15 Months in Chicago: 15 Things I’ve Learned

 

Similar to the fact that I can no longer say “I just graduated,” I can now no longer use the phrase “I just moved here” when talking about Chicago. I will have officially been a resident of the Chi for 15 months come this October.  While I’ve had my share of ups and downs, I could not be happier to call this place home. Yeah, I’ve thought about picking up and moving to Alaska just for fun, but at the end of the day, I don’t think I could bring myself to leave this place quite yet. Here are just a few all-encompassing things I’ve learned from my time in the city- some vague and applicable to any situation, some incredibly specific to the Windy City (ALL THE HOT DOGS).

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1. It’s more than okay to be by yourself.
Moving from small town, middle-of-nowhere Clemson, SC, to the 3rd largest city in the United States definitely took some getting used-to. During my first two months here, I had the unfortunate luxury of having an aggressive amount of free time (yay #funemployment); however, during that time, I spent the majority of my days completely by myself, and I loved it. Whether it was exploring a new route downtown, trying out a new coffee shop, or taking a long run along the lakeshore, I learned to love being alone. To quote the wonderful F. Scott Fitzgerald- “I like large parties, they’re so intimate.” Well, my large party is the city of Chicago.

2. Always be cognizant of your surroundings.
Alright, this applies to several things. Yes, sometimes Chicago is known as a dangerous city (okay, more than sometimes). But, for me, this means knowing where you are and how to navigate without having to use Google maps on your iPhone. For me, the first time I was able to get on the El and not have to use my phone to tell me which stop I needed to get off at, was a huge victory. My first couple of months here, I was constantly asking cab drivers what neighborhood we were in at the time so that I could work on getting my bearings, and it definitely paid off in the long run. Now, I’m able to tell you that I actually really liked Pilsen and that River North isn’t necessarily my favorite area. Plus, the South Side has some damn good fried chicken- here’s looking at you, Harold’s.

3. Get out of your bubble, and do it often.
I happen to live in one of the more family-friendly neighborhoods in Chicago, a pretty nice one at that, and I absolutely love it. There’s plenty of amazing restaurants and bars, and my backyard is comprised of both the Lincoln Park Zoo and the beach at Lake Michigan. So, yeah, I have it pretty good. Sometimes, though, it is so important to force yourself to get out and go out of your comfort zone. I know this is said far too often, but getting out and experiencing something new is so so vital to living in a big city.

4. Root, root, root for the home team.
So it’s no secret that I know absolutely nothing about hockey. But you better know that I went out and purchased a Blackhawks shirt when I moved to the city, because, well, it’s the Blackhawks. And who cares if the Cubs aren’t all that great. You go to the games and you better root for the cubbies. If not for anything else, it’s an excuse to get a footlong and an Old Style and wreak havoc in Wrigleyville afterwards. Plus- a city so great, we have two baseball teams? Don’t hate that.

5. Weather reports are completely insignificant. IMG_3972
Spring? Oh, you mean the season that it is supposed to start getting warmer? Because in Chicago, it snowed in May this year. ALWAYS carry an umbrella on you because 10% chance of showers oftentimes means downpour, and 70 degrees oftentimes means a little over 40 degrees. You could be at the beach one day, and wearing a scarf the next. There is literally no way to prepare yourself for any type of weather in this city.

6. When it’s nice out, go outside, because come November you’ll have to hibernate.
On a similar note to #5, yes, the winters here really are that bad. Or, at least this past winter was. -15 degree days, nose-hairs freezing, and going out at night in snow-boots was the norm. I kid you not, one news article advised city residents to ‘check on their neighbors for signs of life.’ I will never forget my 10 minute walk back from the El station on my way home where my legs started to go numb and I had to sprint the rest of the way for fear of my life. Thanks, Polar Vortex, this past winter was great.

7. Public transportation is not nearly as bad as it seems.
When I first moved here, it took me a full week before I decided to brave public transit. I was terrified. At Clemson, I think I took the CAT bus a grand total of two times, and living in DC, the metro was actually pretty easy to navigate the few times I did take it. One thing that genuinely surprised me about Chicago public transit is that I like taking the bus better than taking the El (Chicago’s train system, dubbed ‘the El’ because it is elevated). Even people that have cars (RIP PDjeep) take public transportation to commute because driving (and parking) in the city is such a pain. One rule for the bus and train: it is NOT the time to catch up with your long-lost BFF.

8. Sometimes it’s really fun to play tourist.
Personally, I think it’s the most fun to play tourist. I did it when I lived in DC, and I will never turn down an opportunity because it ‘might be too touristy.’ Except for maybe Navy Pier. Playing tourist is honestly the best way to get to know the city and it never really gets old (for me, at least). Hit up The Bean on your lunch-break, walk down Michigan Avenue amongst all of the other tourists, take an Architectural Boat Tour, eat a deep dish pizza. These are the things people like to do when they come to visit the city, so, shouldn’t the people that actually live here like to do them, as well?

9. It’s called ‘Three One Two,’ not ‘Three Twelve.’
I will never forget when my favorite bar in Clemson got a brand new beer on tap. Sitting at Loose Change on Tijuana Tuesday, the bartender told me that they had just got a new beer called ‘Three Twelve,’ a wheat beer that actually tasted pretty good. It quickly became my favorite, without me having any sort of background on the brew. Fast-forward to seeing that ‘three twelve’ was on tap at one of the first bars I went to in Chicago- you would have thought I had 6 heads the way the bartender looked at me. Friends, it is ‘Three One Two,’ for Chicago’s area code. Don’t make the same mistake I did.

10505602_10203885429074689_5454339937132634881_n10. There’s never an inappropriate time to eat a Chicago dog.
Whether you’re at a Cubbies game, running late for a flight at O’Hare, or late night post-bars, hot dog craving are always acceptable. BUT- you better get them Chicago-style, aka everything under the sun on your dog making it almost impossible and completely unattractive to eat. So. Damn. Good.

11. Everyone owns a dog.
Speaking of dogs, I fully believe that 2/3 people in this city own a dog. I’m not complaining in the least- more for me to gawk at when I’m walking around. ‘Can I pet your dog?’- daily occurrence.

12. “I went to Clemson.” “Ohhhh, wait, so what state is that in, again?”
Ahhhhh the Midwest. Gotta love it. Actually, I really do like the Midwest and all of it’s people. However, with that said, I am frequently asked ‘what Clemson is,’ ‘what city Clemson is located in,’ and ‘ohhh, how do you like North Carolina?’ Things also get reallyyy interesting when I throw a ‘y’all’ in there.

13. ‘Tour de Chicago’ means ‘Eat Absolutely Everything.’
This is probably my favorite thing about this city. There is so. much. food. Endless brunch options. So much pizza, you could eat it every night and never got bored of it. The best bagels on the entire planet- no, seriously, Chicago Bagel Authority is a gift from the gods. Another gift from above- Portillo’s. Garrett Popcorn’s Chicago mix, cheese and caramel popcorn mixed together, can turn any bad day into the best day. I could go on forever.

14. There’s always money in the banana stand.
Couldn’t resist throwing in an AD reference. This one is pretty personal for me, since I have now gone through 4 jobs in a little over a year. At my first job, people always asked me- “so, you moved to Chicago to work here?” And my answer to them was simple- no, I moved to Chicago to move to Chicago. The job part came second. Money comes and goes, and so do jobs. If you need to make money somehow, go out and make it. You’ll learn a hell of a lot out about yourself in the process. I’m 23 years old; of course I haven’t quite figured it all out yet. But one thing I do know for certain- I love this city.

15. I couldn’t be happier to call Chicago my home.
While moving to Chicago is one of the best decisions I could have ever made, I miss everyone I left behind terribly. However, I have had the extreme fortune of creating some incredible friendships in this city, while experiencing city life with friends I already had, and even re-connecting with some old ones (thanks Anna, for being my oldest friend and still managing to deal with me). I could not be more grateful for these past 15 months of my life, and I cannot wait to see what’s in store next (cliche, but whatever). 

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2014, let’s see what you’re made of

Let’s start this off on an honest note: I debated for a pretty long time about whether or not I would write a synopsis of 2013/welcome to 2014 post. In terms of articles and things people talk about, it’s pretty high on the popularity list, hence I didn’t want to just be another post among the Facebook statuses, tweets, and other buzz you saw in the final days of December. In my defense, I’ve also had quite a bit happening in the last couple of weeks: going home for Christmas, best friends visiting the Windy City for almost a week before New Year’s Eve, winning the Orange Bowl, turning 23, and surviving the deathly Polar Vortex cold, also known as #ChiBeria (this last one is still up for debate). Now that the chaos has died down a little bit, here I am, nestled in my apartment in Old Town Chicago, watching the snow fall (once again) outside my window, and a Daisy Cutter in a coozie next to me. 2014, you look pretty dashing so far- besides the potential frostbite.

I find myself very fortunate to be the same age for practically an entire calendar year (does this make me weird?), so 2013 and 22 go synonymously for me. That being said, 22 brought a lot of ups and downs. There were the obvious big life events that happened: graduated college, moved to Chicago, got a job. But to me, what’s more important than the big moments is the details put in to them. And it’s the details that I want to remember about 2013, not the big events.

IMG_0106My final semester of my Senior year at Clemson was probably one of the hardest for me (yep, even harder than Freshman year) because, to me, it meant that change was coming. I have never, ever, been good with change. The idea of change- I am absolutely infatuated with it. But actually putting my feet on the ground and going through the motions is just something that is really hard on my soul, no matter how much I crave it and no matter how good it is for my well-being. However, even though it was a hard one, that final semester Senior year was probably my favorite one, filled with incredible memories with amazing people.

It is this fear of change that kept me at Clemson for a month after graduating. No plans, zero to little money- just me watching all of my friends pack up their things and move onto the next chapter in their lives. Don’t get me wrong- that was a pretty good month. There was a lot of sleeping in ’til who knows when, sitting at the pool for who knows how long, and taking ridiculous road trips to who knows where with my fellow vagabond Melissa, who stuck around for that month in Finley with me, thank goodness. But at the same time, it was extremely terrifying. This time, I knew that change was imminent: it needed to happen.

IMG_1752Flash-forward two months and I am driving 13 hours to Chicago in a rental sedan packed with everything I could manage to fit. Did I have a plan? Nope. Was I terrified beyond all belief? You betcha. But it was the most excited I had ever been for anything in my entire life. I couldn’t count on two hands how many people told me I was crazy for doing what I did, but it is probably the proudest I have ever been of myself. This was something I did not need to do; I could have easily lived at home, saved some money, been comfortable in a city I already knew, and been completely fine. But, hey, where’s the fun in that? 

This is nothing against those who did something along those lines; to be quite honest, I commend you. However, for me, if I had done that I just know that I would not have been happy or fully satisfied. But you go, glen coco.

It hasn’t been a walk in the park; I will be the first one to admit that. There have been a lot of rough days where I have wanted to give up and take the first flight home. I even reserved floor space at one of my friend’s apartments in DC in the event that that might happen. But I will say one thing- having the extreme fortune to live with one of my most cherished friends in this city that we both used to call home when we were younger has made this process so much better than it could have been. I’ll say it once, and I’ll say it again- the life that Laura and I lead would make an extraordinary reality show.

So, again, here I am on January 9th, freshly 23 years old, fully employed, and feeling like a true Chicago-an, meaning I am freezing to death walking to work every morning in -11 degree weather. In all seriousness, I’ve come pretty damn far from the girl who stayed in Clemson because she was too terrified of what would happen next, and it’s hard to believe it’s only been 7 months since then.

2014, I’m pretty jazzed to see what you have in store for me. I learned quite a bit more about myself than I thought I would last year, so, swing away- I’m sure I can handle it.

PS- I’ve included my Spotify playlist that was never very far from me during June-December of 2013. There’s a lot of John Mayer on it, sue me.

An Ode to the PDjeep

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Writing this might be one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in a while, and that is really saying something. So, here goes- Yes, the rumors are true. I am selling my beloved PDjeep.

IMG_0568Before you cry out in confusion and anger saying “but, Paige?! How could you do such a thing?!” let’s be honest- this was inevitable. I am currently living in a big city exactly 700 miles away from my where the PDjeep is currently situated. When the time eventually comes around for me to need a car in my life again, it is very likely that the PDjeep won’t be able to start, and will, instead, have dug her own grave.

So, now that you understand where I am coming from, I would like to pay homage to my relationship with my car. I wish there was something that I could compare my connection to my car to, but, sadly, there is not. We’ve been through a lot together, the PDjeep and I, and I wouldn’t trade the hours spent in my car with anything in the world.

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I can’t even believe I’m making this public.

I remember when we first began our relationship when my parents had surprised me with her shortly after I received my driver’s license. I was a brat then, and was displeased with my new car. To my parents, I can’t tell you how sorry I am for that. You both know how much the PDjeep means to me now, so, thank you for bringing her into my life. I distinctly remember you giving me the vanity plates that didn’t mean the ‘Paige Dolton’ jeep, but meant the ‘Paige/Peter’ jeep. Whoops, sorry Peter. Also, yes, my car is a female. What did you expect?

341_1024562734249_28_nHigh School was a great time for me and the PDjeep. She unfortunately took the brunt of my sub-par driving skills and got a little too friendly with several stationary objects. Remember that basketball pole at Marshall? The minivan in the church parking lot? Liz’s parked car in our driveway? The mailbox? Sorry for running you into things- you deserved much better than that. The mailbox incident left you looking a little damaged for a while- I swear, you looked much better without a side mirror than with one. But we both got through it together. I wish it was only the exterior that was affected by my high school days, but, sadly, that is not the case. I’m sorry for that one time we used my car as an outdoor music festival in the school parking lot after lacrosse practice and we blew your speakers out. That was a mean thing for me to do, and I apologize.

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367_1026660506692_8451_nBut we had our good times in high school. That’s when we really connected, the PDjeep and me. It was in high school that I learned to love driving. I jumped at any opportunity to drive my friends around because not only did I love my car, but I loved driving people in it. Much to my parents’ dismay, it was always the PDjeep that was the mode of transportation for any night out, adventure, or roadtrip we might take. She made a lot of friends, that’s for sure. My high school friends understood my connection with my car. I was asked to homecoming via window paint not only on my side windows, but on my front windshield (because that’s really safe), we decorated her for so many events I can’t even begin to list them all here, she took us to the Kanye concert, and pretty much any other summer concert after that (she was a concert freak), and she took me to camp every summer. We had some good times in high school, that’s for sure.

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My first year of college was the only time that the PDjeep and I were separated. It was a rough year, but we both knew that it was necessary in order for me to get the most out of my freshman year. She gained her sorority letters, though, much to Peter’s dismay. We also weren’t together my first semester of sophomore year, but it was okay; we got through it.

399298_4086835889164_1462799449_nMy last two years of college were some great ones spent with my car. Most notably, she was used for tailgating and any roadtrip you could possibly imagine. She made it down to Panama City, FL for Fall Break, and it was then that I realized she was starting to get a little old, per the rocket ship sound she was making the entire way. She then made it to Orlando, FL for Spring Break that same year. All the while, getting me back and forth between Clemson and NoVa every now and then. She was starting to get old, and my wallet my dad’s wallet was starting to notice. I naively chose to turn a blind eye because this was my friend, my confidant; I couldn’t part with her, no way.

Senior year, she spent almost every Saturday in the parking lot of Friars right next to the speakers. She got a lot of traffic and made a lot of new friends during football season in Clemson, where she also gained some questionable memorabilia and smells. But she was there for me. She always was. Except for that time she broke down at 8 am during Finals Week on College Ave in front of Subway; that was rough.

Screen Shot 2013-08-20 at 9.18.56 PMThis last semester of senior year was probably the toughest on her. Most bizarrely, a stranger chose to sleep in the PDjeep overnight. I learned to never keep my car unlocked again after that lovely incident. She made it all the way to the University of Michigan to visit Nomas, and she didn’t like it one bit. Breaking down in the middle of Ohio was her way of saying, “listen, Paige, I am an old woman.” But throughout all of this, we were learning a lot about each other. I was forced to learn about cars, and she learned that I was stubborn as hell. After the Ohio incident, I continued pushing her limits and brought her to Savannah, GA, and then to Charleston, SC for Spring Break. She had a big of a temper tantrum in Charleston, but, by then I knew exactly how to cure her. I truly put her to the test when I attached a U-Haul to the back of her with my entire life (and some of Kate’s) in tow. That was probably the most emotional journey I had with her because I knew it would be our last. We made a great pair.

I am glad that I said my goodbyes to her when I moved up to Chicago, because I knew this day would eventually come. I truly cherish every hour I spent with the PDjeep, whether it was driving to Virginia Tech for the hundredth time, tailgating for football games and concerts, or just getting me to where I needed to go. She was a good car, and I will miss her immensely, but I know that it is time for her to make someone else happy. Love ya girl, you’ll always be in my heart.

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My significant other.