09.01.21 – 8:20 pm
Earlier this evening, I called my Nana to give her an update on my adventures in Chicago. She was not surprised by my answer to the question “What’s your favorite part of the city?” Despite my adoration for the delightful lake, my astonishment with the towering buildings, and the pleasure I take in seeing such an art-centric town, my answer was “the friends I’ve made.”
I’ve been in this city for twelve days now. In a way, it feels like I just arrived. But at the same time, it feels like I’ve lived here for quite a while. I have already developed some genuine friendships, which is the best surprise I could have asked for. My college (the School of the Art Institute of Chicago) is based here, so I knew I was bound to make a handful of good connections. But I didn’t expect to find a tribe of people with whom I would bond so easily. Due to the nature of my chosen career path, I’m a part-time virtual student. I don’t interact with my classmates daily. So to be sure I would still meet fellow artists upon my arrival, I reached out to some memorable folks from last year’s online courses ahead of time, and requested to meet up in-person. Several of them were unavailable or never got back to me, but others were very responsive and notably kind.
To be candid, I have never had the greatest luck with making friends. In my experience, most people have been unresponsive, fickle with plans, or obviously uninterested. I felt like I was doing the heavy-lifting (or really, all the lifting) in many of my old friendships. It was scarce to experience a mutual enjoyment of hanging out with anybody. The few people who communicated reliably and enjoyed my company are still my best friends to this day. I am so grateful for their existence, and the unforgettable memories we have made. But I had a very specific dynamic with them back home. I was the sole organizer of our gatherings, and due to our constantly conflicting schedules, it often took weeks or even months to get the three of us in the same room for a meal. This is not a statement on the quality of my friendship with those wonderful guys; we have honestly shared countless awesome experiences and milestones of life. But I always craved a friend group that could get together at a moment’s notice. I envied those who traveled to restaurants in packs of eight or more, and was baffled at how such a thing could even be coordinated. I spent nineteen years of life never experiencing that tribal comfort… until now.
Before you pity me too much, this lack of a tribe is largely my own doing. I never played team sports. I never joined extra-curricular activities. I was far too focused on my own craft. I have always dedicated a sizable portion of my time and energy toward introverted art-making, and I enjoy it deeply. So I don’t regret the hours spent refining my work, building my brand, and creating KM Productions. Also, I perhaps could have wiggled my way into different tables in the lunchroom, but I usually resorted to sticking with people I already knew, because I’m frankly not a huge fan of the energy exuded by the average high school male.
I think I’ve discussed my backstory thoroughly enough by this point. Let’s discuss the present. Here I am, in a new city, presenting myself to new people more confidently than ever before. In my first few days here, I shared some lovely adventures with lovely people. Unfortunately those specific folks live rather busy lives, so I’m not certain I’ll see them again before departing Chicago. But the fourth person with whom I met instantly reshaped my outlook on my time here. Her name is Renata, and I discovered through a day of conversations and adventures that she is remarkably similar to me.
We discussed valuable life lessons, heavy existential quandaries, wild philosophical concepts, creative motivations, the human condition, and so much more… all while maneuvering through the city doing as many fun activities as possible. It was fantastic to meet someone who shared my artistic ambitions, desires from life, and love of exploration. But this was only the beginning.
Renata, being a natural organizer herself, has formed a tribe of other kind and creative SAIC students. In just the last week, I have been part of some wonderful outings… Bouldering in a rock climbing gym, listening to foreign music, dining at a Chinese place, dining at a Mexican place, visiting a vibrant Mexican neighborhood, riding the train, walking the Chicago streets at night, swimming in Lake Michigan, tossing a frisbee on the beach, exploring the art museum, playing games, engaging in deep conversation, sharing artwork, hugs, and laughter.
I expect the majority of these people have experienced tribes of their own in the past, so this last week may have been simply average to them. But it has truthfully been one of the most memorable weeks of my life. We have some exciting upcoming plans such as a game night, another music-listening event, and I assume many more dinners and walks. I am thrilled to see what the next few weeks hold, and I am unbelievably grateful I didn’t stop trying to make friends after the third classmate in Chicago. In case this group does eventually dissipate, I would like to write their names for the sake of my own memory: Renata, Ana Luisa, Lan, Xia, Josh, Sam, Mikayla, Madison, Lily, and Hong Lee.
As a kid, I craved a certain cozy feeling that I observed in some of my favorite shows and films, which depicted young adventurous kids having diverse groups of compassionate friends. I am now living that, and I simply had to write out these feelings so I don’t forget them.
I have chosen a nomadic lifestyle for the remainder of this year; I’ll be hopping from city to city until Christmas. So unfortunately, my time in Chicago will be relatively short-lived. But I’m already excited for whenever I return to visit, or perhaps even have a much more extended stay in the Windy City. Perhaps I’ll stay connected to this tribe for years to come, or perhaps it’s the first of many to come. Either way, I’m grateful for this chapter in the story of my life.