Teresa Liu

What brought you to Chicago?

The logical reason why I moved to Chicago was because of a good job opportunity, and also that it was close to my family in the suburbs. But the real reason I moved was that I always wanted to live in a big city - the access to the arts, music, and delicious food are just skimming the top of the list of amazing things to do here.  Chicago has everything you want in a city. It’s big enough, yet it’s small enough. You’d be surprised how often I will find my different circles of friends intersecting.

What do you find challenging about living here?

The winter cold gets to me. The first snowfall always feels so magical, but once that passes and the “feels like” temperature becomes negative, I find myself entering in hibernation mode which can make it feel like a sacrifice to leave the house and connect with my people. Also, I’m a big traveler so sometimes I crave to be with the mountains and beaches that are so far from in the Midwest.

I truly love the diversity of Chicago. You name the ethnic group and we’ve got a neighborhood where they live and eat and go grocery shopping. I sometimes visit Chinatown with my family and whenever we go it feels like an occasion. We eat dim sum for dinner and afterwards we’ll step into small shops to buy Chinese pastries and drink bubble tea. Besides the many hidden gems you’ll find in Chicago’s diverse neighborhoods, the reality is that we are a very segregated city. And unless you make the effort to physically go to the places where people look different than you, you’ll never truly understand what each communities’ strongest needs are. The city’s stark segregation has caused feelings of fear and helplessness for many, especially with last year’s events regarding Chicago police brutality. Although Black Lives Matter is a nationwide movement, it still hits close to home because I see the division all the time. Depending on what el train I step on and what direction it is heading, the crowd looks completely different. There's tension in our city. It’s challenging to want to do so much, yet feel so far away from making big waves. I’ve found it important to not lose heart, to rely on God's provisions, and to do my part in seeking justice.

What are some of the reasons you love it?

I love how Chicago is Midwest nice with some grit and hustle.
City life is not the easiest but the chaos can often feel romantic when you pause and look around.
We’ve got a beautiful skyline and also some of the most unique architecture in America.
The lake shore path is the perfect getaway when I need to bike and free my mind.
And summer in the city opens up the lively spirit of the city.

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 Chicago I have met so many dreamers like me that love what they do. When you share with someone in your community an idea for a new project or the next big stride in your career, you very rarely come across any naysayers. I’ve heard so much more of “yes, I believe in you” rather than “no, that’s impractical.” I’ve seen the hard work pay off of my friends who are photographers, musicians, artists, grad students, and community leaders.

I truly love being able to share in my friends’ successes, whether that be attending their show, giving feedback on their work, offering up prayer, or simply affirming them in what they're doing. Nothing makes me happier than seeing people’s dreams come true and that is why I am so passionate about the work I do in community economic development.

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

I’ve always thought that your personal style is your way of speaking to people about who you are and how you feel without using any words at all. Style is usually the first thing I notice about someone, and I love how I see so much variation of it in a big city. I get inspiration from my fellow city dwellers all the time, and they remind me that no style is off-limits.

My style has definitely evolved since moving to Chicago. Last year I read the “Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” and although the focus of the book is how to declutter and spark joy in your life, I think its minimalist mentality has penetrated into my style. Recently I’ve filled my closet with more neutrals, tailored jackets, and timeless pieces. I’m working towards building myself a capsule wardrobe and it feels so good to love so many pieces I don’t mind wearing again and again.

I got my tattoo a few years ago when I was in a difficult time of life, trying to reevaluate my career. I was stuck in a marketing job at a big company. The work did not feel meaningful and most importantly it did not truly reflect my passion for justice. I applied to so many jobs but heard no answer. Arrows have to be pulled back before launching forward, and so I got this tattoo to symbolize the resistance I was feeling and my desire to move forward. After almost a year of searching and praying, I finally started a new job at a nonprofit that provides financing and coaching to small business owners in Chicago. I love my job and I now understand the importance of trusting who God made you to be and waiting for good things to come.