One of the best gifts I got this holiday season I gave to myself: time with one of my best friends, Lindsay. As I mentioned in my November column, 2011 was a hectic year, spent balancing four jobs with virtually no downtime. In fact, the past few years have been that way. It feels like I can barely keep up with my friends who live in Chicago, let alone someone like Lindsay, who has spent the past three years teaching English in Asia!

Lindsay and I met at a tiny liberal arts college in Ohio 14 years ago. We were joined at the hip until I dropped out of school at the end of our freshman year. We both lived in Madison, Wis., briefly, but for the most part I’ve been in the Chicago area while Lindsay has lived all over the globe. We’ve kept up through email, Skype, and the occasional short visit. She’s been doing an online master’s degree program through a school in southern Missouri and when she decided to do her last semester on campus, I proposed that she stay with me for the month before she moved down there. Since she’d earned enough money teaching to take extended time off, she agreed.

We talked about her visit for a year. It felt like more of a daydream than a plan until she actually arrived. Then suddenly I was faced with the challenge of fitting a guest into my jam-packed routine. For the first week, she was finishing her coursework while I finished teaching and a slew of freelance assignments. After that, I had a choice to make: continue slaving away at my usual writing routine, hanging out with Lindsay only in the evenings when I wasn’t bartending or give myself a break from everything but bartending. Since I’m kind of a workaholic and my routine has been deeply ingrained, it was a scary decision to make, but I chose to take that break.

I can’t tell you how happy the past three weeks have made me. I felt as free as I did at 18 when Lindsay and I met. We’ve done a lot of the same things we did back then, like wasting an entire day watching bad Corey Feldman movies, going on a short road trip to find her an apartment in her college town, spending hours in thrift stores and using a craft book to transform our old wardrobes.

I also really enjoyed sharing my favorite parts of Forest Park with her. Since hanging out in cemeteries was one of our favorite college activities, the first thing we did was wander Forest Home Cemetery. I also took her to Madison Street to visit my favorite shops and we got our hair done together at Bertuca Salon. Since she’s on a budget and needed things for her apartment, we visited the Deals store on Roosevelt by my house. Admittedly I’ve been avoiding Deals because it replaced the Mexican grocery store that I loved. If not for Lindsay’s visit, I might have never learned what I was missing: They sell my favorite pens for a dollar! But the biggest local highlight was introducing her to the people who are like my family at the Beacon.

Now Lindsay is off to Missouri and my routine will go back to normal. However, I’ve learned it’s essential to take a break from responsibility sometimes. If you are still setting goals for the new year, I’d encourage you to put that, along with reconnecting with an old friend, on the list. I sure am!