I had come to Chicago from Atlanta for a summer internship for high school students at Loyola University. Yet, I had not once ventured out of the four walls of my dorm to experience the bustling city life. My professor was amazed at this and cooked up a plan. He invited me for breakfast and instead of dropping me at dorm he dropped me at CTA with a specific instruction: “Don’t be a nerd, Vishnu. Challenge yourself and explore Chicago.”
I stood in vain as I watched his Nissan Murano, a stereotypical trait of a Chicagoan, roll by without regret. I looked around and could see that I had been dropped at the CTA Loyola station. I was overwhelmed with terror. What am I supposed to do? What line do I take? Which direction do I take? Where are all the monuments? Where am I to pay? Why are people running from train to train like an apocalypse? Such questions plagued my mind as I stood in the middle of the swarm of commuters. I walked up to decaying map on the side and began to assess the direction of each line. Red and Purple went north. Blue, green, pink, and orange went west. Red and green went south. I looked at the ad near me calling tourists to go to Lake transit station to see Millenium Park. I looked at the trusty map and hopped on the red line. I finally get to Lake transit station and emerge out of the ground smack in the middle of Chicago.
I make my way through the streets of Chicago and realize I have absolutely no idea how to get to Millenium Park. I attempt to grab my phone for walking directions but am shocked to find that it had no charge. To make matters worse, I realized that I really needed to relieve myself. I am overwhelmed with panic and curse the heavens for my current state. I take hold of myself and enter the Walgreens nearby in the quest to find a bathroom. I make my way to the bathroom to find out that it is locked with a keypad with the sign “For Customer Use Only.” I desperately rummage through the aisles and pick a smoothie and run to the cashier. I desperately wait for the transaction to complete and ask if I can use the bathroom. She smiles and said they are out of service. At this point, I am desperate for a solution. I finally find a Target and plead the security guard to open the bathroom lock from me. Out of pity, I finally was able to urinate.
I walked around the mall planning my course of action. I can’t give up. My professor was right. I had to push myself out of my comfort zone and challenge myself to enjoy the beautiful intricacies of life and Chicago. Determined to see Chicago, I ask the security guard directions to get to Millenium Park. I thanked her and began to make my way to Millenium park through word of mouth. I finally reached Millenium park and heaved a sigh of relief. I sat down at the bench and enjoyed the view with my smoothie. I had just completed one of the craziest, unplanned vacations of my life. Looking back at my experience, I realize that this trip pushed a stubborn teenager to become a young adult willing to take risks, accept challenges, and enjoy life.
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