For as long as I can remember, I have always picked books over parties, as well as myself over others in the sense I just really, really like to be alone. The silence I can surround myself with is as sweet as any melody that has ever graced my ears as it leaves me to my thoughts, for better or worse. I’ve never had a problem striking out on my own, especially when there’s something I’ve been yearning to do and can’t find anyone to tag along. I could write a dozen articles about my experiences with being let down by everyone at any given moment, yet trying to making the best of it, but I shall pick from one of my recent experiences that ended up changing my life.
Most moments have that sort of effect, especially the quiet ones that creep in slowly, giving you all sorts of feelings you never thought you could possess. In my case, it was an sunrise alone in Chicago.
If you stop reading after this, please take this one piece of advice with you on your travels: always pick adventure, no matter how big or small, over a few more hours of sleep.
I promise it will always be worth it.
A particularly irritating alarm was set for 4 AM; knowing full well I shouldn’t, couldn’t ignore this one. By now, my limbs are screaming as I push the blanket off my body, not yet willing to open my eyes. As soon as I do, I know I’ve made a grave mistake. This may be a strange concept to some people, but when I’m dead-tired, my face hurts. Yes, my entire face feels as if it’s throbbing; my eyes are too dry, my cheeks sore, and my mouth yearning for water. It’s the most bizarre experience, one that immediately lets me know how very upset my body is for being interrupted mid-slumber. Yet, I persist on.
I’m already half-dressed, knowing my mind would fight me every step of the way. Heading to the bathroom, I peek into my host’s room and can’t seem to make out her form underneath the blankets. Water on my face seems to help, I feel a little more human, but I’m still moving as if existing in a dream.
As soon as I finish, I spot her on the sofa where I remember her words to stay awake, and to wake me in the morning in preparation for our trek. She’s sound asleep and a part of my heart leaps. I can make this trip by myself; this will be my moment to prove yet again to my soul that I can do something that seemed impossible to my sleep-deprived self.
I try to gently wake her, knowing she is in no mood to stick with her promise, and I don’t protest much. It’s been a long week. I lace up my boots and head out the door.
The bitter wind is the first thing that hits me.
Everything is dark, yet I’m no longer afraid of losing my way. These streets felt familiar only after a few days. I hurry into the subway station as I see the sky growing brighter. As I wait on the platform, I watch the sky start to take form and I realize I’ve made a huge error. Just as the most beautiful colors for a sunset are right after the sun actually sets, I learned, the opposite is true for a sunrise.
The colors are quickly morphing and I’m about an hour away by train. Running out through the turnstiles, I call an Uber as fast as my frozen fingers will allow and within minutes I am being whisked away towards the city. It’s only a twenty minute ride at this hour, and I tell him if it’s at all possible to hurry. I can’t miss this. Just as the Chicago skyline emerges, the most vivid of colors break over the tops of the buildings, and I am momentarily stunned.
This moment is one I am fully enveloped in, unable to move, not willing to think.
The driver says nothing, and I keep quiet as well. Some things are just better left unsaid. We each have our own reasons for being awake, present in that very moment, and I like to think mine is to make sure I see more sunrises in my lifetime.
He pulls up to Millennium park and I’m out the door as I shout a quick thank you over my shoulder. “I need this,” I say to myself over and over. I know something great, literally and figuratively, is right around the corner. And what a sight. The Bean, or Cloudgate, is standing tall and there is nothing more beautiful than her reflective body. Topping off at three stories tall, I take all of her in from afar as less than a dozen other souls mill about, finding the best angle for a selfie, touching the mirrored surface to reassure themselves she is in fact, real.
I sat and watched the sky turn the buildings behind the bean a soft yellow to a blazing pink, before settling into their normal beige tones. It’s a moment that most of the city is asleep for on a Saturday morning, one in which nature briefly reclaims what is rightfully hers; transforming anything man-made into a spectrum of colors and beauty. It’s during this transformation I realize just how happy I am to be alive. To be breathing in the crisp, Chicago air. Not having to fill the quiet with chatter, not wanting to take out my phone to interrupt even a moment of this, but with this I can’t deny myself.
I am a photographer and this is something I need to capture on camera, phone, and film. I circle the Bean with a camera to my eye, every angle is just as miraculous as the last. Just as I set my alarm for an hour I had never risen before at on my own free will, it is up to me to decide when I am ready to move on. I can take my time, drink in the beauty at my own pace. Sometimes we all need to be a little unapologetic, where we simply decide to seize the opportunity to find and live in moments that will take our breath away. So here I say it, I am selfish at this very moment and I am not sorry.
Have you ever been a little selfish while traveling? What made you put your foot down? Let me know!
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