Autumn has finally come to Chicago. The cold, gray weather and shrinking days encourage a transition to more indoor pursuits, which brings us to this blog. It's been a few years, but I want to share my thoughts with the universe again. The past year in particular, I've done a lot of observing and reacting to things in my life, but not a whole lot of writing about it beyond occasional emails to the family back east.
The "Uncanny Valley" is that space where a recreation of a human looks just lifelike enough to be scarier than something obviously fake. It's why people are afraid of zombies, and why we hate those stilted robotic voices from phone touchtone menu systems. This month, I've noticed a similar effect for climate. Chicagoland is just enough like New England that I keep expecting things to happen that don't, like nighttime choruses of spring peepers in May, or the trees turning in September to mid October. Instead of a nocturnal amphibian chorus in the spring, we get cicadas beat-boxing all summer through September. Instead of the trees turning to living flame by mid-October, we're only now getting around to seeing the earlier leaves turn yellow. Other places I've lived, like the Southwest or the Pacific Northwest are so obviously different than New England that there's no expectation that the seasons will act the same.
On the other hand, it could just be homesickness filling in the blanks. Thirteen months in to living in this big, crazy city I've only made a handful of friends, and that's mostly been through work. Night shifts are an absolute bitch as a long term thing. Your diet suffers because all the healthy food places are only open when you're asleep. Your social life withers because everyone else is asleep or at work when you've got free time. It even makes simple things like getting packages delivered to your place needlessly difficult. Between the isolation in the midst of millions and my unease about the weather it's taken me this long to put into words, I don't think I've ever been totally comfortable here. Even my happiest moments here have been tinged with loneliness and wishing I was somewhere else. I could be having a relaxing summer day at the beach, and all I could think about was how it felt like I had a cold because I couldn't smell sea salt wafting off the water.
I think the biggest issue is that I am not, at heart, a city person. A lot of my friends and family would be happy to live in a major metropolis for the rest of their lives - one of my friends has spent his entire life here in the windy city and has no plans to leave - but not me. I start to feel caged in if I go too long without being out in nature, especially without being able to see the stars at night. I went up to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan last month for a few days of backpacking through swamps and over mountains. I almost cried the first night, when I could see thousands of stars shining through the trees. There are less than ten stars visible in the entire sky at night in Chicago.
No, ultimately I'd be much happier if I flipped my hours around to day shift and I could telecommute from a house in the forests of Colorado, New England, or the Pacific Northwest. That holds true even if I was telecommuting to this same support monkey job, managing overpriced, underpowered hardware for people who probably shouldn't be allowed to own scissors, let alone servers.