Chicago

What happens when you don’t have a list of things to do; things to see; boxes to tick; all within a limited space of time? You relax and take a deep breath, that’s what! Oh and sleep…apparently?!

I had planned to ‘swing’ by the Windy City because one of my close friends Andrea had his premier at The Joffrey Ballet within a 40,000 capacity theatre!! Sounds crazy right?

I arrived on the Wednesday evening; Andrea’s opening night, so I picked up the keys to his apartment, and had an evening of boredom bliss! How was it blissful Ben, I hear you ask?

Well, I bought some supplies such as $3 detergent, and some Lucky Charms cereal tubs (the ones that are already prefilled for you so you don’t have to rely on your non-existent self-control to measure out portions appropriately). I’ve always wanted to try them. They did not fail me…although I felt as though my teeth weakened during consumption! I ran myself a bath, I did two loads of washing, and I overdosed on sugary cereal. THAT was bliss. I was able to stop, sit, and switch off. Something I hadn’t done since leaving.

I took a walk during sunset and spent some time reflecting on the last week; what I have experienced, felt, and thought.

It’s so interesting how, once you’re removed from a situation, from the core, and take a step back, you begin to see things a little differently.

During my stay in Chicago, I have not questioned my choice to not drink. There were other means available here to help me feel relaxed, to ensure I felt confident, and to sustain a positive and happy attitude. In New York, however, the only thing that you could really do there in order to socialise WAS to drink…To escape the busy streets, you had to take to the busy bars. Chicago felt somewhat different.

I went for a bike ride. I visited the landmarks that Chicago are known for, and luckily these amounted to three or four.

I thought about my time in New York, and I smiled. What an experience. I felt that as soon as I touched down in the Big Apple, the gun was fired, and I was off on this mad marathon; sprinting through the scenic routes towards the finish line. It was insane. Amazing, but insane.

Whilst I was out in New York, I went to see a Psychic who did a character reading for me. For $10 she was to tell me about the sort of person I am, how I am feeling, and what’s the come. I was a little sceptical. A peak into my destiny was costing me the same price as a Krispy Kreme…but go on, I need a spiritual boost, not another sugary one.

She said that I was a creative person (I was wearing a hat covered in badges and a bright coloured top?! Not exact beige am I?). She then went on to say that I have recently made a change in my life and that this change was in fact the right choice that I made…this related to two big decision I made during this last year; sobriety and travelling.

She stated traits about myself which I reluctantly nodded to; stubbornness, worry and self-hate.

She said that the worry will fade over the next few months, as I will be making more positive decisions, and learning more about myself and what I want.

She asked if I wrote. I nodded; my music and my blog being two examples. She added that I had a voice with something to say which others needed to hear, and in time, will hear. Very interesting.

She went on to say that although some people come across as positive in relation to my recent plans, some may speak negatively about it behind my back. On the surface positive, yet deep down negative.

I asked her whether this could be myself. She smiled. During my time in New York, I realised the extensive expectations that I set myself, and how I still subconsciously put myself down. Millie, the holistic therapist, mentioned during our sessions that I continue to put myself down because I was so used to being put down as a child, and due to no-one being here to do it for me, I’ve resulted in taking matters into my own hands and doing the dirty work myself. Self-harm I guess? What a scary word. Don’t like it…but it is!! Grazing yourself with a sharp piece of glass is the same as grazing your self-confidence and self-belief with a sharp butter tongue no?

Back to Chicago…

I’ve always heard very highly of Chicago, but apart from my love for ‘Calamity Jane’, I’ve never had much interest for it. Not in a negative sense; just not in any sense at all. It wouldn’t have been a place that I’d have planned to go to, but I’m glad I did.

I’d describe Chicago as New York’s older, wiser brother. The architecture boasts a beautiful relationship between old and new; iron bridges against white monuments that are light up with modern projections at night; cocktail bars and swanky resturants lining the river bank; and rustic tramlines framing the sky like a crosshatch roof, creating a sort of boxed in feel.

I took a step back during Chicago…perhaps even a leap, so that I could ‘enjoy‘ the space and time that was available to me. Sometimes doing nothing is actually doing something; and that sometimes it is the best thing for you. During the last day in Chicago, I marched out of the hotel room and headed to a little bakery, down a little street, which a little birdie recommended me. They do the best fresh donuts in town. Yes, I said marched, but this was allowed; it was all in the name of donuts and oat milk lattes!

I got back to the apartment, inhaled the decadent dough, and crawled into bed to watch a thriller. The weather looked glorious outside…So what, I felt glorious wrapped up in this quilt whilst being entertained by Halle Berry, with a full doughy belly. Life is good.

I have known Andrea for over 7 years. We met through work, where we were two backing dancers for a band. We were lucky enough to travel around Europe performing together, and the best thing that came from that experience was our close friendship and bond.

I have always been a fan of Andrea’s creativity and vision, and have followed his journey with his dance company ‘201dancecompany‘ (check them out), which he uses as a creative platform to challenge political views and LGBTQ issues.

Last night, in Chicago, I was sat in the Joffrey Ballet theatre alongside thousands of guests, where I watched one of Andrea’s unique and powerful pieces. IN CHICAGO!!?
To say I’m proud is an understatement. It inspired me! Things do happen if you believe in them. Dreams go come true. Hard work and self-belief do create magic.

When we got back to the apartment, Andrea said that, if he is given a platform, he wants to use it to try and make a little difference to the world; A positive impact. He is doing just that. This resonated within me.

I want to make a little difference in the world too. I am going on this amazing experience, and as well as collected keyrings from each country visited (its a thing. I also collected christmad baublesfrom each country but this trip would end with me looking like a Christmas tree if I did that also), I hope to collect key practices and ‘lessons’ from each place visited as well.

I don’t see the point in making a difference in my own world unless it’s going to benefit others’ too. Just like what I experience when in New York…’Happiness only real when shared’ – Christopher McCandless.

Wouldn’t it be great to learn all these lessons, master them, and become the Joe Wicks of self-love? ‘SHINE IN NINE‘, or ‘STOP SELF-HATE IN 28′. Would be great huh?

Right now though, I feel as though my body is telling me to slow down. There is no way that I can focus on my self-growth whilst in aeroplane mode (literally). I haven’t had chance to stop in order access and assess my thoughts and feelings.

I believe that fate has a funny way of letting you know what you need to let go and let flow. As I type this last paragraph, I am on my third plane of the day. This one flying to Sydney, Australia. It was planned and set that I would be stopping over in Los Angeles for a few nights, but things sometimes don’t always go to plan…possibly due to fate, or possibly due to the fact that I am flying on standby so no flight is promised until the last minute. My friend Dustin works for American Airlines, and it is because of him that I’ve been lucky enough to have this opportunity to travel to these amazing destinations, but it comes with a price!

Rather than spending a few days in L.A after my stint in Chicago, things had to take a different turn. As I type this, I’ve already completed a snowy flight from Chicago to Tuscon, Tuscon to L.A, and now boarding my fight to Sydney. My L.A experience has been delayed for another day; but like I said; fate works in mysterious ways, and well, I believe that it’s time for me to stop my travels as a tourist and begin my journey as a traveller.

Bali here I come. It may be earlier than planned, but my spiritual awakening is way overdue.

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