By: Chris Warren
If all you knew about me was whatever was on my website, you might get the impression that I’m a pretty adventurous, open minded spirit who is always on the lookout for new experiences. It’s easy to forget that a blog article, like a photograph, is just a snapshot. It reflects a truth, but it’s only a moment of truth. There is no context to connect the moment to events that came before and after. It can be misleading because photographers and writers will self-sensor themselves, picking and choosing what they want to reveal. It’s not necessarily dishonest, it’s the nature of the medium.
This past weekend, I went with a buddy to the Chicago Air & Water Show. I’d probably seldom if ever go to Chicago if it were not for him living there. I’m just not a much of a city person. I live far enough away that going there takes some planning and effort, so I have a built in excuse to avoid the place. This time, my friend would not let me be held back by my own obstinance.
The CTA (public transit) bus was not particularly crowded when we boarded. As we get closer to the lakefront and the bus makes its stops, it starts filling up. Our fellow travelers were themselves a microcosm of humanity: The tired-looking construction worker. The old lady with grocery bags. Three sooo cute hispanic brothers, the oldest was maybe six. Two teenagers speaking what sounded like an eastern European language. Several African Americans. Two Asian guys, also not speaking English. One of them had a Chicago Fire Department uniform on. A babbling loud mouth sitting in the back who could be heard across the whole bus. Then there’s me, the basic white guy feeling totally out of his element, and my friend, who is Filipino. The bus stops and driver announces the end of the line. As we file out the door, it occurs to me that I’ll probably never see any of these people again and I have a brief philosophical moment about what fate, good or bad, made me miss. Except for the babbling loud mouth. Never seeing him again has no downside.
A short walk later we behold mighty Lake Michigan stretching out in front of us. There is a wave of humanity almost as impressive as the lake itself following the curve of the shore for as far as we can see. An earth-shaking roar of six F-18 Hornet jets announces the arrival of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, and it becomes obvious why everyone is here. It’s impossible to fully appreciate the Angels’ skill by watching them on video. The Blue Angels are so good, it almost looks fake. It’s not fake. They really are that good. There are countless picnics and beach parties going on. A girl who appeared to be less than 18 years old was on a large boat in the harbor, barely dressed and dancing in an over-the-top way that, well, uhhm, let’s just say Miley Cyrus could take lessons from her.
After the air show we walked to Navy Pier and then Millennium Park, eventually ending up at Buckingham Fountain. The Chicago Symphony was playing. The weather is perfect and we’re having an awesome time. My friend was not done with me yet. We headed over to Michigan Avenue. It was bustling and lively and happening. It was also a place of unsettling contrasts: A homeless guy begging for change; a few steps away is a display window of Rolex watches that individually cost more than what most people pay for a car. By time we got back to my friend’s apartment, we had been on the go for over nine hours, most of it walking. I was beyond beat.
The aftermath of my kickass cool roadtrip to Chicago was an old refrain for me: I am not by nature an adventurous, open-minded spirit. Like most people, I have my ways and don’t like drifing too far from them. But if I am nagged and pushed into trying something different, I end up liking it. It seems I never want to go anywhere or do anything…until I do. Then I’m all into it.
In my senior year in high school I knew I wanted to go to college but was not ready to leave home. My toughlove, zero-tolerance-for-bullshit dad made it clear that he was not going to put up with me sitting around his house for free while I, in his words, “contemplate the world.” So it was mutually decided I would live at home and enroll at a local junior college. It was a perfect fit: I could keep my part time job, rack up some academic credits, and satisfy mom and especially dad that I had goals and was making real progress towards achieving them. I did not make the connection at the time, but their parental pressure eventually came to its intended conclusion: A little less than two years later, I abruptly announced that I was going to transfer to a four year university and finish my degree. To prove I was serious, I set everything up at my new school before revealing my plans. Mom and dad were somewhat blindsided by my declaration, but very pleased.
Since I’m not the type of guy who goes looking for new experiences on his own, I’m grateful to be surrounded by people willing to push me into them. In all of these situations, I came out better for it. I would not have suggested going to the lakefront with all the crowds and hassles and my general aversion to big cities. But wow, am I ever glad my friend did not give in to my reluctance. The entire weekend was a total blast! And either by coincidence or deliberate parental wisdom, my mom and dad did not allow me to stagnate in my own equivocation about what to do with my young self. They knew I was capable of succeeding so they helped me find a path forward and pushed.
I ultimately graduated from college, got over the hump of entering the workforce, and went about my productive if not unremarkable life. Today, there are no looming big decisions before me that need to be made, or avoided. I am well aware that there are few constants in this world and sooner or later I will probably be faced with a grand opportunity more consequential than spending a fun weekend in Chicago. When that moment comes, I hope I can motivate myself to act, and if I can’t act on my own, I hope someone who cares is nearby to give me a kick over the line.