to spend those hours doing something that I’m passionate about.
That’s who I am. Looking back on my life, the memories and opportunities that stick out in my mind are the ones that I was permitted the chance to let my passion shine forth and prosper. I’ve struggled here (with the job) almost immediately upon moving here, and now knowing what I would rather be doing….well, it makes it that much harder. Trust me, I would love to feel alive at work- and there are moments that I kinda-sorta do. It’s just not enough.
So let me leave you with this question. What makes YOU feel alive? This question may or may not be similar to that activity I posed a few weeks ago about what you want to do. Instead, think about moments/occurences when you truly felt like yourself. Things that you did or perhaps places you visited when you felt at peace- like you found your niche. If it helps to answer that question as a comment to this post so you can see it for yourself in writing and share it with another, then please do so!!
People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in their true beauty is revealed only if there is light from within. (Elisabeth Kubler-Ross)