Reflections on My First Year in #Chicago


This time last year I boarded a plane to Chicago with a one-way ticket, two suitcases and a carry-on. People ask me what made me move to a city I had never been to before. I usually reply that I did it for the post-grad job I had secured here, but I actually think it was for the thrill of the unknown. The quote, "life begins at the end of your comfort zone" became my mantra during the moving process. If it hadn't I too would have had major reservations about leaving everything I knew (especially my family). Moving to Chicago was the best decision I have ever made since moving to Boston to start college before moving back to the Washington, DC area to finish college. The biggest growth points in my life happened because I made bold geological shifts and mental shifts to explore the unknown. I have no regrets. I have experiences that turned into memories and memories that transformed into lessons. All of this I am truly grateful for because they have helped mold me into the person that I am becoming.

I'll admit that it hasn't always been rainbows, butterflies and Nutella. There was a time I sincerely regretted my decision to move to Chicago. Summer had long ended and the weather had started to cool. As did my thoughts about everything. Maybe it was Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), I don't know, I'm not going to self-diagnose it. The point is that it didn't matter how good my life looked on paper because in my mind something was off. I began to put together an "exit plan." I considered going back to school. I considered moving to New York. In all honesty, New York is a city I've been tip-toeing around my whole life. Maybe it was time to take a bite out of the Big Apple. Maybe the Windy City was for the birds.

Flash forward to today and now I've fallen in love with Chicago. I love the city's potential. Like me, Chicago is in a state of evolution. The start-up scene and maker movement are working to elevate the city's economy. I think I'm in love with the underdog. Those cities that proudly admit that they will never be like the "big ones." Those cities that are constantly struggling not to focus on what they don't have, but build on what they do have.

I had to do some deep self-reflection sometime between today and all the yesterdays I spent questioning the decision to take my talents to Chicago. I had to ask myself tough questions about what I wanted out of life. Questions that I had stopped asking myself once I landed in Chicago as if my moving here was the answer.

It's easy to think that once you've met that goal you set out for yourself that the work you owe yourself has been paid in full. But, as the U.S. Education System hasn't failed to remind me monthly, you can't forget about the interest. There's always a little more to give of yourself to yourself. And, that's what I began to do.

I pursued things to fill in the gaps in the parts of my life that I thought was "missing." For instance, I began to write more because I missed the constant deadlines I had in college to get work published every week. I took on a part-time job because I missed working with small businesses. I began to do more DIY projects because I missed making things with my hands. I'm beginning to move towards a systems approach instead of the goal-oriented approach that ruled my academic life. I stopped scheduling my goals around "semesters" or "years" and instead I am now measuring my self-fullfillment (instead of "goals") by the positive habits I am beginning to form through small, but consistent actionable changes.

Chicago is treating me well because I'm treating myself well. I renewed my apartment lease, so I look forward to my next year in Chicago. I look forward to writing another post a year from now while munching on Garrett's CarmelCrisp in-between sentences (as I'm doing now). I look forward to Lollapalooza and buying a thicker winter jacket. I look forward to exploring new neighborhoods and finally taking the Architectural Tour. But, most of all, I look forward to the unknown. Maybe the Windy City is for the birds, but it only makes sense that I continue to spread my wings.