4 Life Lessons I’ve Learned from My First 7 Days in Chicago

As the flat, corn-lined highway stretched in front of me for as far as I could see, months of anticipation and preparation shifted into reality.  After uprooting myself from my beloved Music City eight months ago, I was now trading my Virginia Appalachians for Chicago skyscrapers.

I’d visited the city for just a few hours in the spring, but now I’d committed to an entire two years of graduate school there.  What if I got back to Chicago and ended up hating it this time?

When I stepped out of the car onto the downtown pavement, immediately my senses were saturated.  The sight of the throngs of people going to and fro on the sidewalk made me feel trapped between them, the street, and the buildings, and it overwhelmed me.

The smell of pizza, exhaust, and wafts of an unpleasant odor whose origins I’d rather not know all intermingled and bombarded me.

And finally, the sound of the “L” train, the honking cars, the sirens, and the kid on the corner drumming on buckets worried me, because as an audio engineer, I do everything I can to avoid loud noise and protect my ears.  I wondered if I’d sustain hearing damage simply from all my morning commutes…

What have I gotten myself into?  I thought.

Now, I’ve been in Chicago for a few days, and I’m happy to report that I’m starting to figure it out and get settled into a rhythm—though there have been several moments when my unfamiliarity with the big city way has gotten me into trouble…

For instance, yesterday, when I was out for my morning walk, minding my own business, some guy kicked open a store’s door, and it crashed right into me!  The impact nearly knocked me off my feet, and I felt it radiate up into my brain—though I don’t think it was a full-blown concussion.

I learned my first big-city lesson: don’t walk too close to the doors when you’re on the sidewalk!

It’s going to take some time to get used to living here, but although in some ways Chicago feels like a foreign country to a Nashvillian originally from small-town Central Virginia, it also feels strangely like home.

To be honest, for a long time, I was worried and upset about leaving Nashville behind, after all of the friends and connections I’d made there.  I’d planned to stay in Music City and work in the industry for a while, but certain doors shut on me instead.  (And let me tell you—that felt much worse than yesterday’s incident!)  My only consolation when I went home in December was that I resolved to move back in a few months.

Yet here I am, in Chicago instead—not Nashville.

There are still days when I miss my Nashville life and all my friends terribly.  Sometimes I’m still sad about how things had to happen in December, but…

I’ve learned that it’s silly to be angry when, in the end, I’ve gotten such an amazing opportunity here.

I wouldn’t have even applied to grad schools this year if I’d just stayed in Nashville to work.  I’m so excited that I now get to go to school in this neat city while working as an audio engineer!  I really do believe that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be, and for that, I’m incredibly grateful.

As it turns out, you have to roll with life’s punches and look towards what you can do next—not get bogged down in how you thought things should go.

I’ve learned that you have to keep an open mind about the future and be willing to adapt to the ways of a new city.

And above all, Chicago has taught me one big, important lesson:

Sometimes what you think is the end of the world is actually the beginning of something even better.

 

So, here’s to new beginnings and new opportunities—if only I can avoid more sidewalk accidents…

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