If you’ve ever had a conversation with me for more than five minutes, I’ve probably started talking about New York. You’re probably really annoyed of it by now. If you are one of those people, you might think you should stop reading now, but this is something different for ya. Read on.
It’s true though – the year I spent in New York probably affected and changed me more than any other year in my life thusfar. Moving to Chicago wasn’t easy, starting at a new school wasn’t easy and leaving New York certainly wasn’t easy. So I carried around my memories of that glorious city with me in my back pocket for the next two years. I relived, reminisced, recommended favorite places and relied on these memories to get me through my time in Chicago.
The goal was to finish as quickly as possible – graduate a quarter early in March 2014 and up and leave back to NYC. “It’s not like I’ll have a job lined up in Chicago anyway,” I said, and thought it to be totally rational to make this move. Why not? I knew my way around, I had an internship in New York lined up for the summer, and nothing holding me back in Chicago.
New York City is a mystical, magical place. To my naïve, 18-year-old eyes, NYC could do no wrong. It was the center of the universe! It had everything! Where else could I get dollar slices of pizza at any hour of the night? The art, the culture, the everything, this was IT. And I soaked it in, really took advantage of the city I was lucky enough to find myself in at such a young age.
And then I came to Chicago. For almost two years, I focused on all of the reasons Chicago wasn’t New York. The CTA is gross compared to the subway. Why can I only get Sarpino’s gross pizza at 2am when I’m slightly drunk and just want to get a slice? How could I miss the Cindy Sherman retrospective at the MoMA? Why are the streets of Chicago so quiet at night?
The funny thing about Chicago is that well, it’s not New York. It’s a midwesterner at heart; it’s humble, it’s down-to-Earth. Chicago doesn’t have the surface appeal of New York, you can’t fall in love with Chicago right away.
But you can fall in love in two years. You can fall hard for the quiet streets, the oh-so-slow Brown Line that’s worth it for those views everyday, the fish tacos (seriously, what’s up NYC), the stench of garbage absent from the air on a hot summer’s day, the lake right in the midst of a metropolis, and the livability of it all.
When I returned to New York this summer, things were different from the first time. It would be a tough summer, a summer filled with struggles to prove myself in an internship, struggles to work an unpaid internship with no other income, and struggles of being away from Chicago. The surface appeal of New York faded and reality set in: this town is damn hard to live in, is it really worth it?
For some, for me for the last two years, the answer is unequivocally yes. But I’m jaded now and I’m spoiled by Chicago.
Could I live here for the rest of my life? I think so. Am I going to keep kidding myself and telling myself that New York is the only option for me? Absolutely not. Have I come to love Chicago in a way I thought I never would have? You bet.
In this ongoing battle, you won this time Chicago.