Fear

“I was talking to woman who said that she wouldn’t want to be me for anything in the world. She wouldn’t want to live today and look ahead to what it is she sees because she’s afraid. Fear is always with us but we just don’t have time for it. Not now.”

As an anxious person, fear is a pretty regular companion for me, but not in ways you might expect. I’m usually afraid mostly of inconveniencing people, remembering tasks and details, doing things correctly and the best I can. You know, usual Midwesterner stuff. Keeps me honest. Probably not healthy to obsess over, but I’m working on it.

I’ve been putting that fear to work getting moving details squared away. June 25 is the day we pick up the truck, and with luck, a crew of dudes will show up to help us clear out our place on Sacramento Avenue. Here’s hoping the construction season chasms that have been cut into the pavement in the last month close up for 24 hours or so, or at least long enough for us to ferry a moving truck across to our alleyway.

Finding a sublet tenant was about as challenging as hoping for responses to an ad on Craigslist reading “FREE MONEY, NO QUESTIONS”; turns out our neighborhood is quite desirable right now and we had couples offering us bribes in the hopes of being bumped up the application batting order. Hey, gross. Whatever.

That type of reaction does generate some serious fear of missing out (FOMO) on how cool Logan Square and Chicago can be. We were walking the dogs yesterday and saw the derelict dirt mall on our block consumed completely by street artists determined to send the soon-to-be-demolished building off with creative flair. It reminded me of other art-related activities we have on our Chicago Bucket List, like the Stony Island Arts Bank, not to mention all the record stores left unvisited, restaurants un-brunched at, Spy Stores un-investigated.

But that’s the fear that pulls me out of experiencing the bits of Chicago we know, love, and can see right in front of us. The discovery of a pop-up donut shop two blocks from our house. The aforementioned mall art, and casual conversations with the artists creating it as the dogs tug toward some street pizza. A conversion of half my commute into a six and a half mile bike ride where Chicago transforms from dusty two-flats to chocolate-scented high-rises as I make my way down the hipster highway of Milwaukee Avenue. A glorious (though, admittedly, pollen-coated) walk down Logan Boulevard and around Palmer Square, where Mac looks out for squirrels and Bacon prays that the big dogs stay home for the evening walk.

I mean, we’re missing stuff all the time, but the parts we truly love? We make a point of seeing them at every opportunity. Like Papa Ray’s Pizza, or an iced Hail Mary at New Wave. We just have to appreciate them, and remember them. Also, Chicago will still be here. We can always come visit. Hopefully.

Laurie is really inspiring at times like this because she’s so fearless. She attacked the Madison job market and already wrestled two or three opportunities to the mat, doing back-to-back follow-up interviews that ended with an instant job offer. But even she succumbs to that fear and anxiety when it comes to the big changes ahead. Sure, the time is right for us to make this move, but what about the kids she’s leaving behind? It’s one thing to talk about how poverty affects how kids grow and thrive over their childhoods, but to see it first hand makes you appreciate what it means to live fearing for your safety, or in a situation where your parents can’t keep track of when school is in session because they’re too caught up in trying to survive day to day. Laurie is afraid that she is just another person who means well but is leaving these kids in the dust. It’s hard when you are told to be everything to everyone but have no resources or support and it is slowly killing your passion and you find yourself falling asleep into the bag of chips you were stress eating.

Then there’s the fear we share: is this really what we want? Are we really moving home? Is it still home? Will the new school still challenge Laurie’s worldview, or will she only meet kids that remind her of her own childhood, or will she bring her experiences to bear in challenging kids back home to experience ideas and culture they would never normally experience? Am I tanking my career in higher ed PR to eventually go back to the same kind of work that burned me out in the first place, or am I investing in my skills in a way that will open new doors and opportunities? Are we settling in place, or taking a big and necessary leap forward?

It’s hard to say for sure. In all cases. But the fear is never a wholly bad thing. Sure, it keeps me up at night sometimes. Well, a lot. But there’s just not time for fear to keep us in place. It’s okay to be afraid, but only if it pushes us out of our comfort zone and toward something new. It doesn’t have to be the right thing, or the perfect thing, just the next thing.

So Laurie will be looking at street art, talking to her kids, and thinking of ways to make classrooms in Chicago and Madison a bit more connected, her way of making Madison new and uncomfortable and scary but also even greater than we remember. I need to do the same: I want to be more invested in the community. I want to tell stories that matter. I want to build stuff that helps people understand important and complicated ideas. And I have a lot to learn before I can do it right.

Sorry for the bummer newsletter, but hey, they’ve got to lighten up eventually, right? Oh hey, that opening quote? It’s from Hillary Rodham Clinton’s commencement speech on the day of her graduation from Wellesley College in 1969. A lot of time has passed since then but goddamn, that’s good advice for today. Anyway, let’s lighten the mood and close things out with some recommended verbs:

  • LISTEN to Dickie. We finally got to see Dick and Tina live in May and not nearly enough people in the crowd knew every word from their debut album. It’s seriously great, violin-infused pop that dances along the edge of sorrow and joy with aplomb. I love it. I’m listening to it right now. Bleh writing about music is hard. Listen to it.

  • DANCE because LAURIE GOT A JOB already. Seriously, that’s amazing.

  • BUY a panier, because that’s what you do when you’re living that urban cyclist life. Or pretending you do, anyway.

  • PLAY the reboot of Doom, because sometimes the world just makes you want to rip and tear. WARNING: That link is to violent video game footage not suitable to people who don’t like violent video games, including Hillary Clinton.

  • READ Too Fly Not to Fly, the alphabet of Chicago’s soul. THINK about what it’s like to be a black child in the city reading books with pictures of things you never see or experience in real life.

  • THINGS ARE GONNA GET A LITTLE WEIRD TODAY sorry more Dickie. Check them out, for real.


Anyway, more packing needed, gotta go. See you all again real soon.

Love,
Mark & Laurie, Mac & Bacon