Monday, July 20, 2009

The Independent Loner

I recently attended a conference in Chicago. It was a good professional networking opportunity, but it was also quite fun to play in a city other than New York.

I went to college near Chicago, so the city is familiar, though I haven’t spent time there in years. Things came back to me, just by being there: memories of the buildings and streets, my experiences there, and the range of emotions I experienced back then. The flavor of the city pulled me back in time in fascinating ways. So, I plugged around town, visiting my old favorite haunts: restaurants, shops, tourist attractions, neighborhoods. I gorged on stuffed pizza, swung by my favorite non-chain sandwich shop (twice), ducked into a popular but out-of-the-way Italian restaurant, and hunted down several desserts whose taste I’ve been able recall over the years, even from many miles away.

I got my one-week unlimited transit card loaded up and whenever I had a free moment to sneak away from the conference center, I headed into the city... by myself.

My mother would readily tell you that among my first words was “myself.” (As in, “I want to do it MYSELF.”) Yes, I’ve been blessed with an independence and spirit of adventure that have served me well. It got me to NYC, where I’ve had no choice but to go it alone. It’s gotten me a lot of places.

I’m okay on my own. I like being able to decide where to go and what to do, as I please, without having to negotiate or organize or compromise. That’s fun. But this week, I found myself thinking things like, “This delectable meal would be better if there was someone across the table.”

Let’s face it: there’s really no such thing as a table for one. What this week showed me is that I may be independent, but I’m not a loner. I like having people around, at least some of the time, although I like to do my own thing as well. Somewhere in there is a balance that I will have to learn to strike at some point.

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