I have always been a city girl. I was born in the big city of Los Angeles, and I've stuck close to big cities ever since, because, well, I have always been a city girl.
Despite never having fulfilled my dream of living on the bustling island of Manhattan, so far in addition to Los Angeles, I've lived in San Diego, Denver, Seattle, and now Chicago. I have always loved the energy of big cities -- the lights, the diverse people, the sounds, and the non-stop activity. And while I know that being a city girl doesn't necessarily need to be juxtaposed to being a nature girl, for me it always has been -- I've loved big cities, and I'm not a necessarily a fan of nature. Don't get me wrong, I love the outdoors, as long as excessive heat and insects aren't involved. In fact, my favorite way to enjoy the outdoors is with a giant piece of glass between me, and "the elements."
Truth be told, the outdoors (i.e. nature) scares me. Open spaces scare me. Dark skies scare me. Nature-dwelling critters scare me. An open road with large creatures with springs for legs jumping into my car's path scare me.
I probably wouldn't have been so anti-nature if every time I ventured into it, something didn't try to hurt (aka kill) me. Whether taking a walk in the woods, a spin on my bike, a hike on a mountain (kidding, I've never hiked!) or even sitting outside on a rock in a forest reading a book, something nature-y is either trying to burn me, bite me, sting me, bristle me or bump me (off the side of a cliff, for instance).
Unfortunately for me I raised a son who loves the outdoors. He fishes, hikes, skis, kayaks, canoes, and yes, (gulp) camps. And because I'm a good mother I have indulged my son with one camping trip per year in the beautiful and nature-filled Northwoods area of Wisconsin. Now, he'll dispute this of course because according to my legalistic son, "staying in a cabin is not camping," but au contraire my child... if I can see slivers of the pitch-black sky through the cabin ceiling, then we are by definition, camping.
Despite the constant criticism I receive for not being "outdoorsier," I have to say that I am a really great sport, and have on many occasions put myself in harm's way in order to make my son happy. Why once I even pulled a large blood-filled tick from my hair, and during one particularly memorable fishing trip I was forced to share our cabin with a bat for an entire week (seven nights, eight days), which quite frankly, was far worse than camping. Again, I may not embrace nature, but I am a great sport (although I did spend that entire week screaming with a towel over my head whenever I had to go into the cabin).
People all throughout Wisconsin know who I am. I am a legend of sorts. I am the city girl who wears yellow dishwashing gloves to protect my manicure, screams whenever a bee (or hummingbird) flies too close to my head, and wanders around the lakeshore with my iPhone held to the sky, convinced that with an ounce of persistence and splash of optimism I'll find that one spot in northern Wisconsin where an AT&T signal meets the ground.
So yes, I am a confirmed city girl, and after 53 years of pining for life in the big city, last September, when my son abandoned me for something called college, I rented my house in the city outskirts (otherwise known as the suburbs), and moved into a luxury high rise in downtown Chicago!
Yes, I made it... I was living the life I'd always dreamed of, and I couldn't have been happier. I was Carrie on Sex and the City (sans the creative wardrobe and cool friends), writing from my luxury city apartment on the 27th floor with a stunning view of city lights. And because I was so excited about every big city experience I was having, I documented every little detail on my Facebook page, so that all 282 of my closest friends could enjoy my newfound life, and understand why I was going to live in the city for ever-and-ever-and-ever-and-ever (and ever):
- September 26, 2013: "Every time my elevator door opens on the way down, or up, it's a chance to meet new people! Hello! How are you? My name is Michelle! I live in a high rise in the city!"
- October 5, 2013: "I love that I get to walk through this exciting city whenever I run out of milk! And look at all of the culture! People from everywhere! I could people-watch forever...!"
- October 15, 2013: "Having a dog in the city is so easy! I just put my beloved toy poodle Abby on her leash, jump on the elevator, and 27 floors later we're out in the world exploring! I'm alive! I'm alive! I'm alive!"
- November 5, 2013: "I get to walk to work! And, it's only 10 blocks! Six more blocks -- look at all the interesting people! Five more blocks - look at all the beautiful buildings! Four more blocks -- look at all these poor souls in their cars fighting traffic while I get to walk!!"
- November 14, 2013: "Oh, and best thing of all? There is no nature on the 27th floor! I'm finally safe!"
Now, while I didn't document my city's fall from grace on Facebook, if I had, it would have looked something like this:
- December 15, 2013: "Every time my elevator door opens on the way down, or up, I want to scream! Are you *@%#-ing kidding me?! Every stinkin' floor?! Does no one take the stairs anymore?! Don't you even think about making eye contact with me! I do not care who you are! I...just...want...milk!"
- December 30, 2013: "Dear all five million tourists who decided to descend on my neighborhood all at once: I don't care who you are, and I don't care where you're from. I don't care that it's the Christmas season. Get-out-of-my-way-get-out-of-my-way-get-out-of-my-way-get-out-of-my-way-get-out-of-my-way-get-out-of-my-way!"
- February 2, 2014: "Come on Abby, you pathetic parasitic beast! Do your business! It's -25 with -450 wind chill! I'm-going-to-die-I'm-going-do-die-I'm-going-to-die!"
- February 28, 2014: "Six more blocks to work -- I can no longer feel my fingers. Five more blocks to work -- I can no longer feel my toes. Four more blocks to work- - (with the snow piling up on my face), I can no longer feel my nose...oh, my limbs for a car!"
- March 20, 2014: "Dear Luxury Apartment Maintenance Staff: There is a spider the size of my head creating an entire webbed-eco-system on my balcony. I'm serious. This thing is prehistoric. Here is a photo. Can you believe this? It's having babies and it's only a matter of time before it finds a way inside and takes over my entire apartment. Please help."
During this summer's annual fishing trip I found myself having a new appreciation for nature. For the first time in months, I didn't have a feeling of anxiety gripping my chest. I purchased an entire meal for under $10, I could get from my living quarters to my car in less than 25 minutes, and I actually found myself relishing the quiet; and something else I hadn't experienced in months - the color of green.
So shortly after we returned, I sublet my apartment in the sky, and moved home. Granted, I'm not really in the country, but I can walk out my front door and immediately be in the wild tundra of my very own unmowed lawn in less than 5 seconds. And I can once again enjoy the conveniences of living someplace where I am completely dependent on my car for almost everything. For instance, I can shop at Target to my heart's content, and am no longer limited to buying only what I can carry on my one-mile jaunt home. And running out of milk (or toilet paper) is no longer a crisis requiring a two-mile round trip sprint.
So what's next for me? Well, now that I've gotten high-rise downtown living out of my system, I believe I am now almost-solidly, semi-fully committed to becoming a hiking-biking-take-a-walk-in-the-woods-critter-loving-all-things-outdoors-nature girl. I have no idea how to start, but am open to suggestions, and even some on-the-ground (or in the woods) coaching. I'm certain that there must be some sort of class I can take, so first thing tomorrow, after cruising through my local drive-thru Starbucks, I plan on perusing my 'parks and rec' catalog in search of a beginner class on "how to enjoy nature without getting killed." It's a new era for me, and all survival tips from experienced nature lovers are welcome.