About three years ago I read a memoir called A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller.
In his memoir, Miller describes his experience of turning his first memoir into a movie and how, throughout the experience, learns all about story.
He learns about character, the story arc, how every good story involves conflict etc. and discovers that he can take these same concepts and apply them to his life.
Equipped with this new knowledge, he makes certain decisions to shift his life in a new direction – he hikes Machu Picchu, he rides his bike across North America to raise money for cancer, he founds a nonprofit for fatherless boys… Ultimately, he finds greater meaning in life by living a better “story.”
Thinking about what I read over the course of two years, I concluded that I wasn’t living such a great story.
“I live at home with my mom, I don’t have a day job, I don’t have a car, I haven’t gotten very far in my career as a youth speaker; what am I doing with my life?
Deep down, I knew there was much more that I could accomplish. I had dreams of making it BIG as a motivational youth speaker, to find my own nonprofit, to write a book, to star in a movie, to travel the country, to meet new people; to accomplish great things!
I YEARNED for a better story.
I knew that if I moved, my chances of accomplishing my dreams would be that much greater. Because, it would force me out of my comfort zone, it would force me to become more independent, to meet new people, to have new experiences, to think BIG…” and perhaps, then I could accomplish great things!
But no matter how hard I tried, I could never build up the COURAGE to actually do it. Because, to be honest, I was scared. I was afraid of what could happen.
I was afraid of the unknown.
“What if I move and I don’t like it?
What if I end up broke?
What if I end up homeless?
Where am I supposed to even go?
For years, fear paralyzed me in place.
I waited for the right moment.
Eventually, I realized that there was NO such thing as the “right” moment. I realized that moving might become the worst decision of my life or it might become the best.
But, I would NEVER know unless I tried.
As career counselors and psychologists Babineaux and Krumboltz put it: “the only way to get ready is to jump in.”
So I “jumped in.”
On June 3, 2020, I moved from California to Chicago, IL.
I didn’t have friends or family in Chicago, I didn’t have a job lined up, I was moving in with two strangers that I met on FaceBook; I was taking a complete and total risk.
But, I also had a backup plan. “If everything goes wrong, I’ll just buy a plane ticket back to California.”
I promised myself that this would be a LAST resort, though – as an emergency in case I end up broke or homeless etc. “I will NOT turn back just because I am homesick or uncomfortable.
Being uncomfortable was the entire point!
I HAVE to make this work.
I HAVE to give Chicago a chance.
It’s been about five months since I moved to Chicago and I absolutely DO NOT have any regrets.
I currently live with two roommates in a three-bedroom apartment in “the heart of Chicago” – Pilsen.
Stepping outside of my apartment, a few feet to your left, you’ll run into 18th street.
Walking down 18th street you’ll be struck by the smell of freshly baked bread from the local panaderia (bakery) by the colorful buildings, the large murals, the architecture, the lights, the crowds of people, the traffic; Pilsen, definitely lives up to its name as the heart of Chicago!
The Pilsen community is also dominantly Hispanic. In Latin America, the culture is family-oriented. So, the people in Pilsen are very friendly and welcoming. -It’s easy to make friends if you’re willing to open up and talk to people.
My first day in Pilsen, I struck up a conversation with Armando at the juice stand a block away from my apartment. I also introduced myself to my neighbors: Sandra and Mike.
On days that I need to finish some work on my laptop, I like to walk a couple of blocks west on 18th street to the Lozano library – just one out of eighty libraries in Chicago (that is A LOT of libraries)! – I am currently writing this post from the library.
I sometimes like to walk to the park across the street from my apartment to sit down and read, too.
One of my fears before I moved to Chicago was that because I didn’t know anyone, I would get lonely. I was wrong.
A couple of months before I actually moved to Chicago, I posted about my plans on Facebook.
My friend Isabel sent me a message a few days after. I met Isabel during a study abroad program in Brazil. We’ve remained friends on Facebook since leaving Brazil but I honestly didn’t hear from her very much (or at all). So, I was surprised when she reached out to me. Even more when I heard that she herself lives in Chicago.
Today, I see Isabel occasionally (she’s a 45 minute drive away from me). She constantly checked in on me as I left California, and for the first couple of weeks after I arrived in Chicago. She even took me out to Connie’s restaurant with a few of her friends, to introduce me to the famous Chicago style deep dish pizza.
I met Ester and Fernando on the Chicago UCLA Bruins Alumni facebook page. We went to Goddess and the Baker Café during my second week in Chicago – I made a couple of runs to the local Costco with Ester, that same week, and she even took me out for a slice of Ube (Filipino purple yam) cake on my birthday.
A week after I met Ester and Fernando, I rode the Green line train to Oak Park, IL to meet Father John and Christian for lunch. Father John is a priest at an Episcopal Church from Indiana and Christian is a web designer from Scotland. -We had Thai for lunch if interested in knowing. . . Christian is a really good hugger too 🙂
I met Alex on a Facebook group. He’s only two years older than I am and is already married, for four years! Alex and I had Pequod’s pizza the first time we met -he gave me a haircut the second!
I also met Josh, Felix, Pastor Keli and Pastor Juan Pablo from Urban Village Church, Natalia from a Facebook group and I even have a new “mom!” – She told me to call her that.
I also work part-time at St. Joseph’s hospital now – I was hired just a month after moving to Chicago. Oh, and my coworkers are great, too!
I haven’t been living in Chicago for very long, so everything is still fairly new to me. And, I still get lonely at times. But I made it a priority to write down 3-5 things that I am grateful for EVERYDAY.
It helps with the loneliness and reminds me that I always have SOMETHING to be grateful for:
- Today I am grateful for a beautiful Fall day in Chicago.
- Today I am grateful for my supportive co-workers and managers.
- Today I am grateful for a peaceful morning.
- Today I am grateful for a nice walk through the park.
- Today I am grateful for the support I am receiving from friends as I transition to living in Chicago.
- Today I am grateful for the reminder that I am not alone.
In all, this is why I moved to Chicago: I moved to Chicago because I wanted something different. To try new things, to have new experiences, to meet new people; to accomplish great things!
And who knows? Maybe great things will happen. Maybe not.
I don’t know.
One thing I do know is that I will NEVER know unless I keep moving forward. ONE STEP AT A TIME.
Here is my advice: if you’re struggling to make a big move: whether it be to a new city or state, a career shift, a new job etc.
Don’t allow fear to paralyze you in place. Instead, make the choice to take a risk, despite your fears, and see where the journey takes you!!
Whatever your risk is, it might become the worst decision of your life or it might become the best.
BUT, YOU’LL NEVER KNOW UNLESS YOU TRY!!!