There is something about most cities that suffocates me. Perhaps the sky scrapers or the crowds, definitely the noise. Chicago, however, is an exception to my strong preference for countrysides and lonely ocean views.
My obsession with Chicago is well-documented. Of all the places I’ve travelled to, it’s probably the one I’ve raved about the most, and certainly is the one I’ve returned to the most. But when pressed about why I find it so alluring, the best reason I can give you is that I feel like I belong in Chicago.
There was a time when I dreamed of living in downtown Toronto for maybe a year or two to experience the city life. But now such a thought is almost unbearable. I picture myself suffering in the wannabe concrete jungle that is Toronto, getting angry that the TTC is delayed yet again, and never going down to the lake even though technically, it’s right there. My distaste for this city likely stems from a natural dislike for anything that makes you feel inferior.
In 2015, I wrote (yes, I am going to cite myself – don’t @ me):
Some people are so comfortable in their own skin that they create their own sense of belonging. It is not fostered by their surrounding environment, but simply just by being. I wondered what that kind of life would feel like as I walked down the streets in Toronto, deep into the evening. The important buildings that lined the streets where important people went to work intimidated me. I tried my best to not be fazed and hold my spirit together, I looked cute today after all. But there’s only so much a skirt can help you with.May 2015
In contrast, despite the hundreds of shiny, beautiful buildings, despite all the important people who work there (I mean, Michelle Obama is probably there right now as I write), I can breathe easy in Chicago.
The city soothes the fight out of me. I don’t have to prove my worth and I don’t have to pretend like I care about going out, checking out the newest restaurants, getting in on nightlife, or indulging on good brunch. I don’t have to work in tech or really love to cycle and do hot yoga on a weeknight. It’s got space for me just as I am.
The streets are broad and accommodating for my personal space bubble with a five-foot radius.The skyscrapers tower over me, but they carry me upward into freedom, rather than squash me down with their weight. The river sees tourists and downtown workers alike, and I am so, so comfortable in my skin when the lake breeze catches the hair on my head that hasn’t seen a hairbrush in years.
Chicago is a brilliant shade of blue that calls out to me with love. It embraces me. When I stand there, I want nothing more but to melt into the city’s stones and concrete, to surrender entirely to its magnetic pull.