In my heart I will always be a city girl. But last year I moved out of my amazing, shared, Wicker Park apartment to a nice, suburban apartment with my boyfriend (who from here on out will be referred to as “Boo” as an homage to my boy- Aziz Ansari/Tom Haggerford/Dev). I still work downtown and spend much of my time there but I also have little love the burbs as well. Why am I telling you this horrific truth so soon?
- To avoid any backlash of “She’s not a REAL Chicagoan” (I endured the CTA regularly for 5+ years. Eff you. Yes I am) and…
- Because my residencies have so much to do with my life and how I got here, writing to you.
I grew up in the Northwest Suburbs. What I then thought was child torture was actually an extremely safe and supportive neighborhood where every parent knew each other and everyone was watching over us, even if we didn’t know it (I once fell on the sidewalk so hard down the street from my house and, out of nowhere, was immediately picked up by one of the neighbors and brought home.) My biggest problem growing up was being the chubby kid. But still I lived in blissful ignorance of all the injustices going on in the world and spent the majority of my childhood feeling fairly well adjusted.
Then high school happened. I went through the awkward teenage years and I went through them hard. I lost my friends, my identity, and my will to live. It was in that time of resentful solitude that I decided I was getting the hell out of there, and going to some awesome college in New York like NYU. I was going to study music or writing, have study sessions at the park, and frequent sing-songwriter open mics. Maybe I’d end up like that girl in Coyote Ugly and would soon have my songs performed by country pop singers before making my own album and opening up for Jason Mraz!
Things didn’t quite end up that way but I did end up going to an arts school in Chicago studying music… and I was in love with my city. I loved living in the downtown dorm rooms and pretending I was an actual adult without paying for food, travel, or utilities. I loved getting student discounts to see Wicked and chatting it up with the cast in the back entrance after a show. I loved hopping on the Redline and finding gems like Samah (RIP) and Star of Siam. I loved my first apartment in Ukrainian Village, living in what could only be described as Harry Potter’s Cupboard…
About 5 years and a blink later I had graduated with a music degree (and you can only imagine the loads of jobs looking for those qualifications!). In my eyes I was living the life. I started a band, moved in with my band mates in this amazing apartment in Wicker Park. At night I played gigs and was part of the diverse and talented music culture of the city. I went to all kinds of shows big and small where I’d almost always run into someone I knew in the local music scene. I had a terrible day job followed by a not so terrible job where I have now been at for three years. I met people, I met boys, and then I met “The boy”. I was living free while still having little responsibilities.
But then something happened.
I started to feel the responsibilities. With students loans kicking in I started to work harder at my job. I made the most out of the opportunities presented to me, and really found my footing at my company. I started working towards rebuilding my credit that I had messed up in reckless spending and music dues (Notes to those starting out in the biz…you will pay a lot before you start getting paid). In a lot of ways, I felt like growing up. I also failed in a lot of ways. I failed to get over my shyness, and I let it keep me from promoting my music. I failed to keep my group invested and they slowly, and understandably, moved on to more rewarding projects. I failed at recording. I failed at not letting social conventions of a certain look or persona deter me. I felt like I had failed to be skinny enough, pretty enough, smart enough, or even interesting enough. I let my other job and my relationships take over my time and effort. I failed to the point where I wanted to hide out. Seeing other musicians just made me realize how badly I had failed and how I may never have what it takes to get my music out there. The side blinds were off and I saw how much everyone was succeeding and how much I was failing.
With everything going on I started to yearn for my own place. I no longer felt the charm of the cold apartments, old appliances, loud sirens, and the expensive living. I no longer felt like closing down The Owl at 4am. And I was completely over the CTA. I really only wanted two things: to stay at home and watch The Flash, in peace, with my boo and to get my music back and do it in my own way. I had lost my identity again and needed to do something to get it back. I needed to strip away all the noise. So, after a lot of thought, I moved back to the suburbs, back to my hometown of all places.
I used to say I would never come back here. I thought this place would only hold resentment and bad memories. But after moving back, I started to remember all the good memories too- great memories in fact. The thing I use to hate about my home town, as it turned out, had nothing to do with the people or the town itself. The people are nice and caring neighbors, and it’s a safe and quiet place. I have recently come to the hind sighted realization that the only thing I really hated was the teenagers- apparently even when I was one…
So now that I’m back here I’ve done a lot. My partner in crime and I created a real home together. I’ve found a sense of self and, with that, a new determination to do things on my own terms. What use to be a desire to write and perform has become something bigger. I want my music to mean something. I want to have a message for girls like me- the ones always trying to find their voice in all the loud chaos of the world. I found my passion for writing again. I started submitting songs to songwriting contests and got an opportunity writing blogs for my company. And I thought, if I could do all that, why can’t I do this? I could share my experiences, my ups, and downs. I’ve always said that everything happens for a reason. So I see every failure, every new home, and every piece of my past is but small part of the journey to a new identity- A Chi Girl… and damn well proud of it.