Though it was only a casual inquiry, when Rob asked me, “To what sort of people are you asking these questions?”, I felt sheepish admitting the narrow scope of subject pool: Momish types. Boys on bikes. People I would ask for directions. People that, well, looked like me. My ‘dangerous’ foray into extroversion & prying has, in all truth, been a very simple, very limited run in pestering my peers. I’m not sure just who I’m shortchanging by playing it safe: myself, in missing out on my own project, or those of you out there who take glee in reading of my humiliations & failures. Shamed by my own narrow-mindedness, I aimed to spend the remaining days of Assignment #2 bothering people who didn’t look like they might have spawned from my gene pool.

I have a problem with prudence. Specifically, I have none. I am a 24 year old child & believe you me, I act like it. I occasionally try to console myself in my shared vices, like the joy I feel when I catch my coworkers on Facebook. After all, if employees of an organization as decidedly grown-up as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra can have Facebook accounts, surely it’s alright that I do as well. Of course, they probably aren’t using their accounts for exboyfriend espionage. They also probably don’t think of salad as a vehicle for ranch dressing. Or that alcohol is a time-release drug

The point is, I am, like a child, frequently ruled by impulse, caught up in ideas that are edgy & provocative at first thought, but prove, upon execution, to be superficial & naive. It was with this very callowness that I, armed with inquiry, approached a homeless man in the Loop.

Initially, the idea seemed perfect. & by ‘initially’, I mean ‘before my brain began to process the ten thousand ways in which it was not’. Aged, black, & homeless, he was unlike me in every possible way. Shouting out “Streetwise!” and holding up folded paper, pedestrians parted around him like water. I watched for a while as the crowd ignored him, waiting for their light to turn green, & approached once they began to move on. I came at him from the side, notebook in hand, & stopped, waiting for him to notice me. He turned, & smiled. I pounced.

“Why do you sell Streetwise?

I hated myself the second the words tumbled out of my mouth. His smile went flat. I had intended to sound innocent; I came off like a contrived, puerile bitch. Here was a man doing his job, working, trying to get through his day, & I was harassing him – harassing. Not just impishly pestering him, as I had with everyone else, but harassing. I didn’t know who he was, or where he was coming from, or what he had been through, & I had the gall to think that my silly little project was big enough to intrude on his life. I wanted to take it all back, to press rewind & retract the last three minutes of my life, to do something, anything to change the situation.

He leaned towards me, stonefaced, & looked me in the eyes.

“I had to get my shit together,” he said.

He righted himself, & continued to look at me. I nodded. I bought an issue (of course I bought an issue – how evil do you really think I am?) & said thank you. He didn’t say anything, so I said it again, not a little desperately, & made my way to the blue line.

This was days ago, & I still cringe to remember it. I cringe writing of it. It was terrifying & mortifying & dumb – honest to goodness just dumb.

Two months ago, when i turned 24, I thought that, in this project, I would grow, mature, & chronicle the process in its entirety – but here I look back & see myself as childish as ever. I thought of the people I know who, at 24, have careers, have had successes, have gotten married, have had children of their own – complete little versions of themselves crawling around & completely dependent upon them. I’m 24, my friends are having babies, & I am bothering Streetwise vendors for a blog?

I called my dad today, a little on the freaked out side, & asked what it was he was doing when he was 24. His answer? “I was dicking around. Being a kid.” My mom? Not so different. I started to breathe, started to garner a little perspective. Had I been childish? Yes. Did this make me a child? Well…This need to “grow up” – marriage, kids, career, your whatever ideals of maturity – there’s no universal gauge. & there’s no finish line (thank GOD). So many of us are still children in our own way – maybe you still ask your parents for train money. Maybe you ask for advice. Maybe you can’t dress yourself – lord knows I can’t. But these little things – they don’t mean anything. Maybe, so long as you’re keeping you’re proverbial shit together, you’re doing alright. Maybe – for all different sorts of people – things are going to be alright.

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