A Philadelphia Love Story

This is a Philadelphia love story. Like many internet love stories, I was hooked before we’d even met in person. I was in so deep; so certain it would be perfect once we finally were in the same space, present with each other.

I was obsessed with you. Showing everyone I met pictures of *that* *look.* I could almost feel you under my fingertips, imagining the smell, the taste – fantasizing what it would be like when you first brushed my mouth.

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I came so close on Wednesday night. I knew you were nearby, but unavailable. I sat with my friends at a table, only a few steps from you. We laughed, there were exquisite flavors and phenomenal table service but in the back of my mind, I was distracted. I’ll own it. I couldn’t stop thinking about you like a 16-year old watching the 3-dots bubble on Instagram, energy restless. I even went to the bathroom at the restaurant, just to lean into the kitchen, hoping for a peek at you, but nothing; leaving with hands smelling faintly of rose soap and eye contact deferred.

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It was fine. I’m an adult. I knew I’d see you Friday morning, so I could wait another 36 hours, right? I spent the next day and a half running my mouth about you. Genuinely, I would not COULD NOT shut up about you. Coworkers asked if you could just come to me – I checked – but no.

Friday came and I was up at 5:30am, throwing my belongings into my 7-year old Jessica Simpson suitcase from Ross, checking out of the Cambria, jumpy with anticipation and nerves. I knew the next hour was going to change me, and baby, I was ready to be changed.

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I called a Lyft. It was a quiet ride over to your place. The driver and I didn’t need to talk at 6:52am. I think somehow, we both knew why I was out that early. I stepped out of the car in Fishtown, breathing in the cool, crisp morning air and trying to treasure a snapshot in time, pre-you.

Pushing open the heavy wooden door, I walked in, clearly the first person to cross the threshold for the day. Inhaling the scents that said YOU. I could hear it like a delicate chime in my head, YOU YOU YOU YOU YOU. Nervously, I walked up to the counter; I couldn’t look the barista in the eye when I asked if you were in. She said you’d be out in 30 minutes, with your coworkers.

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I spent the next half hour tapping my foot, trying to write out my thoughts in a journal while impatiently nursing a hot chocolate topped with cotton candy sugar floss. Shifting my weight from foot-to-foot, perusing the onsite market of spices, fair trade coffee and Turkish mugs. My thoughts keep coming back to you; false starts had me lift my gaze in hope and drop it in mild disappointment each time.

At 7:35, your coworkers roll out of the kitchen, fresh for the day. I try to casually side-eye the entrance, thinking you must be next. 7:50, 8:00, 8:07, 8:15 go by with no one else coming out. At 8:22 I ask the barista if you’d be showing up for the day – only to hear the most crushing words – “oh they’re not in until 9:00 or so.”

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I. WAS. CRUSHED.

It was 25 minutes to the office and I couldn’t afford to be late; I had put in all this work to see you. I told my friends we were finally going to meet. I was mortified. Embarrassed. I left with frustration and shame and rage in my heart – if I had asked for you by name, why did the barista say you were going to be out at 7:30? Why not tell me you didn’t start until 9?!

I spent the whole ride to work venting to my Lyft driver about it; we were on the same page that this couldn’t be the last time I tried. I had to do something else. I frantically texted Adam and Dana, telling them that no matter what, we would be there to see you at 8:59am on Saturday morning. Even if I had to WALK across Philly, it would be worth it. I wasn’t going back to Chicago without you knowing how much I was willing to put into this relationship.

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Work was torture. I ranted to anyone who would listen about you; my Craigslist missed connection. I was Captain Ahab mournfully telling the tale of my romance with you, my white whale. Willing the hours forward, clawing seconds through the rest of the day (and night).

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Saturday morning. I swiped on some lip balm and a beanie, attempting a casual but fresh-faced look for our first meeting. Adam and I drove quietly to your place. Slowly walking in, eyes hopeful. Not there. I stepped up to today’s barista, asking in halting pauses if you’d be in at 9, explaining yesterday’s wound. “Ah!” her eyes lit up; she made us coffee and said you’d be out soon.

Adam and I sat with our coffee, trying to talk about anything but you. I briefly wondered if it would be weird that I brought a friend, but hey, he drove and also, I wanted a witness to this historic moment. I’m almost at the bottom of my coffee cup.

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This has now become ‘a thing.’

People are rooting for us – friends on Instagram, people in Chicago, in Philly, Friday’s Lyft driver – they want to see the joy of our first contact. I’ve been fielding messages for days. Suddenly the barista approaches on my right with you. My quick intake of breath as I thank her for facilitating this moment. My hands, shaking, reach out for you, holding you reverently.

You feel warm. Fresh. Glorious smells wafting off of you. You’re an eat-with-a-fork kind of beautiful. And so I do.

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.

.

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My kingdom, my heart, for this donut.

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— IF THIS SOUNDS FAR-FETCHED I AM HERE WITH RECEIPTS

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Oh, my friends. Trust me.

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Yes, and watch me now.

I’ve graduated from several things. High school, college, CELTA, potty training (debatable)–and today, I graduated from Second City’s Improv Program.

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10 months ago I moved to Chicago. I had no long-term housing, only 10 hangers, and didn’t know anyone. On a muggy Wednesday last August, I sat in a room with 19 strangers and wondered if this would be my tribe.

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Was I right in having moved halfway around the world from Korea for this? Would they get me? When would I eat Korean BBQ again (still unanswered, which is unacceptable)?

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Then…a woman with a foreign accent slammed open the door and shouted “You must get out of building, the roof is on fire!”

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And ever since then, we’ve been stuck with each other. Sure, we’ve subtracted and added some members as the months went on; scheduling and life and new jobs and such, but overall, these people were my lifeline.

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I don’t think I’ve ever looked forward to Wednesdays so much. From 11am-2pm I got to see these stone-cold weirdos, then eat lunch and frantically scribble nonsense for my 4-7pm Writing class, which will continue until August.

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It feels pretty unreal to think that next Wednesday morning I won’t see them. Not Jolie’s I-just-came-from-the-gym-but-I-probably-look-better-than-you-did-at-prom stylings, nor Scott’s this-is-just-improv-but-I’m-singing-this-operatic-scene-like-the-pro-I-am and Patrick’s I-broke-my-kid’s-ankle-beating-him-in-capture-the-flag moves.

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These people have supported me, loved me, encouraged me, let me cry on them (even ugly cry) and championed me in ways I haven’t deserved. We were all just a group of strangers trying to follow our fear or defeat our anxiety or live our dream and our willingness to be open on this journey and love each other has changed my life. Not a joke.

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I promised myself (and my family and friends and the rest of y’all) that I was going to give this comedy thing at least a year. I owed it to myself to try it. To see if it’s a real thing, a true thing, or if it’s a fling.

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I think it’s a thing, guys. And I’m not going anywhere yet.

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Hello, Chicago.

I’m sitting in a Starbucks on Irving Park. In Chicago. I live here now.

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No, really! I do. I am.

I came home from Korea on July 1 and spent 3 jet-lagged, laughing, warm/hot/muggy weeks with my family. I got to meet my giggly poundcake niece, Olivia, take Zoe on a walk to the park, eat green beans right off the vine from my Nana’s garden, have sweaty grass hugs from my Papa, listen to Brianna rap in the car, shoot some jugs full of water in the backyard with Dad, cook all my favorite foods with Mom, watch Em drive and start basketball games and come home from a One Direction concert like me after BigBang’s. It was wonderful.

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Then I flew to Tulsa, hugged a lot of people, ate some real barbecue (MY GAWWWWWWWD YES), and went to Little Rock. Where I then proceeded to hug even *more* people, ate more real barbecue and other assorted favorite foods. Someone tell me why my pants are tighter… And then Michael and I drove me up to Chicago (with a pitstop in BFE Missouri to see Casey & Steven, my favorites), dragging a beached whale of a U-Haul trailer halfway across the country to start my new life.

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So, I’m here. And in less than a month, I’m starting classes at the Second City Training Center. The home of comedy legends. And here I am, a 27-year old woman who majored in Broadcast Journalism at a small Christian college, who worked for the retail arm of the #1 company in the world, who just spent 2 years teaching in Korea and traveling in Asia…jumping off of a cliff. A metaphorical cliff.

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Except I am. At least a little. Right now, I’m walking around my neighborhood, Albany Park (unofficial Koreatown, which is kind of hilarious in the context of my life); learning a new bus system, carrying pepper spray (yes, Dad, its in my bag now). And I’m not scared of Chicago–not smart–thanks to 2 years of super safe life in Korea. I’m scared that I’m going to be bad at this–that I will have romanticized comedy and my role in that world.

I like comedy. A lot. I like performing it. A lot. I love when something I’ve said or done can make someone laugh, in any language. And I don’t know if Second City and improv and sketch writing is my niche. But I feel like it’s now or it’s never for this step–before I don’t have the funds or the ability to go, before I have another person’s dreams to consider or tiny humans who look half like me run around–I want to try.

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So I’m here. And I’m about to try. And I’m looking forward to where this next step in my life is going. I know a lot of you are as well–your texts, messages, calls and prayers are all balm to my heart. They are tamping down the doubt and insecurity that threaten to overwhelm me in a gas station bathroom in rural Lick Creek, Illinois and every time I look at Amy Schumer sketches and think “could I do that?”

So, to parallel how I began this blog over 2 years ago, the night before I left for Korea, I’m taking a deep breath and thinking:

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