An ode to picnics with friends!

I just got home from my fourth – and possibly my last – picnic of the Chicago New Music Monday concert series of 2011. I’m filled with a strange swirl of emotions. I’m happy…to be done with school, to see the loved ones I’ve missed back in New York, to move on to a new, as-yet-unknown phase of my life. But I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t some sadness in the mix too. I’ve grown to love this city, this crazy amalgamation of midwest-meets-metropolitan, old-meets-new. I am starting to really love the place I’ve reached mentally, for the first time in my young life. I’m not done exploring. School has had its ups and downs but all else aside, it has allowed me time to explore, to find new things, learn about life and myself.  There’s a part of me that is afraid that all of this new knowledge will vanquish once I return to New York…..or more accurately, once I return to full-time working, full-time bills. For all my complaints, grad school has been a vacation from real life in so many ways – a vacation I’ve grown to love deeply and I’m so afraid to watch it slip away through my fingers.

We had quite the spread tonight in Millennium Park, the first one of the year in which I’ve had such little interest in the music. I just wanted to be with these people, these fellow graduate students and friends with whom I’ve made a journey of some sort these past few months. I wanted to sit in the sun on this slightly chilly night in our cardigans, on our blankets, sipping champagne and eating the shared picnic we’d created from Whole Foods and the slowly emptying contents of our refrigerators. I’m trying to finish all the perishables left in my freezer and refrigerator before I head back to New York in a few days to see my loved ones briefly and then venture off on what will surely be an amazing vacation followed by, well, who knows?  This clean-out attempt led to an interesting picnic — edamame-quinoa pilaf, chips and salsa, prosciutto, sun tea, champagne, raspberries that were drastically on sale at the grocery store and a bag of frozen peas to keep it all chilled.

It was a glorious picnic. Lauren and her boyfriend had brought a roast chicken and a salad. Clarisa brought pate, more chips, guacamole and strawberries. Shalaeigh and her sister brought non-GF cupcakes. Meaghan brought beer. And while the summer evening could have been much warmer, it was still comfortable enough to sit outside enjoying all the sounds, sights, smells and tastes that surrounded us.

Still, all that beauty can’t help but lead me to a place of reflection. What’s next in my little gluten-free life? Where am I headed? Where am I meant to be? My high school reunion is approaching this summer and I keep asking myself if I’ve reached the point I thought I’d be at in this point in my life. Has it really been a decade? What did I expect and is it where I’ve reached? I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know.

It’s a lot to digest — too much, in fact, it seems most of the time — so that all I want to do is curl up with my dog and the Fleet Foxes and pretend that tomorrow is a long, long, long way off and that decisions are a long way off.  So for now, the best I can really do is enjoy the picnic, enjoy the temporary freedom, and try to suck as much marrow out of life as I possibly can. Tomorrow is tomorrow is tomorrow and today? Well, today is what we have to live for, no?

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