My desktop wallpaper at home is a picture of a winding road and the caption: "If I quit now, I'll soon be back where I started and when I started, I was desperately wanting to be where I am now."
It's fairly incredible how quickly our expectations adjust to a new normal and we find average, boring and even not-good-enough what would have just a year or two before seemed miraculous.
In 2011 when I was working for $14 an hour in a condo office on upper Randolph I used to be grateful for my tiny screen since it meant my head almost entirely covered anyone's view of it from behind. You couldn't see the hours I spent each day on Reddit trying to stretch the minimal work I had to do over a full day. I was bored, unsatisfied and, worst of all, feeling like I had no control over my time or my life. Like I was standing in a ditch next to the tracks watching the train go by wondering how I fell off and whether I would ever get back on.
It seemed like my life was less than it should have been. I was ashamed in a small quiet way of what I was doing with such a powerfully supportive family, an excellent education and all the privilege the world could muster.
Things are different now. For the last 2 1/2 years I have been comfortably working full time as a freelancer. Between voiceover, running events and professional presenting and corporate training I make a surprisingly buoyant income. I control my time which means: I can easily and immediately make time for the things that matter to me.
One of those things is definitely tacos.
Sure, it's not top ten, but for myself and the other people I know who control our own schedules we don't often enough celebrate the incredible lifestyle we enjoy. We've adjusted to our new normal and though our younger selves would have found this lifestyle indulgent, dazzling, free we still manage to reset to complaining about the same stuff that would have exhilarating us just a few years ago.
Hence tacos being a priority.
Big Star is located just a block or two off of Wicker Park's six corners intersection. It's quarter block of street side patio is perennially full anytime the temperature is above down-jacket weather. They make small artisanal tacos and serve margarita pitchers, draft beer and whiskey shots. Food is served on communal plastic platters like your childhood summer camp. Food arrives fast and tables turn rapidly. They are cash only and their sheer volume of business is like a best case scenario fantasy for owning a restaurant. I imagine all the servers and bartenders shoving their cash into tubes that drop down to the basement where a Scrooge McDuck style cash room overflows with tens and twenties. There are guys down there shoveling the money into wheelbarrows and a room full of cash counters like a Colombian drug den.
Getting a good table on the patio requires a wait anytime from 4p to close. Got a bunch of friends, need a bigger table? Join the throngs of other 20 and 30 somethings at the bar shoving cash at the bartenders to get a drink while they wait.
Except, EXCEPT, if you can come at 1:30p on a Tuesday. While the rest of those 9-5ers sit in their frigid air-conditioned office trying to shake the post lunch food coma.
You sit in the sun and acquire a decidely unusual midday buzz. The server's not rushing you out, cause there's no one to take your place. Have another round, hang out. And remember, in this small brief moment, how unique and special your life is. How miraculous it is to look around and acknowledge progress- positive change that we actually intended. Life is rich and full and unique in this moment.