Accepting that I don’t like some things I wish I liked

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Chicago River
Looking up the Chicago River

Yesterday was the final day of a conference I went to in Chicago.  Well, the conference was actually in Bloomingdale, west of Chicago.  Since I was making the trip out here, I figured I’d book an extra night at a motel in downtown Chicago to explore and check out the area while I was here.

The truth is that I don’t like cities.  I want to like cities. I see the women walking down the street with their fancy shoes and their stylish clothes.  I see all the crowds of people walking down the street, busy going to some mystery destination somewhere in the tall buildings that seem to reach up forever towards the sky.  And I think, “They must like it here.”

I want to feel excited by the tall buildings, the plethora of restaurants, the ‘things to do’, the lights, the people to talk to.  I do like the idea of all of these things.  One of the hi-lights of today was the Uber ride from Bloomingdale into downtown.  I felt the excitement of going to check out Chicago.  The big city.  Riding in the car, heading down the freeway with the radio playing pop music and seeing the sign for Chicago on the interstate made it seem so open to possibility, like a scene in a movie where somebody is seeing a city for the first time after stepping off a plane and something exciting is going to happen.

It was kind of fun getting my first real Chicago-style deep dish pizza, checking out the giant silver bean shaped sculpture thing in the park, and taking some cool pictures.  But the truth is that I don’t like all the people. It’s crowded.  There is traffic and horns honking. mThe outdoor spaces I might normally enjoy like the river, park and lake shore are packed with people, and while I like people, I don’t like massive crowds of them.  While there is a plethora of restaurants, I only ate at one.  While there are a zillion people, it feels isolating and lonely because they’re unlikely to smile or pay attention to anybody else.  While some small part of me envies those stylish women, I hate walking in high heals and I like wearing jeans and a T-shirt.

I like sitting in my motel room by myself, eating cold, leftover pizza and reading ‘The Happiness Project’ by Gretchen Rubin (which has proven to be a very thought-provoking and inspiring book so far).  I like thinking that I’ll be back home tomorrow with my cats, in my sleepy little town with neighbors I know, without any buildings taller than four stories, and very few of those.  I like being alone in my room writing this post for my blog.

I don’t even know why I thought Chicago would be fun.  I know I don’t like cities… yet, I still have this desire to like them.  I’m not alone in this feeling.  Gretchen talks about wanting to like things she doesn’t like in ‘The Happiness Project’.  So I guess I just have to accept that there are things I’m not going to like.  And then focus on the things that I do like.  It’s OK that I’m happy sitting here on the bed in my motel typing away while the pretty girls outside traipse around in their cute shoes.  Later, I can look at some of the pictures I took while walking around downtown and pretend like I had a good time.

Even though I’m not having the time of my life here, the day hasn’t been a waste.  The thing about traveling to a new place is that you might not like the place, but at least then you’ve seen it and know whether or not you like it.  I have enjoyed looking at the buildings and also just getting a different perspective on life.  It’s also a reminder to be thankful for the sleepy little town I live in and the time I spend out in the National Forrest or similar places surrounded by trees, mountains and peace and quiet.  Then I wonder if many of the people I see here really like it.  They’re not smiling.  Maybe they just haven’t had the opportunity I have to really get to know what it’s like out in the gorgeous places I like to spend my time.  Have they been out camping by a creek in the mountains without another soul for miles?  Yes, I think I’ll just focus on the things that I do like. 🙂

2 Responses

  1. Cities are best, IMO, when you go in with a partner and a plan. Otherwise they’re overwhelming and exhausting. Art galleries, good bookstores, museums, live performances, good shopping, and plenty of food options–I like all those things. But if I’m just wandering around on my own, with nothing specific to do, my tolerance is about twenty minutes.

    Although that said, cities where you can find a cozy neighborhood with coffee shops and fun little stores have their merits. I’m thinking specifically of Portland and Seattle, although San Francisco definitely has some, too. And New Orleans. And New York, for that matter. Hmm, maybe I like cities more than I thought I did. But I don’t like Chicago much at all, except for the Museum of Science and Industry. And when I wind up in a big city, usually for a conference, I’m always happy to retreat to my hotel room and read a book for a while!

    1. I agree that going with a partner adds a lot to the experience. While there are aspects of traveling by myself that I enjoy like doing what I want when I want and not worrying about somebody else, it’s just not the same as sharing the experience with someone.

      Funny, after posting this yesterday, once it got dark I went out for a short walk. I had no destination in mind and mostly just wanted to get outside and stretch my legs for a few minutes. I found myself down by the river, in an area that seemed pleasantly quiet and without any other people. The light reflecting off of the river looked magical, the air had cooled down and was quite pleasant and the buildings all take on a different character at nights when they’re all lit up.

      (I spent a little time there and took some pictures and while I was there one of the boat tours went by and I heard the guide saying that the stretch where I was at was like that because no business had been been able to survive there. The area was right in front of the bottom level of Trump Hotel and Tower, which just happens to be in the center of the picture at the top of this post. I assume the rent they charge is just too high.)

      I started thinking maybe I could like the city after all. And then I walked back up to one of the people filled streets. :/

      I’ll have to put the Museum of Science and Industry on my list for the next time I visit Chicago. I really didn’t do much in the way of planning what I wanted to see this time around and maybe that didn’t help my enjoyment, but I just wanted to be free to explore a bit.

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