Sweet City Lights

It’s 12:45 AM, and I feel my feet pound on the pavement.

Thirst took me here, outside of my Chicago hotel room, and onto the street with a friend. We tried to obtain water through room service, but they stated that they wouldn’t have any until 4 AM. When my friend and I asked where the nearest location we could buy some was, a helpful employee told us that there was a gas station five lights down.

So we left. Outside, the frigid air forced my arms to clutch across my chest, and the black skinny jeans and sweatshirt I wore were not enough to keep me warm. I wasn’t freezing, exactly, but the cold made me want to cover myself with a ton of thick blankets. My friend who accompanied me wore nothing but jeans and a white T-shirt, and he managed to muscle through without complaining.

As we walked, completely alone – aside from a few cars passing by – he began conversation and I followed. The shining moonlight and the sweet city lights illuminated our path and kept back the darkness that could have completely ensconced us.

“Follow me!” my friend shouted when we arrived at an empty four-way intersection, and he dashed diagonally across the street. I jogged after him, laughing and whipping my head back and forth to look for cars.

By the time we got to the gas station and purchased our drinks, thirst had long since faded from the forefront of my thoughts. I took out my phone and texted a friend in Virginia, “So I’m in a random gas station with a friend and it’s about 1 AM… what is my life?”

It struck me then, in that moment, what it was like to be unrestrained. I had never done anything like this before. I had never gone out in the dead of the night. I had never walked anywhere without an adult knowing where I was. It’s not like I was doing anything illegal or breaking any rules, but it felt so surreal, like a memory I would cherish for months to come.

Props that my friend made for our Chicago presentation! Proof that I didn’t make up the story.

On my trip to Chicago over the weekend, I attended the National Peer Conference on Tutoring in Writing. It was a fabulous experience, full of wisdom and insight from intelligent and outspoken individuals. Though the thirteen hour bus rides to and from were not thrilling, the laugh-out-loud moments with my close friends and the unhealthy, delicious food made up for it.

We visited the Chicago Institute of Art, and later on my group and I gave a presentation on how psychology can help people tutor. I played crazy card games with strangers and made friends from high schools close by and faraway. I heard about a high school in which homosexuality is pretty prominent and classes are driven by intellectual discussion, which made me drool.

Okay, I needed an excuse to use this picture. Yay for transitions!

But now, I’m back in the basement of my room, writing this with a weird sense of sadness. It’s a delicate melancholy, like that of a trapped bird given a taste of freedom, only to have its wings clipped and its body held in captivity. Already, my mother has lashed out at me, but it’s not that that bothers me – it’s that I could be, I was somewhere so much better just hours ago.

It’s strange, because I’m aware of how much worse others have it. I know that I should be thankful for the opportunity to get away for once, to escape and effusively enjoy life. I am thankful, really, because where I am – where I always have been – has made me appreciate the city, and cultural diversity, and areas which aren’t conservative.

Still, I am selfish. I want to get away. I crave for change, more so for others than for myself, but I want to fully feel what I’m fighting for. I want to walk outside and go to museums and talk to intellectual people without fear. I want to express myself and scream in the streets and love out loud. This is why I need to focus on college applications and learning as much as I can now, to fuel the fire of my power by feeding my desire for knowledge.

One day, when all is said and done, I will go back to those sweet city lights.

This post is inspired by this song and my desire to share how sensational the past few days were. Has anyone else been to Chicago? Does anyone live in a city or want to? I’m contemplating whether I should for a couple of years after college. Now, I am off to an unmoving mattress and sleep!

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22 Comments

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22 responses to “Sweet City Lights

  1. Tommy

    I went to Chicago just last April for an orchestra trip! It’s buildings and the general hustle and bustle are enough to give it an aura that’s far more uplifting than anything we could experience back home. I trust you’ve been to see the Bean as well? I understand how you feel coming back home – like being thrown back into a rut, or possibly even like returning from Gov. School. It’s good to know that you’ve been able to have your escapades though. I hope you’re doing well, only one more year!

    • Yes, I did see the Bean! And I feel like you’re one of the few who really empathizes with the way I feel, because you’ve lived in VA before – it felt quite similar to returning home from Gov School. On the bright side, it’s great knowing that there is hope out there and that there are people who are ambitious and intellectual.

      You’re right, one more year! We have to keep in touch in regard to colleges and what not. (:

  2. Elaine

    All I can really say to this post is yes, yes, a thousand times yes! I’m so happy for you, in that you got to experience that illuminating openness to diversity. It’s awesome, isn’t it? Cities just provide more of an opportunity for, er, everything, I suppose. The conference sounds very cool, too!

    P.S. London is my city of choice, so in the future when everything works out (there are no ‘ifs’ about it), you’ll just have to come visit me, heh 🙂

    • I know, the disparity of diversity between where we live and cities is just eye-opening. I cannot wait to experience more of the culture and the people who inhabit them.

      I will definitely visit! Whenever I think of you I see “study abroad” flashing in big red lights. 😀

  3. I can’t say I empathize with you 100% but I do to some extent and I’m happy that you got some ‘real’ time away for yourself however fleeting and I think holding on to it will fuel your drive even more, no? I definitely think you should go after collage. The diversity is especially appealing. Cities in themselves are like almost self contained worlds, bursting with a variety of textures, colours, scents, flavours and sounds! Each city in its own way different from the next and here I believe that saying applies: Variety is the spice of life, and we all need some of that in our cupboards.

    I’m a country girl and I’ve been to NYC (but never to Chicago) a few times and what I notice is this overwhelming sense of freedom. Even little old me felt a part of the bloodstream of the life pulsing in the streets, belonging in a huge crowd of people so different from each other and our difference is what we have in common. I just feel in love with that notion as much as I love the thought of city hopping someday 🙂

    The bird is still free in a cage with his wings clipped because that prison hasn’t shackled his mind and as long as that bird can hope and dream, the sky’s the limit because he’s got a will of his own and that is essential. Thomas, life has tons of things to offer you and there’s no reason for you to be deprived of them so I feel that even though it’s not going to be a smooth ride it’ll be a satisfying one 😉 (though I still have my fingers crossed!)

    • P.S: I found that Cyanide and Happiness clip is just HILARIOUS!

      • I completely agree with your analysis of cities! They are like self contained worlds, with so much to offer and so many different people who inhabit them. The variety is indeed appealing and might be the number one factor as to why I would like to live in a city one day. If you decide to travel to a city one day – which probably wouldn’t be too difficult for you – maybe we’ll see each other! (:

        Alas, I agree with the bird metaphor. It will not be a smooth ride, but the best things in life never come freely. A quote from one of my favorite movies, An Education, supports this. The main character says “The life I want, there is no shortcut.” And that’s what I believe in exactly.

        I find the Cyanide & Happiness comic humorous as well! It’s accurate too. Thanks for reading and commenting, I hope your studies are going well!

  4. It’s times like those that make you crave college! The unrestrained life is so close! Haha great post though!

    • Exactly! Reading and studying in my university’s library and taking advantage of its surrounding area sounds wonderful. Thank you, and thanks for reading and commenting!

      • I was so excited when I visited my college’s library and saw how peaceful it looked. I just cannot wait to spend hours upon hours there! No problem either! I thoroughly enjoy reading your blog.

  5. I have never been to Chicago, but but it seems very lovely. As for me i have been to Los angeles, Hollywood, Santa Monica, Long Beach, and los vegas. I love the city so much, there is always so much to do and the malls are great x) I live kind of near the city so its not that bad. The only place i have left on my list to vist is San Francisco! Other than that i have been in every big city here in California. Whats the biggest city in you’re state sir? And have you ever been to California?

    • Wow, you’ve been a lot of great cities! I’ve only been to California once, and that was when I was really young – I would like to go there again some day, perhaps to entrench myself in how liberal the atmosphere is and how there are many gays there (from what I’ve heard, and compared to other places in the US). As for my state… I live in a not-so-exciting state on the east coast, so there aren’t many cities, unfortunately. Definitely not any big ones.

      Thanks for reading and commenting, as always!

      • I think you would love California very much, the weather is great and we are a very gay friendly state. Maybe if you ever do decide to vist I can show you very populate gay hot spots, if you would like c:
        What i love about California is that we have a very strong and connected LGBT community, and we will make you feel safe and right at home. If you dont mind me asking, where are you from sir? Well until then bye~

        • Reading your comment makes me wonder how different my life would have been if I had been born in California! I’m glad that such a community exists. I’m from Virginia, so we’re on opposite sides of the country – while it’s unfortunate that my area is not as friendly as yours, it’s cool that we can communicate via the internet. (:

  6. Well for one you would have some kind of a tan x) there is no escaping the sun here, but thank god its not burning hot. I think you would enjoy it very much, You will be able to mingle with a lot of gay people like me and you. But the pride parades are the best and so much fun! I wish you could come down and feel free and equal like I do♥ Do you know of any gay people in your town or have any gay friends, around where you live? c:

    • Well I am already tan due to playing tennis in the spring, but I have never ever heard of any pride parades taking place where I live – what a grand concept! And to be able to mingle with actual gay people, that’s impressive (if I sound like I’m being sarcastic, I’m not.) I know of maybe one other gay person where I live, but we’re not too close. I don’t know of anyone in my grade who’s openly gay. It shows how different our settings are, doesn’t it?

  7. Aww, you play Tennis as well, Do you play for you’re schools tennis team or for fun? Sorry for getting so off topic. I just love tennis and I play for my schools tennis team, One day I’ll challenge you to a game sir x)
    Oh, yes our lives do seem different. Sorry if I’m getting personal, but do you ever feel alone being gay in a town like the one you live in? Like with me at times I do feel lonely but then remember that there are other LGBT members who are there for me if I ever need a shoulder to cry on.
    Thomas, I hope that one day you will be able to feel the love that I’m trying to explame to you, from other people around you who has felt you’re pain by experiencing a mother or father not accepting who you are, or who has been mistreated for loving who they do. I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging, I just really wish for you someday in the future to move to a city where being gay is ok. Because when you start feeling free and in control of you’re life, that’s when you truly starting living it. Have a lovely fabulous day Thomas.
    Until then, love Brandon~

    • For the past three years I’ve played for my school’s tennis team as well. We must play together one day! I haven’t touched my racquet for quite some time because of schoolwork, I’m craving some ball.

      I don’t mind getting personal, as this blog is me pretty much putting myself out there for all to see. At times I feel a little lonely, but not really – I have wonderful friends who are very supportive, and I have this blog to write on, of course. I always keep myself occupied with schoolwork, outside of school activities, and reading and writing so that I can keep my mind sharp so that one day I can make a difference.

      You don’t sound like your bragging, if I was in your position I would do the same! In a way I’m glad I grew up where I did, because it’s given me the chance to see how badly some areas are when it comes to intolerance. It really needs to change, and I want to be a part of that.

      I hope you’ve had a great week, and have a wonderful weekend, Branden.

      • Wonderful, I do hope we get to play a game someday. As have I, I have not played tennis in over six months and I have been craving to play as well.

        I’m glad to hear that you are so strong. And I do know how you feel about you’re friends being there for you. If it wasn’t for my friends I don’t think I could have been as confidant and proud like I am today. I think it’s funny how we can live so far from each other yet be so alike. It’s as if i have known you forever, because I find it so confirting and easy to talk to you mister.

        I do hope it gets betting for other LGBT people around you’re area and for every other LGBT person around the world. I do hope you get to open minds and be a big change in your city.

        Thank you, have a fabulous weekend love~

        • Yes, the internet does have its advantages! Connecting two people from across the country who are quite similar happens to be one of them. And I agree, hopefully Virginia and other conservative areas learn to be more accepting and open toward LGBT individuals.

          Hope your weekend has been splendid!

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