Nicky Hackett

What brought you to Chicago?

I came here to go to medical school at Northwestern University Feinberg
School of Medicine. I grew up coming to Chicago for trips, and it always
represented the “big city” in my mind. I also had family ties here – my
grandmother’s family moved to Chicago when they emigrated from Greece.
They lived on the South Side. While my immediate Greek family has either
moved or passed away, I still have distant relatives who live there.


Where are you from?

I was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana, but moved to Nashville, Tennessee when I
was 3. I grew up there in a suburb called Franklin. My dad got a job at
Vanderbilt University, first as a doctoral student, then as a professor of
neuroscience. My parents still live in Franklin, and I love going back to visit. It
is still hard for me not to call Tennessee my home. I grew up with a love of
music, and taught myself to play bass guitar and guitar. There was always
singing in my house, though it was usually just my brothers and I. I think a lot
of my musical upbringing came from living in “music city,” being surrounded
by musicians.


What do you find challenging about living here?

I think the most obvious challenge for me is the weather. It gets cold in
Tennessee, but the length of the winter here, the depths of the cold, extreme
wind, and darkness of the winter all make it a very hard time for me. I get sad
when there isn’t much sun, and I certainly find it hard to be extremely happy
during the tough winter months here. I think it’s also hard to not have the
freedom to drive and park wherever you would like. Every piece of land
seems to be owned and protected by the city or a parking company or a
person. Its all been claimed, and there isn’t a lot of free open space to park a
car or park yourself. I also miss the green spaces and hills I’ve always
enjoyed in TN.
 

What are some of the reasons you love it?

People, people, and people. I am staying here for four more years of
residency. It was actually my first choice to do so, but I never thought that
would be the case. I always assumed I was leaving Chicago the minute I was
done with school! But the relationships I’ve developed at church and at school
have made Chicago really feel like home to me, in a way I never thought
possible.
 

Why do you stay?

Like I said above, I stay for the relationships. I’ve never been a big city
person, and I long for open spaces and trees daily. But it truly is the
relationships that make a place “home.” I also got into my top choice program
for ophthalmology residency, Northwestern. I actually did an away rotation at
another program by my home, because I was planning on moving back. But I

realized the program at Northwestern was so amazing and such a great fit for
me that it would be a mistake to leave to do my training elsewhere. It was a
big life shift, because my parents were planning/hoping on me coming home
(you don’t get that much of a say where you end up for residency, just a “wish
list”). Praise God that I got the top of my wishlist, and I’m here to stay.
 

How has community affected your time here?

It has made what was at first a bleak, difficult existence (I have a penchant for
melodrama), into a vibrant, living space for me to thrive. I am encouraged,
loved, and lifted up by those in my community. I am amazed whenever I think
on the fact that I did not know any of these people before I moved to Chicago,
but now I cannot imagine life without them! God built us for relationship, but I
always disbelieve that its possible to make new relationships as good as the
old ones I had at home. But this is simply not the case!

We have a beautiful capacity for forming deep relationships and adjusting to
new environments. Nostalgia (“pain for the past” literally translated) is a
powerful force in humans, and I am particularly vulnerable to its sticky grip.
It tells me to stay in the past and that new relationships will never be as good
as the “good old days.” I have realized after moving away from “home,” that
the good new days are what God wants us to experience! Not holding onto the
past any more than we should hold on to the future. We can’t control either.
 

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?

In school, I didn’t expect to find a lot of creative people. But I have connected
with a group of musicians and singers for an acapella group and a band
called “Bedside Manner.” The latter even played at a TED Talk with a talk on
Music in Medicine by one of our bandmates. My small group at church that
meets once a week is full of creative people, from painters, to graphic
designers, to musicians. Alongside several medical students  Lastly, there
are the photographers and hairstylist (which is an art form!) that have put
together this blog series! These creative people inspire the creative side of
me, which is seldom nurtured by medical school. My work is structured and
scientific by necessity, but I love art, particularly music. It is so inspiring to be
continually prodded by these people to embrace the creative and the
intangible in my life. God works through these as well as the scientific. In my
opinion, if I can harmonize the two, let them coexist equally, it will make me a
better human being, as well as a better doctor.
 

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

I feel most empowered and comfortable in my own skin when I am around my
closest friends doing the things I love. For example, when people ask me for
medial advice and I am knowledgeable enough to direct them to the right
person or provide insight into their condition, or when I play worship music
with my friends, I feel as if I’m living out my purpose in life. Loving people and
God through my talents affirms that I am resonating in my inborn harmonic, to
borrow an example from physics.
 

Has living in the city affected your style and the way you approach your
day-to- day look? If so, how?

Living in the city has forced me to be a better planner, and live life in a more
rhythmic manner. Trips to the grocery store have to be planned – for most of
my time here I carpooled with my roommate every Sunday after church to go
shopping, since I have not owned a car until this past month. I have had to be
more disciplined about attending church, and making time for small group,
because these have become so important to my well-being and sense of
community. I have also changed how I dress! I used to dress like a “hipster”
and most of my clothes were beat up thrift store finds. But now, in the
professional world where I spend my days, I’ve developed a more traditional
style of clothing. Not to mention having to buy warmer clothes! I have become
less concerned with looking “cool” and more concerned with showing respect
for my patients by dressing professionally. Taking the train every day has
made me more patient, and forced me to plan ahead. This has typically
involved waking up earlier. I also plan my meals for the week, and cook a lot
ahead of time so I’m ready to take the busy plunge with some grace.
 

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? 

I would have to say meeting my current girlfriend is my most meaningful
encounter. Rebecca moved here from Georgia with the plan to stay only for a
year. Her friends convinced her to get a dating app, which was never her
style. Meanwhile, I had found that dating apps were a great way to date
outside my immediate circle. Being so busy, I haven’t ever found time to “date
around” in the city. So though I was a bit ashamed of being on the app, I stuck
with it for a while. Though, I never found anyone that I would date long-term
on there. But as God would have it, I was the first person she met on the app.
I felt a peace and “normalness” about her that I had previously found very
elusive in all my previous dinner or coffee conversations with strangers. I felt
like I could share anything with her pretty early on, and our connection quickly
grew. We are almost 10 months into our official dating relationship, and I have
never been happier here in Chicago. Thankfully, she decided to stay for a
while longer. :)