Road Movie: Chapter 18

Frida was devastated when she could not help Dakota. As much as she wanted to, there were no other major sectors for Dakota to transition into, nor would Dakota be experienced enough in any of them to help. She was expecting a letter of resignation at some point in the month. There was no way that Dakota could keep working under these conditions. But deep down, Frida knew that it was for the brunette’s own good. One of Dakota’s worst habits was that she always overworks herself and never considers her own feelings or emotions until the damage is already done and the scars have set. It was like the ending scene of Frida’s favorite movie, Old Yeller. She loved something, in this case, Dakota, but it was in pain and needed to be let go. Dakota was her bitch in this scenario. Literally. And in Frida’s mind, she had to let her bitch bite the dust. She needed to set her bitch free.

At work, Dakota was typing furiously away at her computer, trying to finish her next marketing plan. She knew that finding a replacement, specifically a marketing executive who had a decent exposure to the medical industry, would be very difficult. It was not impossible, but it would be the hurdle she would have to overcome if she wanted to continue working at Hillary Jenkins. The question was, did she was to? She grew up with this company in a lot of ways, and it reminded her of what her parents said about being sheltered. Chicago, Hillary Jenkins, her apartment, these were all a part of her bubble. She only worked for another company for a year before transferring back. She could feel the panic settling in and her heart beginning to race. Grabbing her water bottle and trying to calm herself with a cold gulp of water, she could still feel herself shaking. She was beginning to have a panic attack, and at work.

“Dakota, what’s wrong?” Virginia looked at the frightened brunette. “Virginia!” Just seeing another person helped her snap out of her state. “Is everything okay?” The hospitality expert looked gravely concerned from Dakota’s exhibited behavior. “I’m fine. I think.” “You think?” She raised an eyebrow at that statement. “Here, I’ve got time. Let’s talk.” She closed the door to Dakota’s office behind her and took a seat at the medical marketer’s desk. “What’s been bothering you?” “I’ve just been feeling really trapped. I never once left Illinois, and I feel like with everything that happened…. no matter how hard I try to shake the though, I just keep thinking about him. I miss Phillip.” She admitted. “Dakota, you’ve made a lot of progress, but I think with your case, getting over somebody you’ve spend such a large amount of your youth with, it’s going to be hard.” Virginia comforted her. “Virginia, when you moved from Hawaii, how was that? And why did you move? It sounds like paradise compared to here.” Dakota sighed. “Well, Hawaii is a paradise in a lot of ways. But I did not want to be sheltered. Not everyone in the world acts like a Hawaiian. Not everyone is friendly, easy-going, relaxed, or great to interact with. A lot of it for me was that I did not want to stay in one place and never explore the world around me.” The executive explained.

What Virginia said spoke true to how Dakota was feeling. And in Virginia’s case, it made a lot of sense. She was from Hawaii, living on an island surrounded by water. Naturally, she would already feel isolated. She was trapped in a bubble that, to an outsider, felt like paradise. But to her, she must have felt like it was a cage. Sort of how Chicago and Illinois was beginning to feel to Dakota. She felt that the longer she stayed here, the more the thought of Phillip would linger.

“But yeah, I don’t regret leaving the islands. Coming to an inland state too, it made me feel like a part of something much bigger. I had so much more exposure to other people, which was a great change of pace for me. And then I felt like I grew up a lot by being so far away from home. If I stayed in Hawaii, I would always have the comfort of my friends and family, yes, but I did not want to come to rely on them for every little problem I had. By dropping myself in Chicago, I had only myself to rely on. I got hired by Hillary Jenkins, thank goodness for that Tourism degree in the University of Hawaii, and I just kept on working my ass off.” Virginia summarized. “Wait, are you thinking about leaving the city?” She eyed Dakota. “To be honest, I think I need to.” “That’s understandable.” Virginia agreed after a short pause. As much as she wanted Dakota to remain her coworker, she knew that keeping the brunette in Chicago would not help her emotional state. “I guess the one thing that’s on my mind is, do you ever see yourself coming back to Chicago? Or is being around here unbearable for you?” “Honestly, it’s getting to that point.” Dakota sighed. No matter how hard she tried to not think about him, there were just too many memories of Phillip in this city and in this state.

Dakota hated to think of this as running away. She did not want anyone to think of her as a coward, trying to hide from her pain. She had tried to confront it, but as she was now, she was not ready emotionally. She needed space and time away from Illinois. Walking into Frida’s office, she took a deep sigh, as she handed in her two-week’s notice. “I completely understand, and I was going to ask you if you still felt comfortable working here.” Frida nodded sympathetically. She understood how hard it must have been for Dakota to even make this decision, let alone commit to it. “If Hillary Jenkins ever opens up a branch outside of Chicago, we will be sure to contact you. Maybe by that time, you’ll have found another industry, other than medicine, that you can help market.” Frida reassured. “Thank you, Frida. This means the world to me.” Dakota smiled as the two hugged.

“Walking through the city, Dakota continue to take photos with Monique. It was their usual routine when neither of them were busy. “So I finally put in my two week’s notice.” She told her photography-savvy friend. “Are you feeling alright?” Monique looked slightly concerned at this news. “I feel like I’m a lot more free than before. It’s just funny to think how perspective can really affect my view and stance on something. I used to feel so empowered by my job, now it became a part of what was tearing away at me.” The brunette sighed. “Well, I’m glad that you managed to get a way out. And no matter what, I still want to keep in touch.” Monique pulled her friend in for a hug. “Thanks, Monique.” Dakota smiled, returning it. She was surprised by how supportive everyone was of her choices. The only person whose approval Dakota was really worried about was her own. But it seems like that was taken care of. Her friends, coworkers, and family all felt this was for the best, and that gave her enough of a resolve to agree to this choice.

Road Movie: Chapter 17

“Hi, Dakota! How was your parents’ place?” Maria greeted her co-worker on their elevator ride to the office. “It was great! How was your weekend? Did Brad take you anywhere cool?” Brad was Maria’s fiancé. “He didn’t. But it’s fine! We just relaxed and had an uneventful weekend. Not that I’m complaining, though! Dealing with all of those divas in the fashion industry, it’s draining,” She laughed it off. “Hey, Maria, what made you want to go into marketing for the fashion industry in the first place?” The brunette looked at her. She wanted to get insight on why Maria chose this industry, especially when it was so emotionally taxing. On top of that, Maria had been doing this a lot longer than she had; when Dakota was still an intern, Maria was already a sales manager. “Well being raised in Manhattan, fashion was always something I loved. But I never really had the patience to learn about stitching and the thought of making my own clothes just sounded very tedious. So I went to college for business, specifically marketing, at Boston University, and then I wound up here.” She finished.

“That’s right. You went to BU.” Dakota nodded. She was thinking about how Maria started in New York, went to Boston, and ended up in Chicago. The life she lived was very different than her own. “But do you want to do this for the rest of your life?” “That’s a tough question. Honestly, I know I am a successful marketing executive, but down the line, I would love to finally go from being engaged to being married, settle down somewhere quiet, and raise a family. I know that sounds really lame, but that’s what I really want.” One would think that Maria was a stereotypical girly-girl between what she wanted to do with her life and her love of fashion, but being raised in a traditional Filipino family, she was taught how to slaughter her own animals and be unafraid of essentially anything.

“But why are you asking so many random questions, Dakota? You’re still young in your career. Things like what you want to do with your life, you don’t have to think about that until you’re in your 30s.” Maria laughed. “Plus, you have nothing to worry about. The reason why we re-hired you as an executive was because you were that great as an intern.” She admitted. “Really?” “Yeah! We normally don’t re-hire interns, but you were an exception. We did not expect you to grow so much with us, but when we compare how you started to how you finished, it was like night and day. By the time you left, you handled every task we gave you effortlessly, you never complained, never gave attitude. When there were mistakes, you would take responsibility, and you would try your best to fix them. You showed a lot of potential to be an amazing sales manager, and you delivered on that.” Maria admitted.

Dakota still remembered when she started in Hillary Jenkins. She was a nervous mess. She was shy, awkward, clumsy, and overall, was relieved her performance drastically improved since then. One of the first tasks she had to do was make copies in the copy machine. And she could not even do that. And when she was getting coffees for the managers, she messed up the orders, and gave a whole fat latte with extra cream, Maria’s order, to Frida, who was lactose intolerant. And then there were the more serious issues. Dakota was supposed to deliver the marketing plan to Justin’s client, the manager for the Chicago Cubs. By mistake, she took the manual on how to fix the office computers halfway across the city and delivered that to him instead. After her first week, she wanted to quit because of how badly she felt she did. But it only got better. She knew that she needed to improve. So she buckled down, focused, and pushed forward with every task.

By the end of her internship, Dakota worked closely with Maria and Hannah, Dakota’s own predecessor, for marketing strategies in the fashion and retail as well as medical industries. She was helping them come up with different ideas for their clients, and thanks to insider knowledge via Phillip, was able to outperform Hannah in coming up with more effective marketing strategies for the hospitals and doctors she was working with. It felt amazing, and she still remembers her first day post-internship: she already missed her coworkers. She had Hillary Jenkins withdrawals. She wanted to go back as soon as she graduated. But her first job was for a different firm. She did well, got employee of the month three times in a single year, and then got a job offer by Hillary Jenkins when Hannah resigned; the moment Hannah left, everyone immediately thought about Dakota to replace her.

Looking through her emails, Dakota frowned to herself. She had to help the Advocate Lutheran General Hospital raise sanitation awareness in light of it being spring and the breakout of hay-fever. The brunette was not terribly excited to be working with hospitals still. The more she thought about it, the less she wanted to stay in the firm. She had just gotten back from talking to Frida about the possibility of changing her clients. Unfortunately, the director had no good news to offer. “Unfortunately, you can only switch your clients if you can find another industry to market to, as well as help us hire an immediate replacement for you to cover the medical sector.” Frida explained. “We hired you specifically to help doctors, and I’m not trying to be unhelpful to your situation, but what other sector would you be able to market to? Your experiences have only been marketing to medicine or fashion.” Frida had a point. Dakota could not think of another industry that she had knowledge of. She started to feel trapped again. The brunette hated to admit it, but quitting her job was sounding more appealing by the second.

“Thank you for the pitch!” A small lady, Jody, the marketing director of Lutheran General, smiled. Dakota had just finished delivering her branding pitch. “No problem! I’m glad you liked it.” The brunette smiled in relief. With that, she finished working with her new client. It felt great to be done, but she also still could not get the thought of Phillip out of her head. She put work too closely with her old relationship, and it was already a prominent concern for her. Walking home, Dakota could not stop thinking about quitting her job and finally moving. The moment she got home, she started writing her two weeks notice. She could not stay here. She had to leave. She knew it in her heart. Pulling out her phone, she noticed that she was supposed to meet Pamela. Dialing her number, Dakota was going to cancel all future sessions. It would not matter if she was deemed emotionally or mentally fit, if she was planning on leaving anyways.

Road Movie: Chapter 16

It was Sunday morning, and Dakota was off, walking around Naperville, taking photos. When she was photographing, the brunette found herself getting immersed in that lens, focusing on angles and trying to take that perfect shot. Unfortunately, she found herself face to face with a building she was probably hoping to never see again: the apartment complex Phillip lived in. She almost dropped her camera in shock. Dakota did not expect to be this badly affected by the sight of it. The reasonable side of her wanted to knock on the door and say hello to Mr. Hopkins. But the emotional side, she wanted to run away. Dakota’s emotions sank in, and she took off in a hurry, panicked. She just could not be around anything that reminded her of him. She would just get angry at the world for taking him away from her.

Resting on a wooden bench in Columbia Estates Park, Dakota managed to finally catch her breath. She felt a mix of things. Scared from looking at the apartment, guilty for not saying hi to Mr. Hopkins, and disappointed in herself for not being as progressed in her coping as she would have liked to be. It was frustrating that she let her emotions win. Deciding that she was done photographing Naperville, she retired to her room in her parents’ house. As far along as she had come coping with Phillip’s death, she had not quite emotionally prepared herself to see his old house. “Welcome back, honey! Did you have fun?” Mrs. Logan durned to welcome her daughter. She was watching TV with Mr. Logan in their living room when their daughter came through the front door. “Yes, mom! I’m going back to my room to pack up my things.” She responded, climbing up the stairs.

“Dakota, are you sure you’re okay?” Mrs. Logan stepped into the brunette’s old room. “Huh, what do you mean?” “You might be able to fool your father, but I know when my daughter is uncomfortable. What happened when you were taking photos?” “I…. stumbled upon Mr. Hopkin’s apartment. It was just weird, seeing it, and I just felt really bad. A lot of memories of Phillip, and I thought I was finally getting over his death, but then I saw that.” She rambled. Her thoughts were all over the place at this point, but she was hoping that from what she was saying, her mother could empathize. “Honey, something I worry about with you is how sheltered you are. I read that children who never leave the state they were born or raised in, they have a higher tendency to feel trapped.” She explained.

“Your father and I, we each were raised somewhere else. He came from Detroit, and I was from Milwaukee. But you were always in Illinois. You never left. Maybe this is a sign that you should go and explore other cities and other states.” She suggested. “You need space from Chicago and Naperville, so take this as an opportunity.” “You’ll be fine if I might be an unemployed hobo in a different state?” The brunette frowned at the notion. “No, I’m sure you’ll get a job. Besides, look at me. I graduated Northwestern, was unemployed, and I still managed to raise a family and be happily married. Good things will come when you put yourself out there.” “That’s true. I’ll look into moving somewhere else. I thought about that to be honest,” She admitted, It was not the first time she thought about moving to somewhere else. Before, she thought small scale. She used to want a different apartment, or to switch her clientele at work. Something like this, she felt like she needed to change her lifestyle on a larger scale.

“Bye, honey!” Dakota’s parents waved off to the brunette as she stepped on board the train. “I’ll call you guys when I get back home! Love you guys!” She waved as the door closed. Within minutes of the brunette settling into her chair, the train took off. She was going back to the city. But she knew that it would not be much longer that she would be calling Chicago home. She did not know just quite where yet, but somewhere out there was a new place for her to call home. A new place for her to return to. Looking as the suburbs started to sink away into the horizon, she had a lot on her mind. Just knowing that both of her parents were okay with her leaving the nest, it felt like a huge relief. But to herself, she did not want to feel trapped or fail. She wanted to do something that would do right by her ideal life standards.

“Today was such a long day.” Dakota sighed as she fell onto her bed. She was finally back home. It felt strange, because just that morning, she was still in the comfort of her parents in Naperville, and now she was in the big city alone in her apartment. The contrast, going from having the freedom of a kid to the responsibilities of an adult in less than a day, it was a silencing thought. Going to bed, Dakota pondered with the idea of moving and quitting her job. As much as she wanted to do it, she needed more perspective. Drifting off to sleep, she continued to occupy her mind with this idea. To leave Illinois, the state she was born in raised in, when she had never even done that before for even traveling, it seemed a little terrifying. But her parents left their homes to grow up, so many it was time for her to do the same. She had never even left the state, even for a vacation. There was an entire world around her. Getting out of her comfort zone would be a challenge, but that’s what life is about. Being able to push yourself and do things that you may not think about doing before.

“So let me get this straight. You’re from Naperville, you went to college in UChicago, and you’ve never worked outside of Chicago?” Frida frowned to a 23 year-old Dakota. “Yup. Same with my boyfriend.” “Enough about your boyfriend. We are talking about you, young lady.” She was frank in her intentions. Frida wanted to learn more about her new permanent hire. “Wait, are we grilling her? I want in.” Justin overheard the conversation, and swooped in, joining the two at their table in the break room. “Oh my god.” Dakota rolled her eyes. “So you never want to leave Chicago? You just plan to marry your boyfriend and stay in this bubble?” The old lady looked disappointed. “Well, yeah. There’s nothing wrong with that!” “Have you ever even left Illinois?” “Oh. Well, no, but…” Dakota trailed off. “Exactly, a bubble!” Frida frowned. “Dakota, one of my biggest regrets was not embracing my youth and adventuring out in the world. When I got married, I did not even have the luxury of doing that.” Justin chimed in. “Exactly! Girl, you need to live for once in your life! Do something risky!” Frida shouted, slamming her hands onto the table. This conversation fell upon deaf ears at first. But in light of recent events, Dakota started to think about what Frida and Justin told her.

Road Movie: Chapter 15

“Hey, we need to celebrate you coming back!” It was Friday morning, and Dakota found herself with Maria and Virginia in the elevator on their way up to the office. Maria was the one who brought up the idea. “Are you free tonight?” Virginia looked at the youngest manager. “Yeah, I should be.” Dakota nodded. Truth be told, she would have probably just gone around the city, taking photos of buildings. As sad or weird as that sounded, it was actually fun for her. Dakota enjoyed photography to the extent where she did not feel uncomfortable whipping out her camera and snapping a picture of anything she found to be beautiful. Being able to preserve a moment indefinitely, it spoke to her sentimental side. “Hey, let’s go to Sable Kitchen and Bar! I know the general manager! She needed my help after their executive chef totally made a fool out of herself on Top Chef a few years back.” Virginia cackled. “Oh my god, don’t remind me.” Maria rolled her eyes. She was an avid fan of Top Chef, and the chef in question made her ashamed to be from the same city. “So you down?” “Of course!” Dakota nodded excitedly.

Sable Kitchen and Bar was modern restaurant, with dark colored walls, light colored tables, and artistic light fixtures. “I still can’t believe you managed to get us a table here.” Maria rolled her eyes. Virginia grinned victoriously, while Dakota was just enjoying the environment. Being back with her work friends was fun for her. She still remembered what it was like, being the intern while Maria was working there. Dakota had worked only with Frida in the beginning, but she really wanted to meet the other managers working underneath Frida and gain more insight on the most likely position for her to wound up in post graduation. She first met Justin, who would often report to Frida. Justin was always the one person in the office who Dakota could not get along with. He was very uninteresting to her. A nice person, but just would not stop talking about sports or his wife, two topics that did not particularly pique her attention. But Dakota was grateful to have Maria and Virginia in her life. They were great people.

Looking at Virginia, Dakota laughed. It was funny to think about how their first encounter was like. It was back when the brunette first returned to the firm, post-college graduation. “Hi, nice to meet you! I’m Dakota Logan. I used to be an intern here, and I’m now one of your fellow sales managers.” She smiled at Virginia. “Hi. I’m Virginia. I recently moved here from Hawaii for the job.” “Hawaii! That’s so exotic! Can you even count Hawaii as part of America?!” She was amazed. Anything west of Illinois felt completely foreign to Dakota. “Uh, yeah. It’s one of the 50 states.” She rolled her eyes, walking away.  “I would like to chat, but I have to deal with some branding problem at Girl and the Goat. And after that, I have to go to Milwaukee and help the Intercontinental there. And somehow, I need to finishing moving in my stuff. So I would love to stay and chat, but I am really busy.” She finished coldly, before slamming her office door shut. “Uh oh.” Dakota’s stomach sank as she slowly realized she offended the older manager with her comment. “Oh, geez. I see you pissed off Virginia.” Maria cringed as she walked up to Dakota. “Yeah, I feel like shit right now.” The brunette sighed. That was one way to screw up a first impression. Being so nervous and excited, she let those innate emotions take over.

“So you called her not-American?” Phillip looked like he was trying not to laugh. “Shut up! It was so bad!” Dakota covered her face in embarrassment. The two were on their way to a date. “I hope you’re excited to try this place! I managed to book a seat, and the owner won a big cooking competition!” “What’s the restaurant called?” The brunette looked at him.  “It’s called Girl and the Goat!” “Girl and the Goat?!” She frowned. Why did that name sound familiar? It slowly dawned on her that this was the same restaurant Virginia was trying to help. What was she trying to do for them again? Dakota paused. Branding! She quickly realized. She started to think about how she could get on Virginia’s good side again. She knew that Virginia was going to be incredibly busy moving in and commuting to the Milwaukee, so this might be her chance to help. “Babe, you’re the best.” Dakota hugged Phillip. “Hey, uh what did I do?” He was puzzled.

During their date, Phillip was visibly bored as Dakota was observing everything with laser-focused precision. Unlike Virginia, Dakota had next to no real experience with restaurants or hotels. That being said, Dakota knew how to observe. Which was all they needed to do branding. Looking at the atmosphere, she was trying to picture what kind of occasion she would be spending here. The restaurant had mostly wooden fixtures, dark colored furniture, an open bar, large barrels. “This place, it’s perfect for getting a draft beer with your friends.” Dakota stated. “Well, I’m sorry if you wanted something more romantic?” Phillip frowned. “Oh, no, that’s not what I’m trying to get at! I’m just trying to do some observations to help with branding the restaurant.” Dakota explained. “Wait, but you do marketing for hospitals and clinics, not restaurants?” Phillip was confused. “Oh, I’m doing this for Virginia.  She has to do branding for this place but she swamped this weekend. I figured I could help her so that you know, she will no longer hate me?” She clarified. “Oh, got you.”

“Walking to the office after the weekend, Dakota felt excited. She had complied not only a branding report based on her experience dining at Girl and the Goat, but she included an external analysis based on similar restaurants and other concepts that were close. Sipping the folder, labeled “Girl and the Goat branding” underneath Virginia’s door, she kept walking off to her office. And then moments later, she heard Virginia knocking on Maria’s office next-door to Dakota’s. “Hey, did you write this?” She began. “Write what?” Somebody slipped this branding report for Girl and the Goat underneath my door. It was really good. I’m actually impressed that this person basically wrote down every thought I had, and they saved me a lot of trouble.” Virginia admitted. “Oh, that? Yeah, Dakota wrote that for you.” Maria laughed. Dakota had confided in her that she intended to do this as an apology to Virginia. “Oh, well, I guess I owe her a thanks.” She walked off to the brunette’s office.

The two spoke and cleared up their initial misunderstanding. Virginia came to see Dakota as a sheltered klutz, while Dakota realized that Virginia was still stressfully adjusting to the new environment  hence why she was so frantic and frazzled all the time. Looking back on that moment, Dakota smiled to herself. First impressions can be far off on both ends. Looking out the window, she sighed to herself, thinking about firsts. It was 6am in the morning and the sun was just peeking out of the horizon. She was off to re-visit home. The brunette was certainly not ready to drive, just yet, so she was taking the train to Naperville Station instead. “Next stop, Naperville Station.” The intercom announced. “Looks like this is it. Home, sweet home.” She smiled to herself.

Being back home felt surreal. Being back in the suburbs and away from the heavy traffic and large buildings was an unfamiliar change of pace for Dakota. Passing by Saints Peter and Paul Church, she giggled to herself. It was not too far away from her grade school, Ellsworth Elementary School. She was actually just a few blocks away from her high school too. But she was not walking in that direction. Her parents lived just off of Columbia Estates Park, along East 5th Ave. Just off the side of the park was a two story house, painted mahogany with wooden panels, a white picket fence, and a dark colored roof. Some people might ignore it because of how generic it looked. But Dakota referred to this place as the place she grew up in. This was her home. And inside were her parents, waiting to greet her.

Dakota was only visiting until Sunday night, and then she had to take the train back to Chicago for work on Monday. She knew it was a short visit, but she wanted to return to her roots. After everything that had just happened, spending some time away from adulthood, even for hardly any time at all, she could really appreciate it. Knocking on the wooden door, she felt a tinge of excitement. “Honey, welcome home!” She was immediately hugged by her mother, followed by her father. It was not every day that she could just throw responsibility to the wind and relax in the care of somebody else. She knew that it was temporary, but it did not matter to her. These kinds of opportunities to spend time with her parents were limited. “I’m home!” She smiled at her parents, as she walked through the door.

Road Movie: Chapter 14

“Hey, why didn’t you talk about what’s been happening in your life? Is everything okay?” Veronica messaged Dakota later that night. The brunette was half-expecting this message from her. “Honestly, I’m still getting over something, and it’s been a little rough. Sorry, I didn’t want to ruin our reunion.” “Dakota, we went through hell and back together. Even if you’re having a bad time, that won’t dampen our reunion. Spending time with my pledge sister, even if it means comforting and helping her overcome whatever shit she’s going through, it’s still an enjoyable experience for me. That’s what sisterhood is all about.” The blonde insisted. “I’m so sorry I could not tell you. I’ll let you know everything that happened in due time, I promise.” The brunette sent back. “Alright. I hope everything works out. You’re a strong, capable person, Dakota, whether you care to see that quality in yourself or not. Just wanted to let you know that.”

Dakota sighed to herself. But it was a sigh of relief. For the first time in a while, she was not feeling lonely. Being around Veronica and Monique reminded her that friends are just around the corner. Looking at her watch, she knew it was time for her next appointment with Pamela. This time, they were going to do a Myers-Brigg test, something she had to do during her time in business school, taking the Managing in Organizations course in UChicago. How she missed that course; there, she was put into a group for the entire semester, and worked closely with several other individuals who wound up becoming some of her closest friends in college. The last time she checked, Dakota was an ISFJ: introverted, sensing, feeling, and judging. According to her professor, that meant that she got energy from being alone, she liked to base her actions on prior experience, she is more empathetic than logical, and she liked to stick to a strict schedule. Looking at how much has changed in her life, the brunette was slightly nervous. She was pretty content with her old score, and she did not want to be re-labeled so quickly.

“Alright, Dakota. So what are your results?” “So I’m ENFP?” She was shocked. Dakota did not think that almost every part of her personality had changed. She was now extroverted, intuitive, feeling, and perceiving. “Why are you so surprised? What did you get the last time you took this?” Pamela was intrigued by Dakota’s reaction. “I was ISFJ when I took this in college. I did not think adulthood would change me so much.” She admitted. “Well that just means that where you get your energy from has changed. That’s understandable, given what you’ve been through.” Pamela nodded her head. “Being an extrovert just means that you get re-energized by being around others, not being alone.” “I see.” Dakota sighed. She was hoping that she would have stayed the same. “I think it’s a wonderful thing that you are extroverted. Especially given what happened to you recently, I would be worried if you did not want to be around other people right now. You need to be in the company of friends and family.” Pamela stated. She was correct in saying that. Being alone when you are depressed will not solve anything. It might actually make the situation worse. Being with people you can trust, it makes life better.

Pamela decided that Dakota was emotionally stable enough to return to work, but would need to continue monthly sessions until the brunette was deemed stable enough to not need therapy anymore. Dakota was thrilled, mostly because she missed being around her co-workers. That night, she could hardly sleep. It felt almost surreal that she was returning to Hillary Jenkins the next day. She could already imagine Frida’s antics, Maria and Virginia rolling their eyes at said antics, and Justin talking about sports to the irritation and disinterest of everyone else. At this point, Dakota was slowly getting over the death of Phillip. She had filled her life with so many other outlets that distracted her.

“I’m finally back!” The brunette announced as she stepped out of the elevator. “Dakota!” She was immediately tackled by a thrilled Maria. “We missed you!” Virginia walked out of her office, saw her youngest co-worker, and immediately followed suit. “What’s all of this noise about?!” Frida and Justin walked out of the conference room. “Oh my stars! It’s Dakota!” Frida gasped. “Oh, wait. I knew you were coming back.” She laughed to herself. “Sorry, still a bit buzzed from my mimosa.” She was referring to the empty glass in her hand. The room went silent. “What? It’s Thirst-day today.” The elderly woman shrugged before almost dropping her glass onto the hardwood floor. “Uh, here, I’ll take that.” Justin grabbed the glass out of her wrinkled fingers. “Dakota, it’s great to see you!” He grinned at her. “It’s great to be back!” She squealed excitedly. “Thank god. Covering your clients for you was so boring.” Frida admitted, still under the influence of her drink. “Well, at least you were honest about that.” Dakota rolled her eyes as she started to walk back to her office.

As excited as she was to get back to working, the brunette started to notice an immediate problem: her clients were in the medical field. As much as she was trying to get over Phillip, anything related to medicine, especially hospitals, just did not sit well with her. But Dakota was hired specifically to take over medical clients, and she knew that nobody would want to switch portfolios with her, nor would she be good at marketing to anyone in the sports, hospitality, or fashion industries anyways. She just had to power through it. It was like ice skating for the first time. It was terrifying, and the brunette was afraid of falling. And she did fall. And it hurt, a lot. But once she did that, she was not afraid. She was able to start enjoying herself, and slowly adjust to the movements and eventually, ice skate naturally. Going back to consulting with professionals in the medical field, it was like recovering from that first fall. She just had to get up, and keep trying. She had to push Phillip and the emotional side of this experience out of her mind and focus on trying to help the client.

That night, Dakota went out to get dinner with Monique. The two were going through Millennium Park, taking photos while eating hot dogs. As much as she was embarrassed to admit it, Dakota loved eating hot dogs because they reminded her of when she was a kid, going to watch Cubs games with her dad at Wrigley Field. Even though she knew they were processed and the furthest thing from good for her, it did not stop her enjoyment of them. It was her guilty pleasure, so to speak. “Oh, look over there!” Monique pointed at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, a bandshell in the park, where there was a small band playing. “Hold on, I’m going in for a shot.” The brunette smiled, taking aim with her camera. There was something about seeing the band playing in this area that just put a smile on her face. She had never really bothered to stop by the park and watch people perform, so it was a new memory for her to capture.

“So how’s grad school like?” Dakota looked at Monique. The two were sitting on a bench, looking through their photos. “It’s alright. I’ve got a paper due soon, but it should be fine.” She shrugged. Monique did not want to bore the brunette with her school life, mostly because it was all papers and research. “How does it feel to be working as a manager though? Is it as great as they say it is?” The dark haired girl looked at the marketing executive. Dakota felt herself holding back her laughter. It was very rare that she was somebody to look up to, or at least look to for advice. In school, at work, even in Omicron Pi, she never picked up a little. She was always the youngest, or the most inept, in almost every case. “It’s fun. To be honest, even though I’m a manager, I do not manage people. I manage sales accounts, so it’s very different. But it’s fulfilling, and it pays well. I make about $75K a year.” She smiled. “I see. Sounds like a good life.” Monique nodded in agreement.

Going home that night, Dakota felt relieved. She was nervous about how her return to work would be. But she found herself picking up right where she left off and it was a good feeling. Even after all this time away from the office, Dakota was still okay with going back into that environment. Going home, the brunette sighed to herself. As much as she was moving forward with her life, she felt like this apartment had too many memories. No matter how much process she made, having to come back to here felt like she was being pulled back to square one. It was painful for her to think about him. No. She shook her head. Grabbing her laptop, Dakota started to look for apartments. She needed a change of pace. She needed to get away from all of this. Wait, what are you doing? She frowned to herself. Her lease was not over for another four months. She was not about to abandon her apartment just yet.

Road Movie: Chapter 13

The brunette would wake up the next day, surprisingly enough, not hungover, still in her apartment, and properly clothed. Dakota smiled to herself. Clubbing with Monique was surprisingly fun. The two went to the Studio Paris Nightclub, reminiscent of her days of being in college; Phillip had to pick up a very drunk Dakota from here one night, years ago. It was there that Monique revealed that she was 23 and in graduate school at UChicago studying Developmental Psychology. While she was currently a manager at the camera store, she only pursued photography as a hobby. Upon hearing that Dakota was a marketing executive, Monique beamed with amusement. She admitted that Dakota seemed very withdrawn and timid for somebody who had to make opinionated decisions and take so much initiative. They had a lot of fun at the club, mostly just dancing, sipping a couple drinks, and after realizing how loud the club was getting, going to a nearby convenience store to continue their conversation. Both of them admitted that they do not like to club or party a lot, and that they are the types of people who preferred spending their weekend nights indoors, watching movies, and devouring gallon tubs of ice cream, a ritual that they promised to partake together the following week.

It was Saturday, and Dakota felt excited. It was a new opportunity for her to finally use her camera. Walking around the lake, she decided to start there. Even though it was still fairly cold outside, and there were no boats in the lake at the moment, the brunette still found an empty lake to look peaceful and appealing to her. She continued to walk around the area, eagerly snapping photos, trying different angles and focuses as she went. Flipping through her photos, Dakota gasped. She never bothered to check the pictures on the memory card beforehand. There were photos that were taken by Phillip on there. Of her graduation. Dakota was sporting a maroon and black robe, a black cap, smiling with her pledge sisters, then another with her parents, then the one that really made her tear up, a photo of the her with Phillip. The brunette was uncertain of what to do. Should she delete the picture? Deciding against it, she turned off the camera. She needed to upload these photos, and then put them somewhere she will not get distracted, Maybe a Dropbox or USB? She will figure something out. She just did not want immediate access.

Finally uploading the old photos to a USB and her new ones to her iPhoto app, Dakota sighed in relief as she put the USB in one of her closet boxes. As much as she wanted to move on, she just was not ready to let go of those old memories. The brunette had tried to confront her feelings, but every time she saw pictures of Phillip, she broke down, crying. She missed him and for some strange reason, she felt guilty and angry. Guilty that she could not do anything to save him, and angry about how helpless she felt, feeling like some damsel in distress waiting for her prince who will never come.  At this point, she felt herself hyperventilating again. It was coming: a panic attack. “No!” She cried through her gritted teeth. She had to stop herself from making this worse. Getting up, she grabbed her camera, headed for the hallway, and slammed the apartment door shut. Whenever she thought about him, Dakota felt like the best solution was to get away from the apartment. Being in there just reminded her too much of him.

Dakota decided to go to Millennium Park, and enjoy her time in the area. And that mostly consisted of her taking photos of the Cloud Gate, The large, shiny, curved structure was typically crowded with tourists during the summer, and she could not help but chuckle at herself for looking no different than them with her DSLR camera. Even though she felt like a tourist herself, that sort of awkwardness did not stop Dakota from enjoying herself. She was having too much fun, capturing her memories and adventures. Exploring the world around her, and being able to carrying that with her in the form of her photos, it was fun! It made her happy to finally find an engaging hobby that took her mind and focus away from him. She was too busy trying to take that perfect photo that it preoccupied her mind in a rather productive way.

“Hey, are you still around?” Dakota looked at her phone. She was walking around the city at this point, looking for a place to grab lunch. It was a FaceBook Messenger notification from one of her pledge sisters, Veronica. “Hey, V! Still around Chicago? Yes, I am! How are you?” She sent back. “I’m good! I’m actually visiting this weekend, if you’re free, we should totally catch up!” The brunette grinned at her suggestion. “Yeah, sure! Are you doing anything for dinner?” “No!” “Perfect, let’s have dinner at 6? You can choose the place!” The brunette was brimming with joy at this point. Another person to help get her mind off of him. More company to pull her forward with her life. Until recently, Dakota always identified herself as antisocial. But it looks like her tendencies are changing. She’s starting to see it herself. She’s never been so eager to talk to others, but now she just wants to fill her life with new people, new friends, and make new experiences to replace the old ones.

It was finally time for dinner, and the two agreed to meet at Spiaggia, a renowned restaurant on Magnificent Mile, cited to be one of the Obama’s favorite places. Dakota had her eyes set on finding a skinny freckled blonde: Veronica Kinsworth, her pledge sister. “Hey, Dakota!” She turned around to see a skinny freckled blonde run up to her. “V!” The two hugged. “I haven’t seen you in forever! What brings you back to Chicago?” She smiled at her. “I’m here for a revenue management seminar!” Veronica explained: she was a price analyst for CostCo, so she was in charge of doing price and revenue management for the East Coast branches company in Sterling, Virginia. “Yeah, I could have sworn you moved to D.C. last I checked.” Dakota laughed. “Well, it’s more like moving back to D.C. I’m from Virginia anyways, remember?” The blonde reminded her, laughing. “But yeah, how have you been? I haven’t seen you in forever!” The brunette considered telling Veronica everything. But after quickly weighing her options, decided against that. It made no sense spilling all of these details when she was still not emotionally strong enough to handle the potential rise or reaction she would get from V: she did not want to reunite with a friend and get pitied immediately. Dakota was too prideful for that.

Dinner went along relatively quickly. The two sat and continued talking, although Dakota decided that it was best to make Veronica do the majority of the answering and responding, so she continuously asked the blonde visitor questions. By the end of the night, Dakota knew everything about Veronica’s recent life, from the boys she considered and actually have dated to which co-workers she secretly hated, and her biggest regrets in college and her hopes for the near future, including getting married, having two beautiful daughters, and a labradoodle, and moving to New York City. All the while, Veronica did not learn anything about what happened to Dakota.

Road Movie: Chapter 12

Walking back to her apartment, the brunette noticed a small store that displayed Leica cameras. Taking interest, she walked in. Dakota admittedly never used a photo camera before. When she was a kid, her father took all of the photos for when they travelled and had memorable events. For college, most of her sorority sisters handled the photography, while Phillip himself was an avid photographer as well. But thinking about what Pamela suggested, she should try reacting. Photography intrigued her, so she figured “why the hell not?” as she opened the door and went inside. Walking by the cameras on the shelves, she came across a lanky clerk with dark hair with blue streaks. Her name tag read “Monique.” “Hi, can I help you with something?” She looked at Dakota expectantly. “Uh, hi. I was interested in getting into photography, and I was wondering if you knew anything about the basics?” The brunette was not sure what sort of response to expect to that. She was anticipating Monique telling her to go find a real expert and not waste her time if she was not planning to buy anything. Either that or just being annoyed that Dakota was not asking any question about the products.

“Oh, that’s an easy question. Obviously, with each photographer, it’s slightly different. But you definitely need a firm, steady grip, a good angle to make sure that you capture whatever images you are aiming for, make sure that the focus of the lens is accurate, though most cameras have an auto focus feature anyways. And then there’s the lighting. Lighting is almost always key. Your photos will be crap if you take them in a dimly lit room. Natural light is preferred, but if it’s night time, I guess you need to make due with what you have. What kind of photography are you interesting in? Portrait? Scenic?” Dakota was dumbfounded. She did not expect such a detailed response right off the bat. “Well, I’m thinking scenic, but I’m not sure if the camera I have back at home is good for that.” “What kind of model and brand is it?” “I’m not sure, to be honest. It was not mine originally.” She admitted, hoping that Monique would not pry for more details. “Oh, well here.” She handed Dakota a business card. “Monique Adams.” It read. Underneath was a phone number and email address. Smiling, the brunette waved bye to the clerk before heading back to her apartment. She had some quality searching to do.

Rummaging through her apartment, Dakota was trying to find Phillip’s old camera. “Where is it?” She grunted, checking the closest in her bedroom. Come to think of it, when was the last time she ever saw him use that thing? He only ever took photos on special occasions. Racking through her memories, she finally remembered: when she graduated college. Walking over to the living room, she started pulling boxes out of her closet, coughing at the dust she was uncovering. He put the camera away in one of these boxes when they moved apartments. And surely enough, the brunette found a black fabric case with a strap attached to it; Phillip’s camera. She quickly looked for the brand and model, and sent Monique a photo. “Oh, that’s a relatively old camera. But it’s really nice!” She messaged back. “Thanks, Monique!” The brunette replied, before taking a good look at the device. It was still in really good condition. She tried to turn on the camera, but the battery was dead. Frowning, Dakota grabbed the charger from inside of the camera bag, and plugged it into the nearest socket. She then, after trying multiple compartments, opened the battery storage and removed the battery itself, inserting it into the charger. While she waited for the camera to charge, the brunette decided to clean up the mess she left behind from finding the camera in the first place.

Waiting for the camera was taking a while to charge, so Dakota sat down by her coffee table, and decided to plan out the rest of her week. She knew that she was going to be meeting with Pamela in two days from now. So in those two days, she needed to exercise, definitely will give photography a tonight, and if she liked it, then Dakota would practice doing that for the two days leading up to the session. The brunette frowned when she saw the dates on the calendar. It was almost February at this point. It was frustrating to think that she was out of the office for so long. Picking up her phone, she thought about giving Virginia and Maria a text. She missed her workmates. The brunette was starting to realize how much she enjoyed being around other people. While she was not at work, she was unsure of what hobbies or routines she can partake in, because the moment Pamela says she is mentally fit, she would have to forgo those and go back to her job. But she knew she had to make friends and put herself out there again. Being locked up and alone like this, it made her feel like some kind of animal, while reminding her of the fact she had to go to therapy and be treated like some sort of guinea pig.

Dakota was starting to feel genuinely lonely; her interaction with Monique was surprisingly fun. Deciding that it was smarter to not get work friends involved until she was back in the office, the brunette decided to reach out to Monique instead. She wanted to interact with others again, and feel accepted and normal, not like some kind of freak who was being shunned or pitied. “Hey, do you want to hang out?” She sent hesitantly. She did not know what to expect, per usual, of Monique. She was dreadfully wrong with her first impression, thinking that the blue haired girl would be aggressive or rude, so at this point, Dakota was not sure how Monique would react to her invitation. “Yeah, sure. What were you thinking? Like dinner or clubbing?” The clerk sent back. Dakota found herself laughing at Monique’s suggestions. She had not step foot into a club since her senior year of college. “Let’s go clubbing.”

It was a very exciting feeling. Dakota found one of her old dresses from college, a slim black mini slip dress with a V-neck and skinny straps. It definitely reminded her of her old Alpha Omicron days, when she would go out and party whenever she finished a particularly difficult assignment or an exam. The motto “Work Hard, Play Hard” was something she considered tattooing on herself at one point, before realizing that it would make no sense by the time she is an elderly lady with a hilariously ironic tattoo. That, and the idea of permanently embedding anything on her body in general sounded very final and irreversible, two things that Dakota really could not stand. She liked having options and being free, not being cornered and trapped with her own mistakes or poor decisions. The only thing she knew for certain was that Frida would be proud of her. “What did you do during your time off?” “I went clubbing.” Dakota could only imagine the 85 year-old’s expression if she were to admit to this.