Spring has finally come to stay in Chicago and I couldn’t happier. My big coats have been stowed away as the temperatures have been warm enough for just long-sleeve shirts or even plain t-shirts (be still my beating heart). The sunshine has been generous and I’ve taken every chance to be outside. Walking around the neighborhoods, reading on park benches, running the lake path, and even enjoying patio season are now filling my itineraries so fast that I need to hire an assistant to keep track of them all.
The crisp mornings and warm afternoons of spring really inspire something in me. After spending several months cold and inside during winter, spring reinvigorates me and makes me feel more alive. Though I am a fairly ambitious person, I have been a lot more motivated lately. In last week’s entry, I talked about taking steps to jumpstart my career. However, that hasn’t been the only thing I’ve been focused on.
There was a period in my life where I didn’t have the time, energy, or money to focus on hobbies, friendships, or anything else that would contribute to someone’s development as a well-rounded person. I was working over 70 hours a week for an abusive person and with such a chaotic schedule that it was hard to focus on myself and my well-being. My health was declining, my relationship at the time suffered, and it seemed as though no other options were available.
Fortunately, that toxic situation ended over three years ago and I’m thoroughly grateful. My transition after that job was tough, but I got through it. In some respects, I’ve been living on borrowed time since then. While, I think, most people would’ve taken some time off, I hit the ground running and started to focus on things that I enjoyed. In the last few years, I started volunteering for CHIRP Radio, picked up reading as a hobby, volunteered for a few other media arts non-profits, and starting other hobbies that make me happy and diversify my outlets. Since I knew what it was like to not have a life when someone exerted so much control over you, I wanted to live on my own terms and that involved doing everything I felt like I was missing out on.
I recently joined a gym. I talked about hating gyms for years. For the most part, gyms are smelly, overpriced, and you’re surrounded by people who make you more self-conscious. Plus, I like to run outside and treadmills feel so unnatural to me. Regardless, I have now become a gym rat. I recently found a fitness center at a Chicago park near my apartment. For $20, I can use their facilities to work out and improve my health and physique. Having been wanting to make more room for exercise, I found this community park gym to be a nice compromise because of the price and the staff has been so nice. Taking that step and committing to an exercise routine has now become another way for me to live for myself.
I’ve been feeling really good about the life I’ve bene making for myself. No one can ever accuse me of being lazy. I love life and I have a thirst for challenge and experience. And that makes me unafraid to work towards bettering myself. To do that, I’m engaging on multiple fronts. I am giving back to the community when I volunteer regularly, I am looking for a new job that stimulates me more, I am working out to improve my health, and I continue to take music classes to stay creative.
For about a year and a half, I’ve been taking guitar classes at the Old Town School of Folk music. I had wanted to take classes prior, but just couldn’t swing it due to time. Since starting, I have improved a lot. I’m still not playing at the level of Jimmy Page or Frank, but I have fun with it. There are still some aspects I have trouble with. Barre chords, for example, are my biggest obstacles. However, with enough time and practice, I’m sure I’ll get there.
This Sunday will be my class’ student show case. At the end of an eight-week sessions, classes perform on stage in front of an audience to showcase what they have learned. Classes from all skill levels perform one song. For my student showcase, we will be performing “Overkill” by Men At Work. What makes “Overkill” such a good showcase piece is that use of power chords and barre chords. It is also a song people know so that helps when connecting with the audience.
What is really funny is how apt of a selection “Overkill” is when I think about my life and the changes I want to make. Written by Colin Hay, “Overkill” is a worrier’s anthem. In the song, Hay cannot get to sleep because he is up thinking too much about people and situations form his past. Tossing and turning in his bed, he is driving himself crazy. It is only when he walks the streets and is distracted by the lights that he can momentarily forget about whatever is in the past that is bothering him.
I connect with this song because I am worrier. Honestly, I try not to be. In fact, I work very hard not to worry. I’ve realized in the last few years that it takes a while to make meaningful change. And any change worth making doesn’t come easy. It takes time and a lot of work. Stay committed long enough and you’ll see the results.
I felt like I wasn’t in control of my life for the first few years living in Chicago because of my job. Things have improved since then and I am happier for those changes, but I don’t want to take things for granted. We all have ghosts from the past that try to haunt us. You can either let them get to you, or fight them off by focusing on the future. And sometimes, despite all your best effort, they’ll still get you. It will happen, but you cannot stop. Don’t look back.
As much as I love “Overkill” as a song, it is not a way I want to live. That’s why I find new professional, creative, or personal outlets for me to explore. Change will happen and, when it does, I want to feel like I am strong enough to handle whatever comes my way. So, I am making things happen for myself now. I am loving this heightened sense of motivation I have recently acquired to be the best friend, lover, colleague, professional, etc. that I can be. With warmer weather, spring also comes with opportunities. Whether they be new jobs, new friends, new lovers, or new experiences, I feel fortunate that I have the freedom to work towards what I want in my life.