FROM #CHIBERIA’S WINTER

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Today's guest post is one that any of us caught up in the winter weather can definitely understand. I hope you enjoy Katharine's post as much as i did!

It. Was. Cold. Is that what you were expecting me to say? Well, it was and I’m ready for it to be over, but I really don’t think my version of cold is defining; I definitely don’t think it would do my IQ any favors to proclaim winter taught me what COLD means. Between Iowa, Chicago, and Ohio, I’ve been properly introduced to winter and am no stranger to wind chill and the cold. I’m embarrassed to admit I actually hoped for a chillier winter this year because of my anxiety-ridden brain. After two very mild winters and taking several ecology classes, I am all too aware of global warming and how I’m killing the earth every time I blow dry my hair or get into a car.

Chicago’s winter started very early this year. If I remember correctly, I was sick of the snow and ice during our annual Thanksgiving trip to Galena, IL, which is actually where my extended, seasonal lesson began. Every year, my family rents a house in Galena; we have no plans but eating, shopping, drinking and doing puzzles, a tradition my sister and I are determined to uphold when we have families of our own. Being sloshed in a remote house in the woods and tip-toeing through the snow to the hot-tub was a common theme this year—not too shabby if you ask me. The morning after Thanksgiving, we were sitting around the fireplace watching television, recovering from tryptophan-induced comas and dissecting the paper; I should clarify that when I say we were reading the paper, I mean every other adult besides myself. I was happily and blissfully playing my dog, Payton, and watching a corny holiday movie. I rarely read the paper due to the overwhelming percentage of depressing stories. Every article is about a recent shooting, the crappy economy or laced with snide political comments that make my head hurt. My family typically knows better than to ask me which section I want, which is why I was surprised when my mom said, “K, I think you’d like this article,” and handed me the front section of the Chicago Tribune.

The article she was referring to was “The Angel of Lower Wacker,” a feature story about an Oral Surgeon who quietly visits the homeless on Lower Wacker Drive once a week to bring them food, coffee, and sometimes more. Receiving nothing in return and reluctant to share his routine, this doctor is interested in improving life for those who need it the most, which simply means providing them with basic needs, i.e. protein-filled food and keeping them warm. I think I read the article at least three times that morning, each time finding his routine more incredible than the last. Family and friends who’ve known me for quite some time will agree that I’ve wanted nothing more than to be a dentist for over a decade, a dream that’s been difficult and frustrating to pursue given several personal issues I experienced in college. But, for at least a week after my exposure to the article, my frustration was on the back-burner. I thought about nothing but becoming an oral surgeon and having the resources to help those who need it most. But, as most of us do, I soon became wrapped up in holiday fever, easily forgetting the Angel’s article; “Damn I only have 200 dollars saved for Christmas presents” and “I need this sparkly, red wrapping paper.” Fast forward to Christmas Eve, which is when my family opens presents, I wasn’t able to think of anything but that article. Traveling to the suburbs, walking to and from the car at church, going to my aunt’s house for dinner and back to my parents’ house for presents all brought memories of that article; if I was cold, tired and hungry, how were the residents of Lower Wacker feeling? Freezing and alone on Christmas Eve? Did Dr. Angelo bring them coffee on Christmas? After the holidays passed, I was done with the cold weather yet still severely conscious about people who have been outside in the cold for months.

Now, it’s the end of February and a brutal 20 degrees; it’s been five months since the start of #Chiberia and I am still cold, but more importantly, I’m so aware of how lucky I am. I’m lucky enough to work from home, hell, I’m lucky to have a home. I’m lucky to have a loving and supportive family. I’m lucky to have a refrigerator and I’m lucky to have it filled with food. I’m lucky to have a bed, a blanket, socks, shoes, coffee etc. You name it, I’m lucky to have it, but more importantly, I’m aware of who doesn’t. The article may have reminded me how important it is to help fulfill people’s basic needs, but #Chiberia made me aware of the importance for five months straight. #Chiberia has taken my professional frustration, laughed at it, and made me realize how important it is to accomplish my career goals for both myself and for others. I’m motivated to work hard and get to a place where I can help people, really help them. Currently, if I spent $400 dollars a week, or even per month, on anything but groceries or rent, I’d be in SO much trouble; it’s simply not possible. It’s a mere coincidence that the Angel of Lower Wacker is an oral surgeon, but I am never going to forget his kindness; I’m going to strive to match it.

After experiencing this miserable tundra for 5 months, I learned and appreciated how lucky I am. I think twice about complaining because my feet are cold without socks or I walking to Walgreens to pick up my prescription when it’s -20 wind chill. There are thousands of people who have experienced #Chiberia without an apartment, without food, without socks, without paper towels, and definitely without anxiety pills. I don’t know if my sudden epiphany is due to growing up or something else, but I actually appreciate the realization, regardless how miserable I’ve been for the last 5 months. I’ve learned I have a larger responsibility and I welcome the challenge, in fact, I want it. Was it miserable to fear frost bite and have my breath taken away every time I stepped outside, yes, of course it was! Who WANTS that? But I approach spring, summer, and the foreseeable future with a renewed passion for my life, my career –both as a blogger and as a future oral surgeon, and my city.

#Chiberia taught me to wear wooly socks and, most importantly, reminded me how important it is to make a difference in the future.

Katharine, founder of Paytington & Company (paytington.com), lives in Chicago with her boyfriend and miniature dachshund, Payton. After college, she spent a year as a surgical assistant before pursuing her own dream of becoming an oral surgeon; she plans on being enrolled in dental school by fall of 2015. While she waits for her acceptance letter, Katharine loves binge-watching shows, drinking red wine and all things nautical.

 

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I’m Jen Glantz. I’ve been a published writer for over 13 years, spilling my words into magazines (ranging from style to scuba diving), newspapers, websites and even this one time, a speech, for someone who didn’t speak a word of English. What drives my words, my site, my writing, is the power of relating to people. I find that many people, especially young girls, feel so alone and quite often they feel embarrassed. I want to shatter those feelings! I want them to read what I write and understand that it’s okay to be a little outside of the box, but most importantly, that it is okay to just be who they are.

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