Mike Gorrell

Where are you from?

I'm from the greatest city on the planet, right here in Chicago, IL. I was born less than 10 miles away at Evanston Hospital, and raised in a mix of Chicago, Berwyn, and Naperville.

What brought you to Chicago?

Well, I've always lived in and around Chicago, so I suppose I was brought here. My dad's side of the family is from the Roger's Park area and my mom's side is from Cicero, and because of that Chicago will forever be home base. I went to school at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and then worked at my church down in Champaign called Christ Community for a couple years after graduation. After that season, I came back to Chicago to work as a designer for a huge corporation, and moved in with 2 of my best friends in Lincoln Park..

What do you find challenging about living here?

I think one of the challenges of being in a city like Chicago is how easy it is to have your entire life contained within a 5 mile radius. With everything you feel you need available in your backyard, it's really easy to stay in the comfortable bubble you make for yourself. Don't get me wrong, easy accessibility to whatever I need is a great thing, but the downside is that it's easy to keep yourself insulated and ignorant of all the amazing things and people that the city has to offer.

Why do you love it?

Where do I begin? Chicago raised me. Chicago taught me to work hard, and learn how to put up with adversity (have you experienced winters here?). There's a unique and admirable work ethic in Chicago that you just can't find in any other city. The foundations of Chicago were built by blue-collar immigrants who wanted to create an honest living and provide for their families, and that quiet, but confident attitude still lingers in the air throughout the city. A lot of people have pride in their cities, but Chicago is one of the few that really deserves it. Obviously Chicago isn't without its flaws, but I think those flaws are what makes it a "real" city, and not one of just nice facades and superficial relationships. Chicago is a city of diversity, with pockets of authentic culture personified through street names, food, statues, and the families who have been here for generations. On top of that, Chicago has such a deep culture of knowledge, creativity, and reverence for the past that seemingly can't be exhausted. Our museums, galleries, music venues, parks, and statues all have embedded within them a sense of legacy, and to me that's a reminder that those of us living here now are not the first, we won't be the last, but we all have a part to play in crafting the story of Chicago.

Why do you stay?

In an ironic twist, I actually will be moving away very soon from this beautiful city to foggy San Francisco, California. But that was a decision that wasn't made lightly, and I made it knowing how amazing this place that I'm leaving is. Chicago isn't just a stopover city, it's a place to build a life and create a legacy. It's a place that has rich soil to put down roots, and once those roots are in it can be really painful to pull them out. But I think that's a mark of a great city.

How has community affected your time here?

I can't overstate how much of a blessing community is to me here. To me, Chicago is community. With such a big city with so much to offer, community allows me to not get lost in the opportunities around me, but stay grounded in the lives of people that I care about.