5 Years In Chicago: What Do I Actually Know?
I was originally going to title this post, "How To Make It In The City of WINd." But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I needed to be a bit more honest in the headline of the post. Truthfully, I haven't quite 'made it,' according to my terms, but I'm well on my way. I've lived in Chicago a little more than 5 years now and I've picked up a few (positive) tactics that can be implemented in your personal and professional lives. This is my home now.
Thinking of moving to Chicago? New to the city and could use some tips? Well. Keep reading and you might find 7 takeaways that could be helpful to you:
Don't ever call Chicago, "Chiraq."
...because Chicagoans really, really, really don't like it. When the term first gained popularity, I didn't really consider myself a Chicagoan yet, but I knew I didn't like it and the reference was totally inappropriate. "Chiraq" is a negative nickname for the city, implying there are more souls taken in Chicago, by guns, than during the Iraqi War's peak. Not really flattering, is it? Now, there have been local area rappers that have used the term and don't really take an issue with it. I think, as consumers, we need to move as far away from "Chiraq" as possible; we don't need any self-deprecating nicknames that draw less-than-flattering attention to Chicago. There are SO many wonderful aspects of this place and it's the duty of anyone who possesses an ounce of optimism, to make sure those positive aspects are shared with those who don't know. Almost everytime I go home to Florida, someone makes a joke about me living in Chicago and not being shot yet...to those people: those jokes aren't funny. Chicago has its troubles and everyone is more than aware of the violence -- let's not make a mockery of that. It's hard not to get mad when these comments are made because it isn't their fault -- the mainstream news depictions of Chicago are deplorable. People go off what they see on TV; they don't know they're being offensive. Kinda like how white folks don't know their condescending tone is offensive to POC. That white privilege is sweet, isn't it? Bloop! I'll stop.
Do the work.
Chicago is a midwestern city made of hard workers. One of the reasons I love it here is simply because folks aren't afraid to get their hands dirty. In general, there isn't really a pretentious vibe here and everyone just believes in working hard and enjoying the fruits of their labor, but not too much. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that! But if you want to reach your perceived level of success, you're going to have to put in some sort of work and stay committed to whatever 'it' is. Get a side-hustle. When I tell y'all I am so serious about multiple streams of income! I don't believe I'm obsessed with money, but I am obsessed with the idea of keeping as much of my money as possible. Almost everyone I know here has a 9-5 AND pursues a passion project on the side. Legitimate hustling is not a bad thing (this is a battle I will probably never win with my mother). You need to always have something going -- always have some work to do. I'm not good at having idle time. And I wouldn't suggest trying to cut corners; Chicagoans tend to be pretty transparent and call a spade a spade. Don't play games. Do work and stand behind it.
Think critically/be strategic.
Chicago may be comprised of more than two dozen neighborhoods that feel like small towns, but this is still a metropolitan area. If you wreak of the scent gullible, you will get played. In the words of DJ Khaled, DON'T EVER PLAY YA SELF. This is only going to come from experience; I'm not saying I have mastered the ability of avoiding the play, but I read people pretty well and I know when something isn't right. But anyone is capable of manipulation and being manipulated. I will never forget the experience of having my iPhone snatched right out of my hand my first summer in Chicago. In that moment, I felt played and pissed. Things happen that are beyond your control sometimes, but the Lord has equipped all of us with a brain to make responsible decisions with (as often as possible). Keep your eyes open. Think strategically. Remain confident in your ability to avoid the hogwash. Get to know the people you interact with on a daily.
Cultivate a reliable network.
...Or be reliable within your network. We need people. As much as I am an introvert (a fake one sometimes), I still have to know how to go out and be sociable. At the very least, know how to keep in touch with people you call family, friends and associates (to a degree). I will admit, I am not good at keeping in touch with folks. That doesn't mean I don't care, because I do care, but I'm not naturally inclined to pick up a phone and just have a conversation with someone. Within the last few years, I've learned 'not naturally being inclined to do something' isn't really an excuse to not improve upon it. As an adult, there isn't really anything making you keep in touch with friends or contacts, other than the desire to actually want to be in touch with them. If you actually care about staying in good standing with people, enjoy their company or want to develop a great professional relationship, you've got to maintain regular contact. People want to interact with other people! It's a basic human need. Here's a story: I had gained some great friends in college, we had a disagreement, I said some not great things and didn't go about correcting it properly. As a result, much time passed with no conversation and eventually, those friendships dwindled. The moment I realized the season of those friendships had passed, I was upset with myself for not doing my part in making it right. Stubbornness got in the way and I lost friends; from that situation, I grew a lot and learned the right and wrong ways to manage communication. From that point forward, I made it a point to be a better friend. Want a friend? Be a friend.
As someone who isn't from the city with very little family here, I rely on my network a lot. Your village is only as strong as you allow it to be. Allow people to be in your life.
Get yourself a mentor. Or two.
Ok. *sips wine* I go back and forth with myself about how to find an official mentor. Now, I had one for about a year. This was an individual whom I admired, and still admire, within my industry. Then suddenly, the communication stopped on both ends and to this day, I really don't know why. They stopped reaching out to me and I stopped reaching out them. Before I knew it, Kikora was no longer having monthly mentor meetings at a chain coffeehouse. In the aftermath, I really dissected myself trying to figure out what happened and why I never reached out. I read several articles about the mentee/mentor relationship and almost all of them state, it's a two-way street and it's super important to really know the individuals selected for each role. The person I selected to be my mentor is a great leader, but I don't think I really knew them well enough before I had that conversation with them. Perhaps I was hoping we would get to know each other better, because I really was in search of a big sister-type with a great professional track record. And though she was extremely helpful, something did seem off at times. And then it was over. No more communication. Thankfully, I've been very fortunate to be around folks professionally I consider examples or would go to for advice, if need be. Although I don't have a formal mentor anymore, I have a number of colleagues with vast industry experience that I learn from every single day. I would love to have another mentor, but I want it to be an organic relationship. I'm learning how to get out of my own way.
Find a church home.
Before we get too far into this, I am one who believes in regular worship with like-minded individuals. Although you can praise God anywhere, there is something to be said about being in the presence of the Lord and being fully concentrated on the worship experience and sermon. In essence, a church home should bring the same solace as being around family. Being far from home/family can leave you yearning for warmth and connectedness. Church can provide that. It's a wonderful feeling to leave service and feel completely energized for the week; visit a few places before settling down and don't let anyone pressure you into joining a congregation the Holy Spirit didn't lead you to. Message!
Incorporate Black Southern values.
Black folks in Chicago are either from Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee or Georgia, generally. The Great Migration brought an influx of us up here; how else do you explain soul food? Anyway, in the South, things move a bit slower...people take their time getting from point A to point B. Folks smile and will have a full-length conversation with you about their granddaughter's small role in the local community theater. What I'm getting at is, try to be warm as often as possible. Practice compassion. Take your time. Laugh. And definitely find time to rest; I know earlier I said I wasn't fond of idle time, and I'm not, but everyone needs rest. You better get that self-care!
I guess I know a few things, but this is obviously a working list. When I get a few mo' dollars in the bank, I'm sure this list will be amended somehow. Maybe? What are some of your tips for making it in Chicago? I'd love to hear! Be sure to let me know in the comments on Instagram about this post or on the kikospeaks Facebook page!