Where are you from?
I'm from Wixom, Michigan. In my immediate family, I'm the only one who left Michigan, and the large majority of my extended family all lives within 30 minutes of each other. If I'm being honest, I feel a little cocky about being the one that broke away from rural Midwest and integrated myself into big city life.
What brought you to Chicago?
A job. I'm pretty career-driven, and have really high expectations for myself. I'm in a phase of my life where I'm okay with working long hours and weekends - in fact, I kind of invite the opportunity. One day my priorities will shift, but for now this is one short phase of my life where I am unapologetic about throwing everything I have into my career.
For all the dissonance between myself and Chicago at large, this is where I feel like there's harmony. People in Chicago are dreamers, and their self-expectations and life visions are higher and broader than what I've found in more rural, suburban areas.
At the same time, there's a modest, down-to-earth framework in the way Chicagoans dream. It all comes into focus comparatively; in New York and LA, people want their names up in lights, but in Chicago everyone seems to have grand dreams of comfort. It's all about the good life. It's about getting really rich, having a nice house, a nice family, and nice vacations.
What do you find challenging about living here?
The transiency. People will say that it's the inflated pricing, small living quarters, or city traffic that make life in Chicago difficult, but I think it's the transiency. It takes a village to raise a child; how am I supposed to raise a family if my "village" keeps packing up and moving out?
My neighbors are deeply suffering. But if you really strip everything away and look at things from a simple resource perspective, there's no actual, tangible reason why. Why should my neighbors starve, be homeless, suffer and die? Food, homes, and medicine are plentiful, but access to these resources are blocked by constructs and we pretend that these constructs mean something. We've organized society in such a way that you need to earn access to resources by working, and if your work is not valuable enough, then you could die. Not for lack of resources, but for lack of access.
My point is not that we need to flip the world economy upside down; I understand why it's structured the way it is. My point is that a lot of my neighbors face death every day, but the barriers that determine life or death for them are actually really artificial, if you think about it from that paradigm.
Why do you love it?
I've lived here for 5 years, and every time I see Lake Michigan, I think to myself: "Life is magic."
All I want to do in the summer after work is beeline to Lakeshore drive. I love Montrose beach; seeing people playing tennis, basketball, volleyball, having BBQ's, blasting music, swimming, biking, running... Gosh, that's a glimpse into heaven, isn't it?
Why do you stay?
At this point, I can't think of a single reason to leave. The only magnetic pull I have is my family back in Michigan - once my siblings start having babies, I don't think I'll be able to stay. In all honesty, as much as I feel integrated into Chicago and have a strong community, nothing compares to blood family. And once they enter into a phase of life where they'll need more support, I want to be that person that shows up for them.
How has community affected your time here?
One of the most precious communities I have in Chicago is in YoungLives, a group dedicated to supporting teen moms. It's no ordinary volunteer opportunity, and I think all the volunteers understand that. To see teenagers flourish in motherhood and in faith requires an all-hands-on-deck, roll-up-your-sleeves approach. I've learned that nothing will solidify a community like being on mission together. I think everyone in Chicago should find their "mission community".
Can you speak into the creativity found in the Chicago community? How does it inspire you?
I don't contribute much to Chicago's creative community. I'm kind of a corporate square! But, I am an avid consumer. I love Broadway!
When do you feel most empowered and comfortable in your own skin?
I've always struggled with my weight, and in the past several years I've taken up backpacking trips to prove to myself that I can still do amazing things with my body despite my weight. I go for the natural beauty and to build memories with friends, but there's an undercurrent of defiance. I will not let my weight hold me back.
Has living in the city affected your style and the way you approach what you purchase / invest in. If so, how?
I tend to be minimalist. My rooms in Chicago have always been incredibly small, and everything I own is basically contained to my bedroom. People can learn to adapt to small rooms and still be content, just like we can learn to raise kids without a large backyard, or how to remain mobile without a car. City life is a great example of how adaptable people are to different environments, and it's empowering. It shows just how versatile we are.
How has Chicago affected your worldview, if at all?
Can't think of anything, I'm sorry!
Do you have an experience or a specific encounter here that has moved you/stayed with you that you'd be up for sharing?
The night before Chicago would determine its mayoral front-runners, a group of folks met at my church to talk and pray. Can I admit something? I knew next to nothing. I barely even knew that there was an election happening. But one thing that was said that night really stuck with me: voting is an act of worship.
Is there anything else you'd like to share about your time in Chicago?
I feel proud to own this city as part of my identity.