Having lived in Chicago for almost 15 years I know that the weather can turn from idyllic to hellish in the course of a few hours. Chicagoans really know how to enjoy themselves when it’s “nice out” by sitting at sidewalk cafés, going to the beach, riding bikes, and soaking up every second of sun and gentle wind. Spending any of that time indoors is tantamount to a cardinal sin. This is why one of my favorite guilty pleasures is taking a nap, indoors, in the middle of a beautiful day with windows open to the breeze.
I love laying in my bed and watching the curtains bellow and slacken in the wind. I love the sound of the traffic outside; other people going on with their busy lives, frantically trying enjoy the nice day and I am in this moment, stretching it out, and luxuriating in it. I learned of my love for these kind of naps when I moved here for college. It was a time when my schedule was dotted with islands of class time surrounded by an ocean of possibility for slacking or adventures. It was a time of unencumbered freedom, laziness, and indulgence.
Here I was, hundreds of miles away from home, in a city nine times the size of my hometown, alone and absolutely content. I had no idea what was ahead of me, but I knew what I was leaving behind. I was leaving everything familiar to me, anyone who loved me and who knew me. I left behind their expectations and all of those memories that stacked up to what felt like a prison of identity at the time.
Like a cat, I would lay on the floor of my dorm room, outstretched in a ray of sunshine, staring at the ceiling while the girl next door played “The Girl From Ipanema” on repeat. I remember, once, going into her room, filled with cigarette smoke and the Asian students on my floor quietly chatting away as if they were in an upscale Japanese jazz joint. From that point on, jazz often played into my afternoons of leisure and napping. I discovered Clifford Brown at a local music shop and played CDs of his music over and over until I felt like my soul floated in the room around me, my body in an utter state of bliss. These were my breaks from being a world explorer, traversing unknown neighborhoods, attempting to master directions and public transportation. I took these naps as often as I liked. They were my moments of solace and precious alone time.
To this day, I look forward to this rejuvenation. Once there is a beautiful day outside, I can’t wait to take a nap inside. Like my prison of identity, I let go of all of the expectations and guilt of how I should be spending a nice day. I give myself to the moment and set myself free. It was sheer determination that propelled me forward then and it does now. It is my small act of defiance in favor of something that I love, contrary to what might be “appropriate”. It is in the throes of my nap that I felt the atmosphere, breathe it in, become it, and develop my identity as a seasoned native of my beloved city.