I spent the summer before I graduated in the beautiful city of Chicago. I was interning at an Improv Comedy Company, doing all their graphic design and photography work. Growing up surrounded by farm fields, I always had to fight off the nagging feeling that I was missing something. Up until that summer I thought that I wanted to live in a city. I was a self professed city girl, I wanted everything within walking distance, I wanted the movement, the lights, I wanted the constant activity.
So while I was there I set out to explore and conquer, I was going to see and take in all the city had to offer. I was going to finally fall in love with the city and never look back.
While my love affair did start to take root, reality also set in and I quickly learned that while the city was full of new things it was also full of things that I hadn't planned for. Public transportation for one, it is a wonderful resource, but it is also overpopulated and slow. Instead of taking 25min to get to work, it took me an hour and 25min. I learned that a sense of direction is a must, and something that I lacked. I learned that while there was a lot to do in the city, most of it was stuff that I didn't really want to do. I was led to the things that didn't really scream "city life". Spending most of my time in small cafes, at the lakefront or in the parks.
My favorite thing about the city, besides the 24 hour Starbucks, was the parks. There was always something going on, whether it was Public Dance Lessons, Old Movies or Free Music...I found myself at the parks more often than not. They were filled with the most eclectic people. I could sit for hours and just watch people and take in all the movement and life. While the city and I weren't as good a match as I thought we were going to be, that summer I still left in love and pleased with what the city had taught me. Connection.
In a city you are constantly surrounded by a massive number of people, and while you are running into them on the streets and knocking into them on the Red Line, it is possible to live in the city and never connect. I recognized this early on in my three months and I set out to get involved and connect with people. So my experience in the city became less and less about the city itself and more about the people that I encountered there. I found people who I could grow from, people who challenged me, people who made me laugh...and I experienced the city with them. Seeing the city through their eyes just as much as my own. By the end of the three months, I was ready to go back to the Mountains of Virginia. I missed the green, I missed the natural beauty, but I was not ready to leave the people I connected with.
Chicago is still one of my favorite places to visit, partly because I am still secretly vying to be a city girl and mostly because when I am there I think of those people and the memories we made exploring a new place, a new love.