Starved Rock, Cream City, and a New Year

I love January firsts and fresh starts. Reflecting, goal-setting, and list-making are acts that have always given me energy as I face down the next dozen months.

But this year, I didn’t bother taking the time to write New Year’s resolutions. That’s not because I’ve given up on the concept of resolutions, or because I’ve decided to lower my expectations for 2016; quite the opposite, in fact. For the first January that I can remember, resolution-making seems beside the point, because I’m already so immersed in the act of working towards big, scary goals, and so committed to the baby steps that need to happen to get me there. As far as taking action goes, I am all in, and I have been for some time.

Last March, I started working on a certificate in financial planning at Northwestern University, a series of seven courses that I’m almost halfway through. I haven’t talked about the ins and outs of my work life in this space, because for many years it seemed beside the point: I was searching for, but not quite finding, a meaningful and challenging profession that I could happily spend years mastering; one that was stable, but could someday offer an outlet for my entrepreneurial and creative energies. There are a number of fundamental struggles of identity that happen in your twenties—too many, if you ask me!—and as difficult as these challenges are to work through, they’re even more difficult to write about if you haven’t come out the other side.

In some small way, I’m on the other side now. Being on the other side may still involve night classes, weekend studies, and the inevitability of future twists and turns, but for now, it also involves clarity of purpose—and after years of searching for it, finding clarity feels like relief.

The single-minded pursuit of a big goal can sideline other aspects of your life temporarily; for me, that’s meant less time for photography, writing, travel and running, and that stings more than a little bit. But Dan and I have kept making time for weekend trips here and there, staying active and creative and never forgetting what we’re doing all this work for.

In October, we visited Starved Rock for our last camping trip of the year, on a rain-soaked Halloween weekend that emptied out the normally-crowded trails. Afterwards, we warmed up with wine by the fire at the Starved Rock Lodge and fried chicken at Rip’s Tavern.

And just before the new year, I told Dan to pack his bags for a surprise trip. We hopped the Amtrak to Milwaukee, drank plenty of Wisconsin beer and ate plenty of Wisconsin cheese, and fortified ourselves for the long, hard, rewarding winter that stretched out before us.

Camera: Fuji X100