I Will Not Be Growing Old In the Midwest
Three years ago this week, I sold some childhood posessions, left a letter on the table, and hopped a train for Seattle. The Emerald City has held a place in my heart and my imagination for nigh on a decade now. I daydreamed about living there with CC when I was a 16 year old with more hormones than sense. Seattle was my "next year in Jerusalem" while I slaved away at a keyboard on my CS homework in college. It wasn't until 2012 that I was able to make my first attempt at living there, and only job hunting struggles combined with a death in the family drew me back home to New England.
On that fateful journey across the continent, I was stuck in Chicago for half a day. My oversized backpack and luggage, containing all my worldly possessions, didn't make for easy tourism, so I mostly hung around Union Station and killed time until my train came in. The minute I was able to, I dashed over to the platform and found myself a seat for the ride into the sunset.
In a very real sense, those three days on Amtrak were a microcosm of what my life was to be for the next two years. I struck out westward on my own once again two years ago, this time in Chicago to live. I have put a good face on it for my relatives, but the truth is, I've never really cared about putting down roots here. These last two years have been nothing but an extended layover.
That's where powerleveling comes in. Powerleveling in a video game means dedicating a large chunk of time in the game doing the most tedious, boring stuff ad infinitum, to ease your character's way through the next difficult stage in the game. Victory Road in Pokemon, or collecting heart pieces before the final boss fight in a Zelda game, are classic examples of powerleveling.
That's what I've been doing here in Chicago. I vowed after my last attempt at Seattle to never move to a new city without finding a job again. Living in a hostel and working minimum wage was an interesting experience, but never again. I went from unemployed to on the high side of the median personal income, got a nice set of wheels, and found a job that lets me telecommute from anywhere in the country that has a decent internet connection. Every step of this has been in service of my ultimate goal in getting the hell out of Chicago and back to Seattle. I expected to spend three or four years here before I got to this level, but I'm certainly not going to look a gift horse in the mouth.
This is why my apartment still looks like a temporary crash pad. This is why I never tried too hard to date or enmesh myself in a social network here. This is why I resisted getting Illinois documentation and proof of residency until the last possible moment. The day my lease runs out this spring, I intend to be ensconced in my new place in Seattle.