I’ve realized how much other people affect my actions, and it scares me.

I want to believe that I behave the same way regardless of who I’m with.

But that’s wrong. It’s terribly, embarrassingly, laughably wrong.

Want some examples?

I walked into the gym with a plan to do a few light cleans and nothing else. Once I got there and began futzing around, a few other athletes started talking about doing a workout together. When I saw the workout’s description as the athletes got ready around me, I hauled out some equipment and asked to do it along with them. It was a split-second decision, but I know for a fact that I would have done no such thing on my own that day.

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Moments of Greatness

have heard horror stories about Uber pickups gone wrong. Mostly, I have heard of people accidentally hopping into strangers’ cars and getting yelled at. Welp, I’ve discovered a new ending to the story.

It was evening. It was freezing. I opened my uber app, and three clicks later Jeremy was on his way to get me in a Jeep.

A minute or two later my phone buzzed. So I pulled on my hood, strode boldly out of the Starbucks, and headed straight for the Jeep on the other side of the street.

I opened the door. No one inside.

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I suck at adulting.

At least…I suck at the things that we think of as adulting.

I’m not particularly experienced at being an adult. In fact, a few years ago I remember being terrified of adulthood. I had never been an adult before and could not, in my wildest dreams, imagine myself as anything other than the kid I had been for the past twenty-ish years.

Now that I have survived my first several years as ‘an adult,’ I think that, when we talk about ‘adulting,’ we’re talking about something very specific. Usually, we’re talking about either:

1. accomplishing everyday housekeeping tasks, or
2. keeping up appearances, so we don’t look ridiculous in front of other people.

I suck at both of these things.

Let me count the ways.

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I grew up on some misguided ideas about leadership.

In high school, I looked for a leadership position in every club I joined solely because my admissions counselor told me that “Vice President” would get me into college better than “Member.”

That idea persisted at college. My classmates and I thought leadership titles would help us get jobs the same way they were supposed to help us go to ‘good’ schools.

There are about 7,000 things wrong with that idea (like, what the hell is a ‘good’ school anyway?’), but also, why would a hiring manager care at all that I was an officer of a drinking club with a Model UN problem? Or a drinking club with a salsa dancing problem? Or a drinking club with a Case in Point problem? It’s not an applicable job skill.

And yet, and yet, a competitive attitude about leadership titles seems ubiquitous even after people get out of college.

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In my early twenties, I worked for a psychotherapy media company that sold a video course about psychotherapy for kids.

The course interviewed several baby boomer psychotherapists, most of whom elected to call younger generations distracted, lost, troubled, and disconnected. If you’re a millenial, you may have heard your parents or teachers say the same things about you.

They are wrong.

First of all, these statements are a gross generalization. But more importantly, they’re untrue. And additionally, they’re offensive.

And I’ll tell you why.

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“Do you think he’s gone yet?”

Jared whispers so quietly that it takes me several seconds to figure out what he’s saying. Jared and I had hidden away in one of the rooms in my house, hoping that if we denied human contact to my landlord he would finally leave.
I knew this would happen two days earlier when Jared pointed at the sink and said “Water doesn’t go down the drain anymore. You need to call the landlord and get it fixed.”

Look, I’m no stranger to landlord issues. For crying out loud, the house where I lived in D.C. had the affectionate moniker Manor of the Slumlord. The owner “installed a sink” in the bathroom by carrying a sink into the shower and propping it up against the wall with a shovel. He tried to fix appliances by texting tenants that the appliances were fixed and hoping the tenants didn’t notice that he hadn’t done anything. I have had landlords levy unexpected charges, sell me on imaginary basement laundry machines, and steal my underwear. So, on the whole, my current landlord is pretty normal.

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A city becomes a whole lot smaller after you’ve lived in it for a while.

I felt the beginnings of this process in Manhattan and D.C., but I didn’t live in either of those places for as long as I have lived in Chicago.

I think cities begin to feel smaller as you develop a clutch of places that you go. Your clutch becomes 90% of your world, even though it’s only a small subset of the city. You default to this clutch of places for doing work, relaxing, and meeting people. A lot of the places lie on your route to work or near your house.

This becomes a problem when something sad happens at one of those places. Because now you’ve attached that bad memory to that place. Which you pass on the way to work. Every day. Ugh.

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“It’s a U-Haul, Steve, and it’s going to Home Depot. Who do you THINK is in it?”

When I heard that, I looked up from cranking open the window of the moving truck. Alex lowered the cell phone to grin at me. When the call ended, someone whispered “Steve doesn’t get lesbian jokes.” We dissolved into peals of laughter, our hair whipping our faces from the breeze.

Steve likes civic actions to be planned down to the detail, so he had called us to ask who was deployed on which tasks. We were on our way to get building supplies. We’d meet him later at the build site at Freedom Square.

Tonight we needed several things from Home Depot: plywood, posts, a mallet. We were planning on putting a 15-foot wall at Freedom Square for artwork and community announcements. Oh, and shielding. The wall would shield performances at Freedom Square from the watchful eyes of the Chicago Police Officers parked across the intersection at Homan Square, a facility the CPD has historically used for torturing detainees before taking them to police stations.

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