It’s been two years since I packed up my little black Rav4 and headed to Chicago from Metro Detroit suburbia. I had 700 dollars, no job, and no clue as to what was ahead of me. Nonetheless, I kissed the room in my mother’s house (and my mother) goodbye, got into the driver’s seat and blasted ‘Soar’ by Christina Aguilera. What? Yep, you heard me. I once soloed ‘Reflection’ from the Mulan soundtrack at a middle school choir show. I was dubbed “Christina” for the rest of my middle school days and I never once complained.
The point is that I cried my eyes out when I left home. I cried like someone was going off to war, like someone died. But, maybe someone had died that cold January day. Maybe I said goodbye to the person I was and birthed a whole new person. Maybe I’m just two years old in reality but I weigh 130 pounds heavier than a baby. I don’t know.
What I do know is that Chicago has been the best relationship I’ve ever had and it’s probably because moving here has taught me the importance of having a good relationship with myself. Learning to love myself continues to be the hardest struggle to overcome. Twenty-five extra pounds, a serving job and no definite future were not how I pictured my life at 27. Oddly enough, I’m not mad about any of it — at all.
My plan was to find a job in advertising or marketing, having just graduated with a communications degree three weeks before arriving in the city. I did some acting in my spare time, but I was always skeptical when it came to the idea of making it my career. I was afraid to commit to it fully despite having been a stage actor for over 12 years.
After a few job interviews, I had a serious epiphany. I didn’t actually want to sit at a desk and work nine to five. I wanted to ACT like I was sitting at a desk like Jon Hamm in Mad Men or Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada or Steve Carell in The Office. I wanted to do so many things. I wanted to be a social and political activist, a journalist, a fashion stylist, a musician, a lawyer and I wanted it all in the most romantic form I could possibly imagine: a film.
The pressure of being a professional slipped right through my fingers. I was going to have to be okay with my decision to stop job hunting. I was going to have to be okay with attending family gatherings and explaining that I wanted to be an actress. All of a sudden, I couldn’t remember why it had taken me so long to come to this decision in the first place.
And then, a funny thing happened. Once I started to believe that my dreams were tangible, so did everyone else. I booked an agent and my first role within six months. It hasn’t been all butterflies and rainbows and I’m not certain it’s supposed to be. It has to be real and it has to be true to me and who I am.
I’m single. I’m a waitress. I’m an actress. I’m a size six and sometimes an eight. I’m okay with all of these things and I’m happier than I have been in my entire life. I learned that loving myself and believing in my decisions was the key to opening up a whole new world of opportunity. I feel so much clarity and it feels damn good to know where I’m at and where I want to be. I became a woman who stood by herself in this city and for that, I am thankful. Happy two years, Chicago. I love you.