My First “I Love Chicago” Moment

Today was my first official “I love Chicago” moment, a phenomenon similar to the overwhelming feelings I’d had in Hong Kong, interestingly enough called “I love Hong Kong” moments.

Here’s what happened: I’d just picked up Nutcracker tickets in the Joffrey Ballet building. The Macy’s windows were decorated with Christmas care, a homeless man was playing “Silent Night” on his saxophone for tips, and smoke lingered in the air from those standing 15 feet from the entrance. It was then that the tingles started and the goosebumps rose; I really do love Chicago and I am so glad my life brought me here.

The scene reminded me of the days of my youth traveling to the big city to see the Christmas lights with my family. Almost every year, our tradition was to ride the train in and spend the day shopping, sightseeing, eating at restaurants, and freezing our butts off. This upcoming Saturday, my family will take the train in to come visit me and we’ll repeat one of our favorite pastimes, this time adding A Christmas Carol into the mix. I’m thankful for my family, our fun traditions, and that I now can call myself a Chicagoan. 

The First 24 Hours

I’ve officially lived in Chicago for over 24 hours and it’s already been one helluva ride! Here are a few bright spots (and quirky tells) from Day 1:

*My parents are the best!! With my 12th move in 15 years, they have been there for every step of the way. Thank you!

*Slept like a baby last night. No panic dreams about living in a strange new place or about my new job. It’s meant to be.

*Had to wait out three trains this morning because they were all too full. Just like the HK MTR, dumbasses don’t huddle in the middle making it impossible for the people at the door to go anywhere. #nothingschanged

*Guys on the “el” (for my foreign friends, that stands for elevated train aka the “subway in the air”…and sometimes underground) listen to the music impossibly loud. Turn it down, or you’ll go deaf!

*Heard motha f*ck*r at least 50 times on one 15-minute train ride to work. Must have been quite a story to get that lady so pissed off…

*I suck at directions. Even with a smart phone, I get lost all the time. If I do it once, though, I got it. But because I went the wrong way today, that means it’s back to square one tomorrow morning.

*My job is amazing! My boss is really nice and very relaxed about times to be at work and providing comp time for working nights/weekends. My coworkers are all super friendly and helpful. I’m excited to go back!

*Awesome events I’m already signed up to go see/do for free with work: stay at the Chicago Hostel for a night, have dinner with travelers to Chicago, and see Les Mis; watch A Christmas Carol as a kick-off to the holiday season with a bunch of kids and their families (and hopefully mine, too!).

*Saw a girl that I’ve known since dance classes starting in second grade in my building! New friend to reconnect with!!

*Made plans with two other friends for the week. Chicago is shaping up to be quite the social place – exactly why I wanted to move here!

*Today made me so happy that I couldn’t stop smiling on the way to the train this evening. I just had this huge sloppy grin for about 30 minutes because I had such a good day. I’m so psyched about what’s to come with my job!

*Met a girl on the morning train and ran into her on the evening train, too. Made a new friend…

*Haven’t worked a real 9-5 job before and man is it tiring! I do love the flexibility of it, though. No kiddos staring at you and watching your every move. Just do what I want when I want…I can pee when I gotta, I can take a walk to the cafeteria with a bunch of hot bankers if I want a brownie, etc.

*Groceries here are hella expensive. I will no longer go to Treasure Island for my weekly grocery visits. Seriously, a bag of grapes was over 7 bucks!!!!

*Joined Groupon Chicago – the official sign I’m living in a city [and that I’ll be spending lots of money and getting lots of massages]

*My roommates are all so funny, sweet, and quirky. Had a blast laughing tonight at random stuff.

*Seriously, the guys here are freaking hot! Who can resist a dapper young gentleman in a suit?!

That’s What I’m Doin’ These Days

The job?

After 3 interviews, I was offered the job of Manager of Program Partnerships with the Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana. Though I’ll typically be based out of the Chicago location found in The Loop, there are also five other offices from where I can work. I’ll be planning events for 85,000 girls in 10 counties, including plays, musicals, ice skating, and overnight trips at museums. There are over 24,000 volunteers that will help facilitate the events, though, I, too, will get to attend various shows and the like. I am psyched because this is a perfect fit for education background because it’ll basically be like planning a whole lot of field trips for mass quantities of people.

The apartment?

After hours of scouring CraigsList, I found a cute little place that I’ll be flat-sharing with three other girls, a teacher, a waitress (they’re sisters), and a host for Second City. They’re all about my age and really nice. We each have our own bedroom, but share a kitchen, living area, and dining room. Three of us also share a bathroom. The condo is located in Old Town which is a fabulously young part of Chicago and is only a 15-minute train ride from work. I’ve also rented a parking spot in a perfect garage near my house which is covered (awesome for the winter months!!).

I’m excited about every part about this new transition in my life; it’s exactly why I chose to leave Hong Kong and the teaching profession.

Whistle While You Work (from Home)

The interview process has been progressing making me ponder my life as an at-home-worker. Soon, I’m sure I’ll be working out of an office, commuting to work, and dealing with other people. But, for now, I’m enjoying spending my time working from home and here’s why:

*Not waking up to an alarm – for my entire life, an alarm has ruled my early morning hours, screaming at me to take a shower, go to school, eat breakfast, get to work. For the last 2 months, I’ve woken up on my own accord, when my body says I’ve gotten enough sleep. It is glorious. I still wake up fairly early – anywhere between the hours of 6am and 8 – but my body really appreciates getting up when it wants to.

*In bed ‘til noon – even though I wake up early, sometimes I stay in the cozy warmth of my bed until noon; I’m not sleeping or reading or laying there the whole time, but usually working or applying for jobs. It’s nice to stay in my pajamas and choose to shower when I want.

*The food – maybe the scale doesn’t appreciate it (or maybe that’s just me reading the scale), but at home, there is always a plethora of food. I don’t have to worry about eating a school lunch or waiting in line for the microwave, I can just eat when I’m hungry. I used to sneak food when my students “weren’t looking” because I was just so darn hungry, so now when I’m feeling a hunger pain, I can walk 3 steps to the kitchen and check out what leftovers there are or what new recipes I want my mom to make for dinner.

*Welcome distractions – sometimes work is boring, as I’m sure you can all concur, so if I want to get on Facebook, I can; if I want to catch up on an episode of Dexter, I will; if the dishes need to be done, I’ll wash them. It’s not only a brain break, it keeps my parents’ house clean. That also means I can run errands if I want to or call up my grandma to go get ice cream.

*No need to get dressed up – sometimes I stay in my pajamas all day and usually I don’t worry about putting on make-up. Not only am I saving money on not buying clothes (which I have only bought 1 piece of clothing since July!!) or make-up, I am comfortable.

*No commute – everyday on FB I see people pissed off at their Chicago commute, and in HK I was traveling by bus or train everyday for at least 45 minutes one way. I do not miss those days and I do not look forward to the future with them, so for now, I’ll revel in the fact that the furthest I have to go to do work is down the stairs or, if I’m feeling frisky, in my car to Panera.

I’m sure these lazy days won’t last forever, but I’m glad to have them while they’re here.

Karma Came and Got Me

A few days back I wrote a blog curious about why guys take phone number and don’t call them. Well, the universe read said blog and both guys I’d written about texted me within a couple of days. I decided to go on a date with one of them (the biker who randomly stopped me on the street) and let’s just say it didn’t go so well. On my way home, thanks to my handy phone transcriber, I made a list of the words that came to mind…

short * self-righteous * presumptuous * florist * biker * grabby * self-conscious * bodybuilder * veiny * full of himself * unsettling * awkward * strange * corny * silly * goofy * horny * confident * annoying * pompous * pretended to use carrot as a tongue * karma came to bite me on the ass * complimentary * kept calling himself cute * drunk * alcoholic * immature * said, “I will lead you to the Lord” * hypocrite * persistent

If you couldn’t tell from this very awesome list of words, I will not be seeing this guy again…

Bloomington v Chicago

Last week I had an interview for a job in Bloomington, the town where I went to college. It’s about 2 hours away from my hometown and practically in the middle of nowhere. Despite its location, BNorm (as it’s commonly referred to because of the two towns that sit right next to each other, Bloomington and Normal) has approximately 130,000 people living there with two universities adding numbers during the school year. It was a great place to live for uni, but there are some definite drawbacks.

I’ve also been interviewing for positions in Chicago – a raucous city of 7 million. And while I do love Chicago, all it has to offer, and its similarities to the city-life I grew accustomed to in Hong Kong, it also has some points of contention.

Decisions, decisions! I do not have good job offers anywhere yet, but when that time comes and I have to decide what job to take and where I want to live, it’ll be tough. I’ve made some pros and cons to help with the choice. Here goes…

Eventual family-Someday when I have a family, where would I rather raise kids? The answer is definitely Bloomington. It’s much for convenient to get around with children and the school systems are quite good.

CostBloomington wins this conversation hands down. Everything is cheaper in B-town: gas, rent, taxes, food, the list could go on.

Single scene-And if Bloomington wins the cost of living topic with no argument, then Chicago prevails here. I lived in the city for 10 days and I was asked on dates by two guys, what would happen if I lived there forever? Eek!

Amount of people-The numbers don’t lie, there are over 50 times more people living in Chicago than in Bloomington, which equals 50x more traffic, 50x more chances of meeting a guy, 50x more chances of making new friends. It’s a tie! Less people can mean good things and more people can also pump up the stats.

Things to do-As I mentioned before, BNorm is literally in the middle of cornfields. In any direction that you go outside of the 2 towns, there are fields upon fields upon fields. In the towns themselves, I’m sure there’s plenty to do for a few weekends worth, but in Chicago there are more things to do than a lifetime could contain. Chicago, you win.

Changing jobs-If, let’s say, the position that I eventually take doesn’t work out or I want to search from something different, the options aren’t really there in Bloomington like they are in Chicago. If it doesn’t work out at the B-town job, then I have to start my “new life plan” all over again. But, like my dad said, it’s okay if what’s next is still a stepping stone; it doesn’t have to be forever. Why start over again in a new city in a few years when I could just already be in Chicago or more easily find something else?

Friends already there-Another tie. I have only a handful of friends that I talk with in both places, though there are many Facebook friends that live in Chicago which could change into friends I hang out with, so…maybe Chicago wins here, too.

Job available-For the sake of the position, I won’t share what it is I’ve been interviewing for, but the job in Bloomington is amazing, one I’d really love to get. In Chicago, where I’ve been doing the majority of my search, there are tons of jobs, but not tons of job offers. B-town– check.

Safety/crime-All of those people in Chicago means a whole lotta crime. My mom would choose Bloomington any day because of the safety issue of the city.

Surrounding area-If I’m ever bored with the town I’m living in, I can go somewhere else, say drive to a connecting city. The most B-town has near to it is a themed-room hotel in Clinton though I will not divulge why I know this. Another for Chicago.

Diversity-After having lived in Hong Kong surrounded by other people not like me, I started to really embrace and enjoy finding out about other places and cultures. My closest friends in HK were from all over the world which means I now have tons of places to go visit someday! As one friend who lives in Bloomington told me: Ashley, you are more traveled and cultured than the average American. Bloomington is small town middle-America full of college students and families, chain restaurants and megaplexes. This pretty much says it all. Again, Chicago.

So if I tally the numbers: Chicago 6, Bloomington 4, Tie 1

This is what I’ve come up with, though I’m sure there’s much more to the scenarios than I can explain since I haven’t lived in either of them as an adult. Have some advice? Please share!

Taking Chicago by storm…one date, one yoga class, one salsa lesson, one blog post, one trip, one drink, one meal, one new friendship at a time.