As spring approaches and the sun returns to us, I’m reminded of when I first came to Chicago.
It was a Sunday, and in accordance with my life being a straight hot mess, I was set to start my first real post-college job early the next morning. My best friend and her dad helped me move my meager belongings into my short-term studio. After unpacking and realizing I forgot most toiletries, all silverware, and that winning lottery ticket, my best friend’s dad decided I really had not appropriately prepared for this move. He bought me some shampoo, said a quick prayer I’m sure, and he and my friend left. Alone and satisfied at finally being settled in my new home, I perched by laptop in the one place it received wifi and fell asleep to the warm embrace of Netflix.
10 months later and the floods of Midwest rain are bringing back floods of memories. It’s so funny how we romanticize the past. I’m the biggest culprit. No I wasn’t miserable during those first 3 months but there were moments I know for a fact I was scared, lonely, hungry, exhausted. I knew no one, and was not used to that. I was broke with no safety net, and was not used to that (the lowest balance I hit was $37 I think, that’s not that bad). I was eating out 0/7 days a week and definitely not used to that (does anyone else remember the cheese and mayo sandwich day?).
But yesterday I walked into our office gym, which I have not visited since August, and the smell of the fresh paint mixed with the sweat of exactly 2 gym members brought back only happy mems. Like working out every day, watching The Office on my phone, focusing on myself because there was no one else around – that was happy. I was great at being alone, and I think I had forgotten that a little before yesterday.
I can’t tell if it’s a good thing that I only remember the positives. I guess that’s not phrased right thought – I definitely remember the negatives. Like bringing from college the baggage of a boy who couldn’t figure out what he wanted, and wasting a whole summer trying to help him decide. Or laying in bed at 10 PM on a Friday listening to the monster above me play his stupid trumpet for hours at a time. Or coming home after July fourth weekend to a swarm of gnats above my bed. Or not being able to figure out the hot water or the cold A/C for all of June. Or having no one to call in this brand new city to just grab a bite to eat with me, or sit in a cafe with me, or go to the local bookstore with me.
So no I totally remember the bad parts, but all I feel in my soul when I look back on summer 2016 is happiness. I got to read, a lot, finally. I learned how to take care of myself. I navigated the city. I made new friends. I celebrated adulthood. I worked hard. And all of that propelled me to where I am today.
I just finished reading The Alchemist for maybe the 10th time. Every time a different part sticks out to me. With the timing, this quote is what got me this time: “I don’t live in either my past or my future. I’m interested only in the present. If you can concentrate always on the present, you’ll be a happy man.”
I’ll always look to the past for warm memories and lessons learned. And I’ll always look to the future for dreams of success. But if I can focus on the present, on this day, I’ll be happy. Paulo Coelho isn’t some crazy wise philosopher – he’s just an author who stumbled upon this truth. The past can be deceiving, how quickly we forget our mayo sandwiches and focus on our blissful lakeside walks. And the future is fickle. But if you live for the moment and concentrate on your happiness right now, there is your best bet for happiness.