Chicago has been a wonderful city to find myself and explore new ventures. A field full of creative, talented and dedicated artists, all eager to craft but most importantly all emphatic to share. A knowledge pool that makes a city of highly skilled individuals that care less about the flair and more about the process. A passion for the precision and perfection akin to the Japanese only without the severity of some artistan sacred desire to refine only the process and not necessarily the steps or result. Make, break, recreate. But don’t forget to learn.
I believe that’s what I like most about Americans; adaptability. You can laugh at examples of it one minute, yet find striking genius in it the next. Say what you will, but the bull-headed survival of the do-it and maybe or don’t and die is really what creates progress at the breakneck pace America seems to run at. Often, but sometimes. Alas, whoever rolls their eyes at someone echoing ‘American, not American’t’ clearly hasn’t seen what feats this country is capable of.
America, to me, lives through Chicago. As a City and People, It has spent a decade constantly surprising me. But as a Country it has remained largely hidden. Despite a heavy travel log over my career history I feel as though I’ve lived witnessing this country through the same backdrop and set of circumstances, only with the co-ordinates shuffled.
The same hotel chain, the same strip mall, the same spicy chicken, the same false sense of warmth from the Starbucks cashier as they ask you how your day is going whilst simultaneously ignoring your plea for someone to know, actually, not so great. I haven’t seen much of America outside of what it’s tried to sell me. Which is the cheapest and the most ubiquotous. The monotonous and the bland. The quick and easy. There’s more to it, I know it. But people here seem scared of each other. They seem to want to hide their fragile selves. Or I could simply be projecting. But when I truly get to know someone, they’re as complex and beautiful and opinionated and correct and inspiring and hurt as anyone. They’re as struggled and scarred as you could expect, only in the most unexpected of ways.
When COVID hit, and my family split – I realised the fragility in which we shelter our sacred safety net. We don’t necessarily always love or hate routine, but we cling to it like hell in attempt to find order through chaos. And the lack of control we have regardless is as blind to us as the knowledge of what will ultimately end us. And yet we manage to live quite successfully never really worrying about it. Mortality is sobering when it replaces your Netflix Fantasy Land.
With life upside down and a new found focus on a ticking clock, I’ve decided to witness. For life through a lens is hard enough. Consuming it via the internet is tantamount torture. Producing it for the hope to sell a mass product to a mass audience is demoralising. A picture of a sunset, but not the warmth you feel with a real one. Sell them the idea, never revealing the reality.
I’m not happy with stasis and I worry about losing myself to routine. My Journey to America is complete, now my journey to explore it begins. I’d love if you followed along.