Several years after college, after that fateful day when Eric challenged me, after breaking off my engagement, and after going through disillusionment at the hands of the corporate world (more specifically my inability to fit comfortably into it) I moved to Chicago.
It was supposed to be college 2.0. I was going to whoop it up and have the best time of my life, yo. I declared Michigan to be bullshit, thinking I would love Chicago and never look back. And you know what? For the first six months I was right. I loved it, and I thought I’d found my new home.
Well, as I’ve said so many times in the years since then… the trouble with moving to Chicago was that I had to take myself with me.
I thought the place would change me, ya know? I thought I would suddenly become this guy who loved all things city, but all I became was fatter, mostly due to Italian Beef sandwiches, which I still crave madly at certain times. I was still the same person I was before I left, and that person was someone who liked stuff like, you know, having a driveway.
But I did kindle the writing flame while I was there. I quit working altogether, cashed in my 401k, and started putting words down on paper every day. I wrote my Chicago Reports, wrote my books, and put in what I felt, at the time, was some serious effort toward being a writer.
And boy, I thought I was good. I mean, I sincerely thought my work was awesome. I even had a unique opportunity (through a friend from work) to get my first novel, FULL-TIME WOLF, in front of a senior editor at St. Martin’s press. I printed that bad boy up, stuffed it into an envelope, and sent it out, fully expecting that within a week or so I’d get a call from this woman, crying tears of joy to have finally found a book worthy of being called the next great American novel.
In truth, I’d sent her what amounted to a steaming pile of turds, and I’m fairly certain she never got past the first paragraph, if she ever opened the package at all.
Essentially, I sucked, and it took me two years of toiling away to understand this to be true. I wasn’t talented. I wasn’t some writing phenom. I was a dumb-ass who needed a reality check.
So I quit. I came back to Michigan broke, fat, and totally confused.
But the flame was inside me now…