In the small podunk town of Booneville, Mo., among the dilapidated Ford pick-ups and small 1940s ranch style homes smack dab in the middle of an empty field, there’s a full-service casino.

As far as casinos are concerned, it’s one of the tackiest I’ve ever seen — and keep in mind, I’ve been to Vegas and Atlantic City.

Complete with Day-Glo colors that burn the pupils and drawings of happy macaws, it looks as if Jimmy Buffett threw it up, then the members of the Miami Sound Machine took turns pissing on it while a loop of Buster Poindexter singing, “Hot, Hot, Hot!” played in the background.

I made my way to an empty seat at a low minimum blackjack table and proceeded to score two real blackjacks in a row, much to the dismay of the friendly Nebraskan sitting on my left. I was in the game and on a roll. Then I lost a few hands. Won a few back. Then lost some more. I excused myself, tipped Peggy the dealer so she could by a new can of Aqua Net for her unintentionally hilarious bouffant, and left the casino with one last chip in hand as I made my way to the car to continue my long drive to Philadelphia.

As the great Kenny Rogers once said, “You gotta know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away, know when to get the hell out of Kansas City before you hang yourself with the shitty 100 thread-count sheets from the DNA-stained mattress in your extended-living studio.”

All right, I made that last part up, but you get the idea. After a month and a half in the heartland of America, it was clear to me, as well as my company, that it just wasn’t a great fit. I missed my friends. I missed large bodies of water. I missed decent barbecue, fer Christ’s sake!

It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the notion of a “career” when the lure of money and a good resume builder is too much to turn down. Of course, one has to eventually step back and wonder, “Do I even like my job?” My answer? Not really. But I’ve been on this path for so long, I’ve lost touch with any notion of what I want. It’s time for a quarter-life crisis time-out.

So I’m currently on the road to Philadelphia to stay with my father and do some serious life reassessment. But not too serious. I’m going to remember to breathe this time.

In no way do I regret my brief stint in Kansas City. I played that hand, but the dealer one-upped me. An interesting life is just a series of one risk after the other in all of its facets — love, school, work. Sure, you’re not always going to win, but being able to look at the bright side and find the lesson in those failed attempts — that’s the true beauty. At least you’ll never go through life wondering, “What if?”

Writing these columns has truly been a pleasure. If anything, it’s taught me that we all want, fear, and need the same damn things. It taught me that I’m not alone, and though there will always be critics, there’ll also always be people like myself who never want to look back at their life 20 years from now and wonder, “What if?” And just so I never forget that fact, I’ll keep that final casino chip in my wallet for the rest of my life.

Jessica Chase will continue to fill us in on the details of her life in her new blog. You can find The Chase Is On at Next week, our new columnist Anna Claire Hodge tackles life as a single girl in the Holy City.

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