What brought you to Chicago?
While I was in cosmetology school I started thinking that I didn’t want to be in Ohio forever, I quickly realized I had absolutely no reason to NOT move. As I started feeling the freedom in this realization, I started telling people that I was going to move to Chicago one day. I can’t quite tell you what pushed me to think Chicago right away, but I can tell you that it is close enough and far enough away from home, I knew I would have better opportunities in the start of my career in the hair industry, and living in a city seemed exciting compared to Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. Naturally, I started researching immediately and I came across Red 7 Salon in all of my salon searches- it almost immediately became my dream salon and I told everyone that someday I was going to work there. Flash forward a year and a half and I walked into my first day of training in the assistant program at Red 7 Salon in Chicago.
My move to Chicago was one of the first times I truly experienced witnessing Gods hand perfectly orchestrating something in my life. Every single piece of the puzzle fell into place seamlessly, it was clear that I was doing what I was suppose to be doing. I truly believe that God has a purpose in me being in Chicago and I see glimpses of that purpose daily.
Where are you from?
I’m from Akron, Ohio. My entire family lives within about 45 minutes of Akron- my parents, my brother & sister in law & their three little ones, and most of my extended family on both my mom and dads side. Ohio will always be special, there’s something comforting about the moment I see the “Welcome to Ohio” sign as I travel back for a weekend trip, immediately when I enter the Akron area I turn on 94.9- my favorite country station and my heart feels full and memories flood my brain. I always have to get a burger from Swenson’s, go on a quiet Ohio run, and give my nieces as many hugs as possible. Akron will always hold a special place in my heart and I have to admit, it felt weird when I first began referring to Chicago as home- but it truly has become my home. I now visit Akron, and go home to Chicago.
What do you find challenging about living here?
Running errands!!!! Everything is more complicated in a city, I’m not sure I ever appreciated the convenience of being able to stop by the grocery store, Target and Walgreens so easily on a drive home in Ohio. I don’t have a car here in the city, so everything is done by foot, CTA, or bike. I will say, my bike has been a game changer for getting around here in the city- but there’s only so much you can carry in your saddlebag or backpack. It feels like a dream any time someone with a car takes me to Trader Joes or Target or BOTH ALL AT ONCE.
It’s interesting, I’m at an unfair advantage having read so many peoples answers to these questions prior to responding myself. So many people listened the transience of the city being one of the biggest challenges, I nodded my head as I read each one of them reading their reasons why or their personal stories with the transient nature of the city of Chicago. I’ve seen it, I’ve had a few people I’ve said goodbye to, I’ve listened to many a story about the journey of other peoples Gospel Community’s- the loss and gain of new people constantly. I’ve had it affect me on a surface level, not at a deep stomach dropping level. But as I’m writing this I found out just two days ago that two very dear friends and their new little one are moving out of the city in less than two weeks. It’s a sudden transition, a big transition, a necessary transition. I understand it, I want this new journey for them, in so many ways it will bring comfort and ease to their life with their new beautiful daughter- but that doesn’t change the sinking feeling in my stomach the moment I heard “Dev, we’re moving back to Akron.” Two and half year ago, only 6 months into me living here in Chicago, I walked into a small home on Fullerton and the woman who lived there walked up to me, introduced herself and asked me where I was from. Within minutes we discovered we were from the same city and even went to the same high school, her and her husband knew the streets and the places and the parks I spoke about daily the places that still felt like home while in a new city, we were taught by the same teachers, came from similar backgrounds, they even went to school with some of my family members. There was a comfort in the Finleys immediately for me. I understand the challenge of the transience of the city now. People become family, you do life side by side with them, you eat with them, you laugh with them, you pray with them- then life happens and sometimes life takes you out of a busy challenging city. It’s beautiful seeing so many people go through life transitions that take them to new places, it’s special seeing God’s plan play out right before your very eyes- but these two very wonderful things do not change the challenge of those changes for the people going through them or the community surrounding them.
What are some of the reasons you love it?
I love that for a large city, it's so very small. I can walk down the street, run along the lakefront path, hop on the L, and actually end up seeing people I know!! It amazes me every time I randomly run into someone I know, I tend to verbally freak out. I love the beauty and differences within all of the different neighborhoods, they're unique, they each tell a story. Chicago has created a never ending list of places to eat, adventures to have, spots to explore- and although it feels overwhelming at times, I LOVE THAT.
I love the people of the city, the stories they have to tell, the past they come from and the future they're journeying towards. I love seeing people of the city come together to cheer along the marathon course, to celebrate the Cubs winning the world series, to protest the injustices that break their hearts and put fear into their lives. There's something unbelievably beautiful about seeing a city so broken, come together in moments of celebration as well as moments of heartbreak.
Why do you stay?
I have constantly seen God's hand so active in my life here in Chicago. It feels like this is a puzzle that he's perfectly piecing together, and so many of the pieces were here in Chicago. It's surprising, I have to be honest when I first moved here it was a permanent yet temporary move. I constantly said, "Chicago is definitely becoming my home, but I'm sure at some point in my life I'll end up back in Ohio." In the past six months, Chicago has started to feel more like my forever home- who knows, I may be wrong I don't know what God has in store for me for the future and I'm going to hold that openly. But for now, Chicago is where I feel called to. I feel passionate about the city of Chicago, about the stories of every Chicagoan, about my clients and my coworkers at Red 7, about my community at Missio Dei- and to truly be a part of all of these things I feel it’s important to commit to Chicago, to go against the grain of the constant transcience of not only this city but also my generation.
I stay because I never thought a place other than Akron, Ohio would feel like home, and moving to Chicago proved me very wrong.
How has community affected your time here?
Where do I begin?! Community has been vital to my experience here in Chicago. Chicago is an amazing city, but it’s nothing without the community that surrounds me. I came to Chicago knowing a couple of people from high school and having two cousins in the suburbs, and I came from a place I had been my whole life- my entire family was there, my childhood friends, all of the people that completely helped make me who I am today. And then I was here, with close to no one. The first week I lived in the city I chose to check out Missio Dei (it was one of at least ten churches I had on a list) I immediately knew it was where I was suppose to be, I sat there and felt comfort, felt a calm, felt welcomed all with knowing no one and sitting alone in service. Six months into living in Chicago I began going to the Finley’s GC. Some weeks it was hard to show up, talking to a group of people who all know each other well when you’re the new girl can be exhausting- you crave the personal connections but dread the effort that gets you to that point. Relatively quickly Bethany Squires and I realized we both had Monday’s off, GAME CHANGER, what we now call “The Monday Adventures” began and we spent close to every single Monday afternoon together. As this started, the connections all around me started growing and a year later I looked back and was shocked to see what had transformed in my life. Chicago was starting to feel like home, the people around me like a little family.
Can you speak into the creativity found in the Chicago community (specifically in the circle of people you spend time with)? How does it inspire you?
Moving to Chicago was a game changer with creativity in my life. I am surrounded by some of the most talented and creative people I have ever met, and I am inspired daily by them. Creativity was always a part of who I am in some capacity, but the moment I moved to Chicago something changed- it was like I dropped my guard in that area of my life, started (trying) to not care what people thought quite as much, and let the creativity I had within me be revealed. It's a beautiful thing to unleash the creativity inside of you, you start to see the world in a different way. Pair that with knowing that all of the beauty in the world was created by God and you live life with a lot of "WOW" moments.
I, obviously, am in a very creative industry but I am so detailed oriented and structured that I tend to play it very safe. I was told by one of my instructors very early on in my assistant program that the section of the program I would struggle with most was the creative color section, not because of lack of ability but because of lack of confidence to drop that structure and create something out of the box. While I still stay very structured even within creative color (because I truly think detail and structure creates the most consistent quality) I feel I have been able to teach myself that it’s okay to break the rules. I ABSOLUTELY give credit to my instructors at the salon, my unbelievably talented coworkers, the many outside educators, and believe it or not instagram- I am constantly inspired to break the rules and go outside of the box by the many talented colorists on instagram I follow.
When do you feel most empowered and comfortable in your own skin?
I feel most empowered and comfortable in my own skin when I'm surrounded by those who experience the true, real, messy Devin and stick around. There's something special about knowing you're in the presence of people who have seen you cry, snap, lack selflessness, vent, & fail, a guard goes down and the true beauty of who you are inside is revealed no matter how imperfect it is. I'm a perfectionist, a people pleaser, I crave affirmation far too often- with all of those challenging qualities it can be hard for me to get to a point of truly feeling empowered, comfortable and content. It's a journey- I will say, I'm much farther along in this than I was even just two years ago.
I feel empowered and comfortable while crossing the finish line of a marathon, while sitting at my parents kitchen table talking to my mom about life, while running on the Ohio trails with my dad, while having a dance party and playing princesses with my three sweet nieces, while dancing around my kitchen cooking a meal, while sitting among my community at Missio Dei, while seeing the smile on a clients face while I blow dry their hair, while walking hand in hand with my guy down the street.
Has living in the city affected your style and the way you approach your day-to-day look? If so, how?
Absolutely. Not only the city, but specifically my job in the city. As a hairstylist I am constantly surrounded by fashion magazines, unique styles & lots of talks of shopping and style. I feel that as I have lived in Chicago more I have begun to appreciate the “less is more” approach, I have probably reduced my closet into at least half of what it was when I first moved here. I started realizing that most of what was in my closet, didn’t even bring my joy as I wore it- if I even wore it. I have started to truly appreciate a more minimalist look, with more neutrals leaning towards the warmer side always. I am constantly inspired by the styles of all of the people in my life and I definitely pull ideas from the outfits I see daily.
If you’re up for it, would you share a specific story about an encounter you’ve had in Chicago that has moved you/stayed with you?
One of my favorite Chicago memories was two summers ago. I was living with a friend and I came home from work on a Friday night and we spontaneously decided to go on a night bike ride. We quickly got changed and headed out to bike along the lakefront. As you pass North Ave beach and round the corner the city skyline appears and there’s something absolutely magical about how it sparkles at night. We got off of our bikes and just stood there, it was one of those moments where I was thinking, “I can’t believe I live here.” We hopped back on our bikes and continued biking south on the path until Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park. At that point we started realizing that it was drizzling and we thought we may be hearing thunder in the distance, so we turned around to bike the 6 miles back to our apartment. Within 5 minutes, DOWNPOUR. It was one of those moments (and by “moment” I mean 40 minutes of biking) that was equally as terrifying as it was thrilling and exciting. I’m a very planned out person, I didn’t plan on going on a night ride, I didn’t check the weather, and somehow it ended up as one of my favorite evenings. Living in Chicago has taught me a lot about the beauty in the unplanned moments. It’s been baby steps, but the Devin from February 2014 to the Devin in February 2017 is dramatically different in that respect. I’m grateful for that change, it’s one that allows me to experience a little bit more of life daily.