To say the last eight months have been a whirlwind would be a tad of an understatement. Following graduation from Indiana University-Bloomington last May, I picked up almost immediately and moved to the Windy City for a fabulous opportunity with a communications firm in River North.
Hailing from Akron, Ohio, I will always be a loyal Northeast Ohioan, but I would be lying if I said I didn't already have a soft spot for Chicago. Here are a few of my "outsider" impressions over the last eight months.
Chicagoans love their skyline
I am often reminded that the lush skyline of Cleveland -- which consists of factories, old banking buildings and a football stadium dubbed the "factory of tears" -- bears no resemblance to the likes of "Big John," the Willis Tower, the Trump Tower and the Aon Center. The skyline is truly a remarkable piece of the city. I constantly find myself looking up at the beautiful buildings and architecture while perusing the loop on any given Saturday.
Chicago is a city built on hard work
A blue-collar work ethic was one of the main reasons I decided to remain in the Midwest for work. Day in and day out I am constantly amazed by the collective work ethic of the city. No matter the time, day or place, Chicagoans always seem to be plugged in and working. Of course I know no one works all the time, but for a young professional still trying to find his way in the world of work, it is inspiring to be surrounded by hard-working folks who are proud of what they do.
Watering holes, watering holes and bars
No if, ands or buts about this observation: There is absolutely no shortage of bars in Chicago. I realize I am pointing out the obvious, but coming from a city with a few decent bars and a college town dominated by two, the variety is unbelievable. As a Cleveland sports and Indiana Hoosiers fan, I am loyal to Vaughn's Pub and Kirkwood's respectively, but I can't wait to explore. I am increasingly fascinated by the way bars in different locations show off the unique characteristics of each neighborhood.
A vibrant Jewish community
One of my first Fridays in the city, I was jogging on Fullerton near the lake when I came across a large group in the park. With my curiosity piqued, I did a bit of investigating and what I found gave me the chills. A large group of young Jews had gathered in the park to celebrate Shabbat.
I have been to Israel three times and celebrated holidays at the Western Wall, but this scene was truly incredible. With the backdrop of a large, immaculate city on one side, the gorgeous shore of Lake Michigan on the other and the Shabbat prayers rising in unity somewhere in between, I truly felt at home for the first time.
Chicago is incredibly diverse in more ways than one. In addition to the unique and vibrant neighborhoods, I have encountered people of every background, race, ethnicity and religion. While I will admit to noticing both tension and ignorance, I know people are proud to call Chicago home. I even had a cab driver comment that he tried moving to New York for a few months, but ended up moving back to the friendly confines of Chicago because his ethnicity was often looked at with disdain.
Regardless of ethnicity, race or sexual orientation, Chicago truly has a place for everyone.
As I finish writing this, I'm on a plane traveling from my old home to my current home, yearning to catch a glimpse of that breathtaking skyline. I can't wait to see what else this magnificent city has in store.