I sometimes think that if I hadn't moved as a kid from Chicago to L.A., I might have wondered as an adult what all the fuss over Southern California was about. I might have developed a wanderlust of sorts--and abandoned the amazingness that is Chicago. It happens, after all. We've all known the Chicagoan who lights up a bit too much at the mention of Hollywood or Beverly Hills or the storied coastline and year-round sunshine. I'm always a bit wary of such a person. Makes me wonder if he really--I mean, REALLY loves Chicago.
Having grown up in L.A. and then meandered back to Chicago as an adult, I realize that there are life lessons that could only be gleaned from or refined by the setting that is Chicago. I mentioned one in a previous post--about the beauty of riding the CTA--and how it has stretched my heart and mind in a hundred different ways (and how I couldn't have gained such experience by just driving my car throughout Los Angeles and its suburbs). We'll call that, "How Chicago's Made Me Who I Am Today- Part 1".
Part 2 (and these are in no particular order) would be the Chicago Seasons. Yes, it is an entity all its own. The Winter that ravages. The Spring that inspires. The Summer that tantalizes. The Fall that reminds. All of it has helped to make me who I am today.
The Chicago Winter? Come on. If anything puts hair on your chest, it's the ability to live through a Chicago Winter. There is nothing that toughens you up like walking through knee-high snowdrifts or freezing rain--all while holding armfuls of groceries. Or standing at the bus stop as the wind slices through you and renders your wool coat useless. The occasional brutally-cold days, like the 20 below zero day a few winters back, when inhaling became tiny daggers being jammed up your nostrils, while your chest was simultaneously being set on fire.
Yes, a Chicago Winter can ravage you physically--and emotionally as well. But inevitably you realize that you can endure. You survive--and even thrive--and if you let it, your heart becomes tender, as the subsequent warmth becomes a truly treasured gift and you learn to never ever squander a bit of it. Ever.
Then mercifully, just in time, Spring arrives. And just as flowers blossom all around you, hope takes root inside of you. The inspiring hope of what's to come. You've endured, and now is the time to reap. A Chicago Spring grows your perspective. If you were willing, the Winter changed you--and come Spring, you relish life--in all of its abundance. The leaves on the trees and the people on the streets. They've sprung forth from their hiding/growing places. Life. Is. Good.
Summer. Oh, the Chicago Summer. It tantalizes. Enthralls. Envelops you in its bliss. And because you've endured what many individuals would truly not be able to endure (the sub-zeroes, the gray skies,…)--a Chicago Summer feels like magic. Let a warm Chicago breeze wash over you, and you will not want for a thing in this world. No matter what life's circumstances have been, the wonder that is the Chicago Summer has given me immeasurable joy and contentment. So much so that if my days on this earth came to an end during said Summer, I'd have felt that I'd just experienced the pinnacle of "happiness."
And then there's Fall. Which reminds you of what you've just lost--and of what you're about to gain in its place. Plain and simple, it keeps you humble. Because in life, you are not always the carefree flip-flop-wearing kid who sits at the lakeside or the park for hour upon hour people-watching or reading a book. Sometimes, many times, you are the scarf-wearing, glove-toting, practical, responsible person who has to beware of the elements--lest they weather you. Fall is the end of the party--and the beginning of the work.
I imagine that there are those who may say that I give the Chicago weather too much credit. Likewise, there are probably people out there who love the Winter/hate the Summer--and have learned a completely different set of "lessons" from Chicago's seasons. And that's fine. All I know is that Chicago has been one heck of a teacher--and I look forward to seasons to come.
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