We’re Fine and Chicago Will Have Us

[Non]Breaking News: I live in Chicago now.

Also, it’s 2015— but more on that later, because, actually, I was sick over NYE, so I am celebrating on January 31st instead. Don’t tell me anything about 2015. I want to be surprised.

Back to the move. People have been asking for three months, in this exact voice: HOW’S CHICAGO!?!?!

And I’ve answered in my totally insecure and maladjusted sophisticated lowercase voice: the city is awesome. You can basically order anything you want from your bed and they deliver it to your door in under an hour. Groceries. Liquor. Indian food. Über rides. Kleenex. The entire Internet. And because we live in a high-rise, I have a lady who collects it all for me if I happen to be out and allows me to pick it up at my convenience with (mostly) no judging, even though the Amazon Prime guy asked her why I get so many packages. BECAUSE IT’S FREE SHIPPING, AMAZON GUY, and bulk toilet paper is too hard to carry home from the grocery. I also have a doorman who tells me to have a nice day in the morning and welcomes me home in the evening. Oh, and a hospitality lounge on the 40th floor overlooking Lincoln Park, Navy Pier and the city skyline, where I can do a bunch of delicious writing.

When I get off the bus for work, my stop is the corner that holds GAP, Magnolia Bakery, my hair salon, Nordstrom rack, and CITY TARGET (in that voice, all caps). The sidewalk is lined with the Macy’s Christmas boxes and giant sparkly trumpets shooting from the wall over the sidewalk gloriously announcing me/Christmas. My office is across from the Bean on Michigan Avenue, and in our building is Gloria Jeans coffee, which sells chocolate covered mint Oreos and has declared random, unpredictable “building days” where I get a free small coffee. Fantastic.

Jeff works up the block on the Magnificent Mile, and on certain warm December days, we could meet up for lunch at Pizano’s and feel dazzled and bewildered about this new life and how we ended up here.

These are the exact blocks Jeff and I met at and meandered down six years ago in the snow, which I marvel at almost every day.

BUT.

The adjustment has been a comedy show, followed by an identity crisis.

We brought a car to the city. Parking in our building is $225 per month, so of course we street park. We have exactly 4 blocks to find a spot, and when we find that spot after 25-40 minutes of perusing—cursing cars that turn down streets in front of us and creeping on people we think might be leaving—we leave the car there for weeks until we have to go out of town again or it’s a street cleaning day. (The suburbs now count as out of town). We factor into almost every decision whether or not we’ll have to move the car and who has to do it. We take buses and trains everywhere in the city, or we walk.

We learned the nuances of the parking fiasco early since I was driving back and forth to Indianapolis for the first six weeks. Jeff would park the car on a Friday, I would go out on a Tuesday to use it and realize I had no idea where it was parked. I would walk around for 25 minutes, try to reach him, he would think it was on this block or that, 40 minutes later, I’d be on my way.

Once, right after we moved in, we had a carload of furniture to transport, so we had planned to pull up into the circle drive outside our building and load the car. But right as we drove up, we saw an open spot on Lake Shore drive across from the building. Easy loading or easy parking? We chose the parking, which meant later that day, we were the idiots darting back and forth across Lake Shore Drive with giant pieces of furniture and bell carts. In specifics? Here is my most vivid image: jay-running toward the car with a huge pine kitchen island on wheels above my head.

///

My grandma told me before we moved that I would have to “step it up” in Chicago; that my default self would simply not make the cut. She thinks all my clothes are from Nepal. I laughed and laughed and then humored her as she took me shopping for fancy attire like capes and cream sweaters and fur vests. Of course I would be smart smart enough. And funny enough. And good enough. My clothes would be fine. None of that is who I am.

It was a slow trickle, though.

I arrived at work and noticed everyone wearing pencil skirts and heels all the time. Like, every day. Mostly dark blacks and browns. To put the situation in perspective, I prefer to walk around the house like this:

1904039_10151865956281237_779359667_n

And this is how I used to bike to work in Carmel:

Screen Shot 2015-01-21 at 10.50.30 AM

Next, I started noticing everyone around me has a PhD. Or is a post-doc fellow. Or that when they discuss trauma work, they’re talking like, the neurology inside the brain.

*deep insecure breaths*

Jeff told me to just be myself, but then he stopped wearing his short-sleeved button-down shirts, because someone had commented on his wearing this type of shirt a few days in a row.

We immediately went shopping.

He upped is shoe game, his layer game, rotated shirts and colors and sleeve lengths and sweaters and triple checked his outfit every day. I threw out half my closet and developed a boot problem. They can’t be heels, because I have to walk a mile to and from the train on Mondays and Tuesdays. Except they have to be heels for those one pants because the pants are so long. Should I look into PhD programs? I need more dresses and skirts. And fleece-lined tights, because the snow! You know everyone has those one boots…

Also, IT’S FREEZING, which does not cooperate with my aspiring wardrobe. On certain days, I’m walking in -28 wind chill. My main focus is not getting frostbite, so on a certain super-cold Monday, I walked into a staff meeting where everyone was wearing pencil skirts, and I showed up like this:

coat pic

THE ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN. A clothed abominable snowman.

Even worse? My breath had crystalized on my eyelashes that day, and within minutes of sitting down for the meeting with the PhD people, those little crystals had melted on my eyelashes and my mascara dripped and smudged into my eye bag crease, like a raccoon. I was like a melting abominable snowman raccoon. And for the home-run: It was my first day back to work with a bronchitis so lingering and forceful that I peed a little every time I coughed. I actually got sent home from that meeting due to the coughing (and undisclosed peeing), and when I got home, I somehow dislocated my collarbone from the coughing.

Rock bottom in my new and annoying and very cold life.

///

Sometime over Christmas and my two-week break from work due to the bronchitis, I got some perspective back and shook the frantic lady off. My realization: The city will make you feel just a little bit not good enough in every possible way if you let it. Not quite smart enough, or credentialed enough, or fashionable enough, or rich enough.

Even your apartment floor can be just a little bit not high enough.

I couldn’t care less what floor we live on until I’m on an elevator with seven other people and we take turns pressing buttons. Floors increase by $20 per month per floor for the view. J& I uncharacteristically splurged for the 8th floor over the 6th, and we generally feel happy about this guilty pleasure until the first guy presses the 39th floor, and the next guy hits the 17th, and the chick next to me says the 24th and the next guy 30th, and then they turn to me. Oh, 8th please. Little old 8th floor. I don’t care about the 8th floor living, but I care that they probably pair my quality of life with 8 out of 40, yes?

No. NO! Crazy.

But it demonstrates the overall feeling of status that is ubiquitous in the city. Nobody told me about that, and it finds sneaky little ways to get in.

(Only once has someone ever been on a lower floor than me. A chick one pressed the 6th. Ha! Sucker.)

And, I digress…

///

At least one friend has mentioned that my grandma may have been right.

WHOA THERE, PAL.

I’m not sure I’d go that far. But yes, she may have been a little bit right. Chicago is a place to be your most “stepped-up” self, and I see nothing inherently wrong with bulking up your wardrobe/esteem on the font end if you have a grandma who will take you into Steinmart at closing and wave to the staff as she walks briskly through the store shouting, WE NEED TO BUY SOME THINGS. Yes, that happened. (Think, Somebody in my family has to have that. It was just like that.)

But, color-wearing girls and men who enjoy short-sleeved button ups, here is the truth: we are fine and Chicago will have us. Except they will not have us in jeans or leggings, because those are against the company dress policy.

The status struggle is optional, I think, yes?! Kid President would agree with me. We can feel so delighted by the 8th floor. We have the freedom to be content with our LCSWs and DPTs, and our value is not quantified by those other people with the PhDs, who are mostly so nice, by the way, and not pretentious at all. We can wear circle skirts and silky joggers and brightly colored sweaters with flat booties instead of pencil skirts and heels if we want. Did you know that?!

Also, I think one day when I meet more than, like, five of the hundreds of therapists and students and faculty at my work and get to know my team, I’ll laugh at this post. I mean, who wears pencil skirts every day?

Not me. I returned all the shapewear.

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12 thoughts on “We’re Fine and Chicago Will Have Us”

  1. ha! i love this. i love you. i love circle skirts and crazy-bright colors and ballet flats. and yes i love chicago. but i understand. hated the way nyc made me feel… like the most provincial rube, with the most old navy clothes. and don’t even get me started on my two weekends in la… be yourself. who wouldn’t love you?
    January 21, 2015 at 2:24pm

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  2. Love love love your writing style…literally could hear u telling me these stories…possibly because we discussed some of this before, but you rock!
    January 21, 2015 at 3:34pm

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  3. Just fyi, you’re just as smart/qualified as folks in doctoral program. Those (these) programs aren’t really measures of intelligence as much as they’re measures of stubbornness.
    January 21, 2015 at 5:48pm

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  4. Super glad we’re friends…If you need more clothes, I’m in Nepal now and I could grab a couple things for you!
    January 21, 2015 at 7:53pm

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  5. I moved to Chicago after a year and a half of missions overseas in South Africa. It was a whirlwind of chaos and certainly added a dramatic romance to living in my favorite city.
    For such a beautiful city, there were a lot of edges to Chicago I didn’t expect. Riding public transportation every day, I noticed the girl with Hunter boots and felt the pressure to step up my game, as well. Turning 21 in a city that doesn’t sleep was a testing time but I did my best to not let Chicago change me. Something about Chicago lulls you into a sense of complacency while still not finding yourself content.

    I’ve been here for almost two years and am just now getting to the point where I (one who has never been shy to speak my mind) am now saying, “I don’t care!”

    Our city is such a beautiful place and I’m often struck with awe at the amazing architecture and class I am surrounded by. But you know what? The people of Chicago are the true gems and they need someone who holds value in them. Not just the city.
    I think your family and the rest of the Christian community of Chicago has the ability to influence that! I appreciate your voice. It does not go unnoticed.

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