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Risk & Reward

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Risk & Reward

Bridget Connelly

Its seems like just yesterday I decided to book a one way flight, pack a suitcase or two and head west. I was in a phase — post college, unsure of what I wanted to do, unsure of relationships and craving a change. Chicago will always be home to me. It holds the people I love the most, my favorite memories and in my eyes, is the greatest city there ever was. I knew I would be happy if I stayed, found a job there and settled into the life I always envisioned. Yet something inside me felt unsettled — a feeling pulling at my heart and mind. A feeling that was pushing me to keep searching for who I wanted to really be and to figure out what that looked like. 

I took a year to start new jobs, quit jobs, live at home (thanks mom and dad!), save money then spend money on trips around the country. Partly to visit college friends that were no longer a floor above or below me, partly to see concerts and partly seeking out the place where I could see myself starting a life in, at least temporarily. I felt as if I had to try to find out what life was like in other places — to meet new people, to avoid staying in my safe space, to take risks and to find out who I really wanted to be. Regardless of where I was from and what I was told was “right” or “wrong” or “normal.” I wanted to figure that out on my own — I owed it to myself to at least pay attention to that longing. If I avoided it, I knew the sense of longing would turn into unrest or turmoil inside of me. Looking back, there are things that turned out to be a lot more difficult then I anticipated, but no part of me regrets selecting “purchase” on that one way ticket to California. 

I will never forget showing up at my cousins doorstep in LA with all my (more or less) crap. Who really needs 15 pairs of heels? After all I only assumed I would stay for a few months, possibly a year. Then my sense of adventure would be fulfilled and I would return home. My cousin Abby and her roommate Liz were beyond generous to let me stay with them temporarily. I felt like a solid stay at home wife. I would see them off to work, “cook” dinners, and be ready with open arms and full glasses of wine for our bad shows at night. It was the dream…at first. 

The interviewing process commenced, and it wasn't as easy as I imagined.  I had interview after interview. I wasn't the right fit, the timing was off, I had too much experience, I didn't have enough experience or didn't have the right experience. I even tried out SF for a few weeks  stayed with friends, interviewed (a few times) and of course squeezed in some music festivals a long the way. When that didn't pan out, I returned to LA. I finally started a job, only to find out a day later the company was going through lay offs and my new position was eliminated. I was discouraged to say the least. After 2 months, the funds were dwindling and I informed Abby I was going to move back. If you know my cousin Abby, she can be a bit stubborn. If you also know my family, there are a lot of us— and that is an understatement. We were all raised in the west suburbs of Chicago. Our great grandparents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings— we all live within a few blocks or miles from each other. We are a tight knit bunch with rich traditions. It’s very rare that one person moves away. If anything, for college and then we make our way back. Abby was a brave one moving away. Now she had me there and she was not about let me go that quickly. She demanded I stay and keep trying. As I cried to her that I felt defeated and wanted to go home, she begged me to go to one more interview— at least for her sake.

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I relented, scoured the internet and applied for one more job — in San Diego. I had visited before and remembered loving the city, although I knew only 2 or 3 people. I figured this was the last shot (without really taking it all that seriously). In my mind, I had made up that I was heading back to Chicago soon. I heard back from a PR job the next day and by Friday morning I was driving down to SD for the interview. By the end of the day I had the job — they wanted me to start Monday. My mind was overflowing with emotions and thoughts. “It was barely any pay, I would have to get a second and possibly third job, I hardly knew a soul. Does this make sense? I didn't even have a car.” Everything was pointing toward going home. The biggest reason being I was scared.  I was completely terrified of the unknown. I was scared I would be miserable. Scared I would be lonely. As the decision became more real (signing a lease and all!) I was paralyzed with fear and doubt. 

Around the same time of this change and uncertainty in my life, our dear family friend’s son, Michael Brady, was diagnosed with cancer. He was 3 years old. His whole body was covered with this horrible disease. It made no sense. It makes no sense why anyone has to face this illness. Our tight knit community in Oak Park and River Forest was so heartbroken over this news. Every week his mom, Anne, wrote posts on his CaringBridge. She updated their family and friends on the aching disappointments and the slow, but favorable progress they were having at the Miracle Factory, known as St. Jude Children Hospital. In spite of the immense pain and suffering the Brady family and their baby had to endure, her words were continually uplifting. They were always hopeful and encouraging. She is a woman of unwavering strength and faith. Here I was trying to make a choice to live in San Diego or go home to Chicago. The choice seemed so trivial in the grand scheme of things. This little boy was fighting for his life and demonstrating the utmost bravery while doing it — he was my constant inspiration. He has resilience that is immeasurable. Michael, whether he knew it or not, gave me more courage in that choice to say yes to San Diego and in every difficult choice there was to follow. Michael and his family were facing the deepest of heartaches and set backs, yet always saw the beauty and joy in life. They reminded me what life was about and how important it is to live EVERY single day to the fullest. 

Michael is now a happy, healthy boy in first grade. You can join the Prayer community, learn about St. Jude Events and find updates on his scans here. Here I am, 4 years later happy and healthy in San Diego. Something I have to work at continually, but as they say, "Anything worthwhile is worth fighting for."  These gifts are a reminder that God has pretty cool plans for us. They may not always make sense. They sometimes require a lot more patience and trust then when want to give up. They may be frustrating and scary. But one thing I have learned is that risks are rewarding. And with faith, perseverance, and courage — life is pretty darn rewarding.

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