Joel Blunt

Where are you from?

I am originally from the Chicago suburbs.


What brought you to Chicago?

I originally came to Chicago in November of 2016. I had moved back to the Chicago suburbs from Grand Rapids after my younger sister died in May 2016 of a heroin overdose. This happened right after my youngest brother was found on the street with a traumatic brain injury. He regained consciousness, but his memory never came back, and he had other issues as well. I came back to help but didn’t allow myself space to grief. I stopped feeling anything beyond weariness and was unnerved at the lack of hope or joy in my life, and realised I wasn’t in a sustainable emotional state. So when one of my best friends suggested I move in with her ex, who lived in Albany Park, I sent him a message and ended up moving here.


What do you find challenging about living here?

The pace of life and the overarching competition. Everyone is striving to be “successful”. Whether it’s career, educational, image, or money. It's probably an inevitable part of living in any city. I like to think I have succeeded in opting out of the competition in most ways, but I still feel the pressure, and probably haven’t succeeded in opting out as much as I think I have.

Why do you love it?

Community. I’ve built a strong community here pretty quickly. I’m blessed in that way. Chicago is also a place of opportunity (for people like me anyway) The pace of change here is exhilarating. The city has changed so much in the last ten years and I’m excited to see where it’s going; and hopefully being a part of that change in a positive way, and encouraging that change to benefit the whole city. Not just the north side.

Why do you stay?

Like the conditions that literally prevent my leaving? My job. My kind of role only exists here and NYC and fuck the east coast. That being said: This is my home. I love Chicago. I grew up in the suburbs and started hanging around the city fairly often in high school. I have the flag tattooed on my forearm. There’s something magical about this place. It represents the best of the Midwest. It's a place where people still retain midwestern values of loyalty and honesty, but a place of ambition and pride which can accomplish anything it sets its mind on.

How has community affected your time here?

I honestly don’t know how my life would have turned out if I had stayed in the suburbs. It was not healthy, I felt like I had to support everyone emotionally, and had nowhere to turn too. My community here has saved my life. My roommates over the last three years have been phenomenal examples of how to be a good human. My Gospel Community on the south side has been incredibly life-giving and really held me accountable to living a moral life and just not being an asshole.

Can you speak into the creativity found in the Chicago community? How does it inspire you?

I may be the least artistic person on the planet, But Chicago is so diverse. There’s so many different, brilliant minds here that constantly challenge my perspective in a way that probably wouldn’t happen in a smaller city.

When do you feel most empowered and comfortable in your own skin?

Alone. I don’t really like people in the abstract. Which sounds horrible. But I always assume everyone has some kind of end game that may not be wholly altruistic. “Hell is other people.”

Has living in the city affected your style and the way you approach what you purchase and invest in? If so, how?

No.

How has Chicago affected your worldview, if at all?

I’ve learned that trying to be the best at your field or passion is misguided. Everyone is striving to be “successful”, and in the end, the most successful people I’ve met are usually not great on a personal level. I think I now see true success as just not being a garbage human.

Do you have an experience or a specific encounter here that has moved you that you’d be up for sharing?

I was not a Christian when I moved to Chicago. I was raised that way but I blamed God for the shit in my life and really didn’t want anything to do with him. I thought it was pretty clear that he didn’t care about us. My roommate encouraged me to visit Missio, so I went, and there was a sermon on the beatitudes and it talked about grief and how God cared for us. I prayed for the first time in years. I asked God why he let my sister die, why my brother lost his memory, and why I had to deal with so much garbage. I instantly felt this overwhelming sensation of God being with me. I felt his grief. And that he loved my family. It was the most real moment of my life so far. I’m still angry with God, and with people and the world for that matter, but I’ve never doubted since that he cares.