July was a month for the books. I showed my pride in NYC, ate deep dish in Chi-town and kicked some balls around in DC all while trying to reassemble my life here in Philly. And I gotta say, it was pretty fun.
It’s weird being here now at the end of the month looking back at the beginning to when it all started with a jump. A jump into the unknown, from complacency and comfort to uncertainty and WTF. And it started with quitting my job. My first day of unemployment coincided with the first day of July. And even though I had no idea what the outcome of it would be, I did know that I could control what the next few weeks had in store. A bit of travel. A vacation and a fulfillment of my promise to see more of the States. Cities in my own backyard that I had neglected for greener grasses in countries far far and away. So with no job, no plan and no fricks left to give I bought a train ticket, plane ticket and bus ticket to help fill the empty calendar that was now my month.
First stop: NYC.
It’s become a tradition between my friend Stephen and I to celebrate Pride together no matter which city it takes us to. So I really couldn’t think of a better way to transition into a new month and a new chapter in my books than jumping on the next Amtrak to NYC for a weekend full of rainbows, glitter and everything fabulous.
Though I’ve been to NYC plenty of times before, this time felt a bit fresher knowing that I’d be returning to Philly free of a routine. That freedom came with uncertainty, sure, but it still gave me a bit of excitement to rev my engines in the city that never sleeps. So I hit the bars, saw some stars and threw my cares into the air already filled with the rainbow bright confetti. And it was here that I got my first real push in the right direction. All thanks to a man from the land down under.
It was the first time that I was asked, “What do you do?” since quitting my job that made me realize I had no response anymore. There I was in a bar in Brooklyn being chat up by this Aussie and my only real response was, “Wow, I’m unemployed.” Normally, that would have been the end of it. It would have been for me anyway. Ain’t nobody got time for a scrub. But he took it different. “Nice. What’re you going to do with your time off?” he said.
“I’ll find out.” was my response. And I knew then that I wanted something to fill in that blank of “What do you do?” more than I ever expected I did before. That the question packed a powerful punch, and I wanted an answer just as powerful to return. But I wasn’t going to find it right then and there. I was too preoccupied with beer and the boy from down under to worry about what was waiting for me back in Philadelphia. It was Pride weekend after all.
Back in Philly and back on the job hunt, my new home was Karma Cafe. I rebuilt my site and resent emails to employers and connections of jobs that once were while sipping on chai tea lattes and being distracted by the dogs walking by. The issue was that I had decided to jump ship on my job during the week of 4th of July and offices were at a stand still. But it gave me time to get prepared so that I could come out guns blazing when the ad community decided to wake up once freedom had rang throughout Philadelphia. I found enough freelance for the time being to keep me afloat so I wasn’t panicked. And to be honest, now that I had a few trips in the books I wasn’t really ready yet to tether myself down to employment again. I guess I was just still yearning for the summer vacations that came along with 16 years of schooling. Everyone else was on vacation, why shouldn’t I be? So, with a few more leads in my back pocket, it was off to Chicago. To set foot in the midwest for the first time. And to reunite with my Chilean polola that was waiting for me at O’Hare International.
I’ve heard a lot of things about Chicago, mostly from my friend Sarah that I was visiting. About its beauty. Its buzz. And of course about its pizza. But I’m not sure that I was prepared for exactly how much love I would feel for the Windy City. Like a sudden gust, it hit me on my second day wandering along the Chicago River. This city was awesome! Sure, the Bean, Navy Pier and Wrigley Field were cool, but there was so much more. Boystown for starters. Lurie Gardens for another. And I mean I can say it again and again, pizza. Pizza. Piz. Za.
But what I was truly falling for out in the Midwest was the vibe. It was contagious. Like a friendly New York City. Easy, NYC. I love you, but you’re rough around the edges. And I like that about you. But this was a nice change. And it could have been the razzmatazz leftover from decades long passed, but this city had a certain allure to it that I haven’t really experienced anywhere in the States outside of my hometown of Philly. Which made me question for the first time, was it time to start searching for work outside of the City of Brotherly Love? Could I leave cheesesteaks behind for hotdogs? Well obviously not. But I could maybe bring some Steve’s Prince of Steaks with me at least. Regardless, relocating was for the first time a consideration. And it scared me. But hey, I had already jumped. Why not go for it again?
It was then that I got hit with what I think was my second guide throughout my July travels. This time at a house party in Boystown. I guess a lot of my spiritual guides come through drunken encounters. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is still up in the air, but it was the party host’s mom who had visited Chicago to help set up for the weekend that took the role of my external wanderlust. Apparently she had heard from her daughter that I was the unemployed writer visiting from Philadelphia. She asked me what my plan was and for the second time now I had no answer. Maybe NYC. Chicago or San Francisco. I had no idea. And her answer? Do it all.
I was young. I was not tied down by anything calling me back home. I had a small group of friends that I was introduced to in Chi-Town already that were incredible, and a second family in Madison that were already showering me with cheese and beer. I already found opportunity here, I could find it elsewhere too. “Do what you want,” she told me. “I chose love. I don’t regret it, but I do regret wondering what else was out there besides it.” And it was with this that the anxiety started to kick in. What the hell was I going to do? I had a few more days in the Midwest to play around with the idea. And I had the fortune to spend it with several new friends that were the bee’s knees. So I decided to leave it up to the books. If it was in them it would be. If not, there was still more writing to be done.
My second checkpoint in Philly was greeted with a new freelance gig at an ad agency in Center City. I would only be back in town briefly, with a bus ticket to DC for a kickball tournament looming over my head, but I still was ready to jump on a new opportunity to begin rebuilding my life. And it was going pretty well too. I seemed to mesh well with the team I was working with and the work seemed like something that I could get the hang of. Still, I thought that the answer to my unemployment was a ways off. I had chances on the horizon, but in reality I knew that there was no way in hell I’d be locking something down before summer’s end. That’s just not how this industry worked. It took time. Imagine my surprise then when I was made a job offer by the same agency I had been freelancing with the day before I left for DC. I was ecstatic. But with the recent events that had taken place, I knew I needed more than a day to figure out if this was the new answer to “What do you do?” that I was waiting for. I was grateful beyond belief that it had happen so quickly. But I needed to make sure I was ready to commit. And this was the question that I’d have on my mind during my first trip down south to visit the nation’s capital.
I never knew the fun that resided below the Mason-Dixon line. DC was incredible, and I was there with an incredible team of friends that I had just met at the beginning of the kickball season. We traveled together to represent Philly in a tournament pitting us against teams from Nashville, Raleigh and DC itself. And I don’t think that it was a coincidence that the very same weekend that I was faced with a choice of Philadelphia or the unknown other, that I was also now responsible for defending the city’s name. I was there playing for Philly with a group of people that had become what Philly was to me. And I couldn’t be happier. This was what I wanted. To not only live in a city, but to take that city with me wherever I went. And I started to realize exactly what that feeling meant. It meant that I was on the right track to my answer.
Yes, I could go anywhere that I wanted. Nothing was stopping me. I could be ready whenever I wanted to be. But did I want to be just yet, or was I still discovering what Philly had to offer me. Yes I had fallen in love with a city other than my own, but did that mean that it was the next city to be my home? No. One day I want to try another city on for size, but for now I was still growing into Philadelphia. And the glorious thing about that was that the city was growing with me. There was opportunity at home, something that I had been searching for since I walked out the door of my last job. I’d be foolish to pass that up. And I was not only grateful for that chance, but I was also grateful for the travels that I was able to experience between then and now that helped me realize my answer for “What do you do?”
I’m a writer living in Philadelphia.
So here I am. At the end of July. With a few more cities under my belt and a new job ready to add a few more lessons to my book. I was told recently that “If it was meant to be, it would have been” and I intend to go on believing this. I make my own choices, yes. But I do have to think that there is a reason that I make them. Stuff happens at the right time for the right reason. Whether it’s celebrating a tradition with an old friend, enjoying deep-dish with a lost one, or defending your city’s name with some new ones, I think that every journey one has on the way to figuring out what comes next is crucial in what actually comes next. And for learning that lesson, I’m grateful.
Here’s to a just as eventful August.