Just This

Staycation 2016

This time last year, I was just returning from  a minitour of Europe, ten incredible days spent eating and walking and drinking and touristing in Reykjavik, London and Dublin.

My how things change.

This year, I’m on a break again, albeit under much different circumstances. Transitioning from one job to the next, I bought myself a bit of time in between to take a breather, something that doesn’t come around very often when you’re a working stiff just trying to get by.

I thought about taking a quick trip somewhere, finding a cheap flight and a comfy Airbnb near a beach for a few days. I was actually very close to booking a getaway to the Keys, but when I couldn’t price it out for less than $700, I opted out. Instead, I decided to make the most of more than a week on my own turf.

My departure from my previous workplace was odd, to say the least, so I let myself off the hook from doing anything specific over the weekend. I knew I needed a day or two to hibernate, to veg out and get my head in a better place. Thankfully, the weather cooperated, and I enjoyed a couple days in my own space, away from the clouds and rain and cold outside.

I’m still me, though, so I definitely spent some of the time plotting out what all I’d like to do with myself over the course of the week. From projects around my apartment to sites around Chicago, I created a healthy go-to mix of ideas to keep me busy and productive as I prepped for what’s next.

By Monday, I knew I needed to get out into the world. With a voiceover audition set for mid-morning, I got myself up and going at a decent hour. Those auditions never take too long, and I wasn’t ready to head home again, so I started walking. Some of my best days in New York were the ones where I went out without a clear idea of where I was headed, and I found myself transported back to that frame of mind as I walked through downtown, not quite sure where I was headed. Eventually, I jumped on a Divvy and made my way north to Lincoln Park, wandering the Zoo and Conservatory.

As I started to head north towards home, I sidelined to Target. High on my list around my apartment was getting curtains hung in my bedroom; I just needed to find the curtains first! As I am physically incapable of spending less than $100 at Target, I left with curtains, curtain rods, a decorative jewelry holder and I don’t even remember what else. It was a good trip.

So Tuesday became my project day, as the curtains went up in my bedroom. (Audrey was a huge help.) I also got around to framing a bunch of pieces I’d been collecting the last couple of years and actually hanging them on my walls. It’s taken some time, but little by little my apartment is filling out, looking more lived in – and more mine – than ever.

Not gonna lie, one major highlight of my week was Wednesday, a day with plans that did not extend beyond bingeing the Law & Order marathon featured on Ion TV. Without cable, my television options are limited already; add in the fact that L&O is the one series that is not streaming anywhere (trust me, I’ve checked), and I make no bones about the joy I took in spending the day with Jack McCoy and his team. So good.

I returned to the world on Thursday for enough socializing to make up for what I’d missed the day before. Midday, I met coworkers (and friends) for lunch, taking advantage of my day off to put our name in for a table at the always-packed Au Cheval. If you can’t use your staycation to try the best burger in America, you’re doing it wrong. That evening, I made it out to Opening Night at CineYouth, a first chance to see some of the year-round activity from Cinema/Chicago and meet my soon-to-be coworkers.

It wasn’t until Friday that I realized my week of #funemployment was nearing an end. The plan was to head into my new office for a few days starting Monday, so I needed to get in a few more great adventures while I could. Thankfully, I got to tag along with a friend and her pre-schooler on a field trip to Brookfield Zoo. This time the weather played out perfectly and we enjoyed a sunny day chatting, catching up and checking out the animals.

It just so happened that my staycation wrapped up the same weekend as my nephew’s First Communion, an event I’d known about for months and planned for with a rental car for the weekend. The ceremony was lovely, the party after was a treat but my favorite part was the three hour drive there and back. Windows down, music up, nothing but the Interstate in front of me. I swear I don’t miss having a car at all, but apparently I do miss solo mini road trips.

I got back to Chicago in time for the theater, having snagged a ticket to The King & I on the cheap. Though it meant delaying the week’s episode of Game of Thrones (so good), it was a really lovely way to end a really lovely week.

Though I didn’t spend the time lounging on the beach somewhere with a strong drink and a good book, I did find a successful mix of self-care and productivity that was more of what I needed in the end anyways. What’s more, I felt myself coming back to myself. The last few months had been so draining, I didn’t realize how far I’d strayed from the me I like best.

By the end of the week, I was waking up at 7a without an alarm. I was meal-planning like I haven’t in ages, cooking at home and trying new recipes. I was hanging the aforementioned curtains and art. I was seeing films and writing blogs and catching up with friends. I made the time, thankfully, to let go of all the weight of the last several months and to remember what it is I love about me, about the life I’ve crafted for myself, and all that the future has in store.