big girls do cry.

10 Oct

we’ve all done it at some point. and for those of us who live in a big city, we’ve most likely cried in public at least once in our adult life.

during my first year living in chicago i went through the full gamut of emotions, a challenging new job, adjusting to life without my family 20 minutes away, a break-up with a long-term boyfriend. so the tears were more expected then. but as i’ve come to find after living in chicago for over three years, my “city girl” shell cracks every so often; and when it does, it doesn’t seem to matter whether i’m in my bedroom or walking down busy michigan avenue.

take my epic commute home on the 148 bus on march 1st, 2010. the story starts earlier that day. a boy with whom i’d come to be thick-as-thieves told me over grilled cheese and cokes at the diner on wabash & monroe, that he was leaving his job. we’d worked together for two years, over which we’d gone from mentor-mentee, to work friends, to best pals. we were desk buddies, coffee dates, lunch conversation. i’d come to expect his familiar smile each morning, the way he would slide into view across the desk when looking for a chat break, and the seat he filled next to me at our weekly team meetings. and though i knew he needed to move on to pursue a career in his true passion, i felt something jolt inside me as he divulged his news of leaving.

everything stopped. i don’t remember the last half of lunch–paying the check, walking back to the office in a blur. i tried to hide my emotions. i was largely successful…until i got on the bus home. and that’s when it happened. right there on the 148 express from state & lake all the way to irving & marine, i cried. with the rain falling outside and fleetwood mac playing on my ipod, i let down my guard and finally let myself react. i cried deep silent tears openly and without hesitation at the realization that i’d fallen in love with this boy. how could i not have seen it? and now he was leaving, and work would be different, and would it make me want to leave to? would he ever love me back? i cried for all of those hard questions that had no answers on that day. it didn’t matter if someone was sitting behind or across from me. the backdrop went hazy and i finally felt alone and unguarded for the first time all day.

as melissa febos so eloquently states in her op-ed article, look at me, i’m crying, when living in a city, we find ways to make public spaces more familiar, more private. i’ve 1200ft of personal space and as febos accounts, there are times when public space outside the home feels more private than a shared apartment. my daily commute, shopping trips, and afternoon strolls are all shared with countless strangers. yet, to me, they’ve become my “me” time. i’m sure many a city dweller will agree, these are truly moments when we feel alone despite the how obviously public the space.

i’m happy to say that in the coming year i found answers to all the questions from my bus ride home on march 1. that boy does love me back, and we now share a home together. work without my best friend felt different at first, but is much better in the long run. god knows i was chatting with that boy far too much! i’ll always remember that bus ride home. it changed my life.

the privacy we find in public is an endearing part of city life. adapting to our surroundings is a key part of keeping our emotional sanity in this urban jungle. once you learn the ropes of living in the city, home & personal space aren’t just in your apartment, they’re anywhere you can find solitude & quiet time for reflection. a place to feel alone.

be it on the el train or in a favorite cafe, the familiar spots in our routine become comforting and personal; so much so, that when we need, we can let our guard down. sometimes even big girls need to cry.

7 Responses to “big girls do cry.”

  1. Janet Mulloy October 10, 2011 at 9:39 am #

    Interesting how the events in your life, that at the time seem so devastating, end up working themselves out with very happy and beneficial endings =) Everything happens for a reason …seems to really be a reality more times than not.

    Love ya kiddo!

  2. Annie October 10, 2011 at 10:05 am #

    So true about private spaces in the city! It was true when I had a roommate and it is still true now that Iive alone (granted, I have about 550 ft^2 so being truly alone in there can make me craaazy). You are so spot-on here.

    • leaner by the lake October 10, 2011 at 10:30 am #

      glad you enjoyed the post. i’m really interested in the behavioral strategies we set up for ourselves when we live in the city. It’s so different than living in a small or even large town.

  3. Jane Mulloy October 10, 2011 at 10:32 pm #

    Eileen, I was very touched by this blog. What a beautiful story and a lovely ending. You express your feelings so well in an eloquent style. Love, Aunt Jane

    • leaner by the lake October 11, 2011 at 12:07 pm #

      i’m flattered to hear that you liked the story. it’s been one that i’ve kept to myself mostly for the past 2 years. it was enjoyable to write and share.

  4. Dounia October 19, 2011 at 11:06 am #

    This is a really lovely and heartfelt post, and I’m really happy it all worked out! Things really do happen for a reason…and yes, big girls definitely do cry, but we all need that once in a while. Thanks for sharing such a heart-warming story.

    • leaner by the lake October 19, 2011 at 11:38 am #

      i’m touched by your response to the post. this was such an introspective post for me and not something i even planned on sharing. but there i was spilling a very intimate story–one i hadn’t ever fully divulged to anyone. thank you for your kind words.

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