After traveling around for two and a half months, falling in love with every place that I landed in for one reason or another, why did I finally decide that Chicago was the place that I wanted to start planting roots?
Everyone hears that word ‘Midwest’ and tends to cringe or give a small eye roll. I found myself doing it a few times, more so around the election cycles than any other reason. I could never see myself willingly moving there for any reason.
But it surprised me how much I liked Chicago.
Again, no place is without its problems. Chicago is filled with them. But so is Florida. So is New York. So is that European country you love so much. (You know the one.)
The question then becomes, why is it perfect for me? Since I haven’t graced you with one in a while, here’s a nice listicle!
It’s A Blue State
In Florida, I lived in a blue city, but you’re always reminded of the fact that you live in a red state. Once you leave the comfort of said blue city you go from rainbows, yoga studios and eco-friendly posters everywhere to ‘choose life’ billboards and Trump memorabilia all sandwiched between churches and strip clubs. That’s not to say Illinois doesn’t have its areas, but your government and your liberties are going to be different.
For example, people give a shit about higher minimum wage. Marijuana is going to be legal. There’s a tax for bags. It’s not THAT much, but it makes you think twice about bringing your own. In my hometown, while people WANT these things, its harder to bring them to fruition because it’s a constant battle against those with a conservative ideology.
While I loved Atlanta, it reminded me of a grown up Gainesville in that way. Yeah, it’s a city. Yeah, it’s a blue city, but it’s smack dab in the middle of very red Georgia. The priorities are different and the police are lax about marijuana, but not too long ago, abortion was on the chopping block. Thankfully it didn’t come to pass, but still.
During my time here, public transportation has been pretty awesome. That’s one thing I loved about NYC and love about Chicago. Even if you’re re-routed, you have options. As someone without a car this has been paramount. Then again, with a population of 2.7 million, you’re better off.
Of course, the downside is that during peak hour, you’re going to be sandwiched into a train car with WAY too many people or if that’s a little claustrophobic for you, you have to wait. That wait may be a couple hours. My friend works in the middle of the city and gets off at 5. She usually doesn’t come back until 7 or sometimes 8.
Everyone Is Nice
I never knew about the stereotype of the nice Midwesterner before coming here, but it’s true, guys. When I took a Lyft one day, I admitted I was new to the area and the driver started listing all the places in the area I should check out. I almost wrote it off as a one-time thing until it happened again. Someone stopped and helped me find what I was looking for when I looked lost. I didn’t even ask. He just… stopped and helped me.
People have struck up conversations with me in lines, waiting for the bus, on the train and it’s really nice. The Midwest is basically the South of the North in that way. I didn’t realize how much I kinda missed that spontaneous conversation until spending a good chunk of time in the northeast. That’s not to say people there aren’t nice. They are, but they’re more reserved about it. But Chicago? People are busy, but they’re not too busy to lend a helping hand or a friendly word.
Listen, I don’t know how fried cheese curds missed The South, but y’all. Y’ALL. I might get push back on this one, but the food and beer in The Midwest have made me feel right at home. Even on the days where I’ve spent very little on food, the quality is there. Plus, since I’m in a city now, there’s a variety of things to choose from and Chicagoans know it AND pride themselves on it. They’re pretty fucking happy to recommend a food place. Seriously, stop someone and ask. They’ve got a joint for every single kind of food you could possibly hope to eat. Every kind of coffee you could hope to drink. Every kind of beer. Every tea. Jesus. The options are endless and everyone has a spot. And they’re all fucking incredible.
Cost of Living
I’ve heard people always talk about the cost of living in cities and really, it boils down to how you want to live. Yes, if you want to live in the heart of downtown Chicago, that’s going to run you. Yes, if you want to eat at Michelin Star Restaurants more often than not, that’s expensive.
But for the rest of us, living in the city itself compared to other cities isn’t terrible. The food – whether groceries or restaurants – is comparable. Utilities are cheap. Transportation without a car isn’t terrible, but this changes if you DO own a car. Gas is more expensive. Registration fees are more expensive.
But again, for myself yes, there IS an increase, but it’s not as big of a jump as I thought it would be. Even when I was thinking about living in Atlanta, the cost is VERY similar. I’m okay with it for everything that I’m gaining with that cost, but you have to do your research on this one.
Florida may be the dream for some. Although I’m from there, I realized that it was never my dream. I hate the beach. I hate theme parks. I hate the weather. I’ll probably only make it back to visit family and to remind myself occasionally why I left to begin with.
When I thought of myself and thought of what I wanted for my future, Chicago houses a lot of what I dreamed of and of course that’s going to look different for everyone.
I may change my mind someday because the growing process never stops but for now, this seems like a solid place to start.