Saturday, July 16, 2005

Five years ago today

a thirtysomething fella named Jake stood in the middle of a charming little tree-lined Chicago street just off Lake Michigan and waved good-bye as his parents tooled off in their empty U-Haul toward what until that morning had been Jake’s lifetime home in Iowa.

Two weeks earlier, see, Jake had come to Chicago to visit a friend and watch the Chicago pride parade. He had thought it would be interesting to line up a job interview at a big-shot Chicago advertising agency while he was in town—you know: just for fun—and, surprisingly, that agency had actually offered him a job. On the spot. With moving expenses. And could he start immediately?

Jake got that “immediately” commuted to “in three weeks” so he could go home, catch his breath, quit his job, list his house, coordinate a move and try to make this abrupt, seismic shift in his life go as smoothly as possible.

One week after the job offer, Jake and his dad had gotten up at 3:00 am to drive into Chicago and undertake a one-day marathon to find an apartment he could move into a week later. Which was surprisingly harder than it had sounded. Securing an apartment takes a lot of time, and finding a clean, safe, decent apartment with no crack whores and maybe convenient parking at a reasonable price is not an easy task for people who don’t know where to look.

But it all happened. Jake quit his job, sold his house, found his apartment, sold three-fourths of his stuff so he could actually fit in his apartment, rented a truck, recruited friends to help on both ends of the trip … and suddenly there he was. Living in Chicago. Waving good-bye to his parents as they drove back to Iowa.

And then he climbed the steps to his new Chicago apartment, sat down among the piles of unpacked boxes, surveyed his new kingdom and thought to himself:


But after a reasonable period of adjustment, Jake finally came to feel at home in Chicago. And over the last five years he’s made quite a mark for himself here: he’s revitalized Oprah’s saggy ratings, helped the Cubs win the Super Bowl and starred in three direct-to-Broadway smash hits. Plus, he’s managed to keep his job and upgrade from his tiny rented cubbyhole to a dee-luxe shoebox condo in the sky.

And, as the cliché goes, he still can’t believe it’s been five years since that sunny Sunday afternoon when he stood in the street, watching his folks drive away and suddenly realizing how different his life was about to become.

The moral of the story: Life goes faster and faster the older you get, kids, so pay attention and hold onto the memories while you still have your mental capacities. Or else just take a lot of pictures.

The other moral to the story: Take a leap now and then. Change jobs. End an unhappy relationship. Move to a new city. Shave your balls. Paint something in a bold color. Buy the more expensive jeans. Say hi to a handsome stranger. Train for a marathon. Start a blog. Join a beach volleyball team. Do something outside your comfort zone. And then just wait—your life will very likely be a lot richer in five years because of it. Or else your balls will just be itchy.

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