#OurChicagoStories Spring 2018
Our Chicago Stories Spring 2018 was small, but mighty.
In early April, Rach & I headed to CHC and Youth & Yarrow's studio space for another afternoon of sharing stories and capturing moments. We always head there about an hour and a half before people begin to arrive, and it always begins with us struggling to unlock the door - which has become a laughable moment that we document (with a tad bit of sweating happening on both ends due to the fear of the door just not opening for us.) We head in, each some lunch, get things situated, and then begin by asking each other an intentional question centered around our personal Chicago Stories and capture one another. The reason we do this is to remember how people are about to feel against that white wall. It also gives us a chance to reflect on the last few months of our own lives and see where God is working and how our hearts feel about it. It's not rare that these moments are filled with awkward laughs, word vomits, and some tears. It's become a special part of our Our Chicago Stories days, one that won't be jumped over or forgotten about.
This was a special one, as they all are. Rachel & I had full hearts by the end because this crew really brought it with their vulnerability in their storytelling. There were many stories of Chicago not being the "original plan" for each of these individuals, stories of how the Lord led them to this city and has them here for a reason. It was a beautiful picture of how God places people in a city, in a community, and even in OCS for a very specific reason.
Now let's get to it, here are the folks from Our Chicago Stories Spring 2018.
Why do you love it?
When I first came here, I was an anxious teenager who was too afraid to go to the grocery store by herself. I never left campus and found the city dirty and terrifying. But then I grew! In the past five years, this city has taught me to become more independent, more daring, more confident than I could have ever imagined. I know the train lines like the back of my hand. I spend my weekends adventuring through the city alone, feeling exhilarated and refreshed by it. I even flew by myself for the first time to visit a new city this year. Chicago has been the setting of a lot of my growth, so it will always hold a special place in my heart.
Can you speak into the creativity found in the Chicago community? How does it inspire you?
Creatives here are so encouraging. I’ve never been much of a competitive person, so sometimes I shy away from creative communities because they feel so competitive. But here I’ve found more collaboration and encouragement than competition. And there’s something about being part of a community and working together than strengthens the individual, too – so when I’m not working collaboratively, I’ve been inspired to be more confident and just do my thing.
Is there anything else you'd like to share about your time in Chicago?
Yes— this is my first time publically saying this, but I have this feeling that my time in Chicago is coming to an end soon. I can’t tell if it’s in a number of months or longer, but I can feel that it might be time to move on to a new setting for a new story. (That’s scary to say—nothing is planned yet, but I trust God in the details!) I’ve been feeling extra nostalgic and grateful for the growth that I have experienced here, for the healing and the victories, for the independence and the community, for every person I have met here that made my world a little bit bigger and so much richer. I am endlessly thankful. I love you, Chicago.
Why do you love it?
From the moment I stepped foot in Chicago as a student, something about the city captured my imagination. I felt a part of myself come alive here like it never had before. Like most cities, it is full of possibility. Unlike many cities, Chicago breathes just like you and me. I think it’s the most easily anthropomorphized city I know. Chicago is most definitely an international, world-class city, but it sleeps unlike New York, and it’s not putting on a show like Los Angeles. Chicago is friendly, like a next-door-neighbor, delightful like your first childhood crush, and unsettling like your first holiday dinner with your girl/boyfriend’s family. Chicago is the most honest and ingratiating unreliable narrator you’ve ever heard tell a story. Chicago is a charismatic antihero. Chicago is inspiring and terrifyingly larger than life. Chicago is like your best friend turned A-list celebrity that invites you to enjoy all the perks and only sometimes has an elitist, off-putting attitude that makes you feel like an imposter. Chicago is breathtakingly beautiful like your friend with the perfect dimples, impeccably white, never-been-touched-by-braces teeth, perfectly quaffed hair, and fashion blogger level style that you’re totally jealous of but can never stop admiring. Chicago has Jekyll and Hyde qualities that make you shudder. Chicago cheats at Monopoly no matter how many times you call it out. Chicago has an addictive personality that is sometimes just as likely to binge Stranger Things as it is to ask you for money so it can buy McDonald’s coffee and a fix. Chicago loves surprises and mystery and enjoys going on adventures to show you it’s favorite brunch spots. Chicago is your artist friend that lives in a studio and has dedicated their life to their craft and the two other jobs they need to pay rent. Chicago knows how to dance the bachata, do the two-step, and Viennese Waltz. Chicago is your favorite person to go on a drive with by the lake. Chicago intimidates you with how hard it works to be the best; Chicago is the friend the Jones’ are trying to keep up with. Chicago’s relationship standards are unrealistic and it uses Tinder to reassure itself that it’s still desirable. Chicago is the kindly grandmother/nonna/abuelita in your neighborhood everyone calls Mama but no one actually knows who’s genetically related to her. Chicago is a hard-core gastronome and will put you into a food coma if you let it. Chicago threatened to shoot you a couple of times but you forgave it because you know what made it desperate enough to kill someone. Chicago is human.
How has community affected your time here?
Community means everything to me. Growing up as the son of a pastor who worked in college ministry, I am familiar with meeting tons of people, entertaining guests in my home, saying goodbye to people you love, and rebuilding community around you repeatedly as people come in and out of your life like seasons. With that background, I understand a lot about what makes a good community and the level of dedication it takes to build and maintain one. Living in Chicago, I’ve found a quality of community that I haven’t experienced since my dad retired from college ministry. There are so many types of communities here as well. I can always find a group of people who value the things that I value. I can always find people to inspire me. I didn’t know how much I needed that when I first moved back here. The community I’ve found here brought me back from the brink of hopelessness. God has used them to give me a much-needed transfusion life. I have a place that I feel I belong and am loved. That’s all anyone wants really. I’m so grateful to have that.
hat do you find challenging about living here?
I find that the pace and scale of everything can be exhausting and sometimes really intimidating. There are so many things in Chicago done on this grandiose, global, scale at such a rapid pace that it’s easy to lose myself and burnout in the cacophony of activity here if I’m not careful. I love exploring, but my curiosity often leads into unwise uses of my time and energy. I also fall in love too easily. This city is primed for romantic adventure for those with an appreciation for it. Some of the stories I’ve acquired from the adventures I’ve had here are beautiful. I cherish opportunities to fall in love with humanity: talking to strangers, enjoying well-told stories, sharing my stories with others, learning new skills, participating in creative expression, but underwhelming investment due to a lack of bandwidth yields little reward. I’m gifted with flexibility but end up cursed with overextension. Under the fatigue of overextension, I’m likely to burn out and cease investing at all because my investments of time and effort devalue to the point that I have no satisfaction or sense of fulfillment left at the end of the day. Once that happens I’m likely to withdraw to recharge and reevaluate my investments. I require time to re-center myself on Christ in those moments. I find that fasting as a regular practice has been a great gift to me that helps me stay steady.
TAYLOR HANSEN HUGHES
What brought you to Chicago?
Initially I didn't want to come to Chicago at all, I had just graduated from college with a degree in dance but I wanted nothing to do with dance. I wanted to move abroad and live as a missionary in some remote place, but I am really glad that God knows what He is doing more than I do! Every opportunity I had been chasing after to move out of the country fell through, some in soft quiet ways and others in loud and very disappointing ways. So I would up a couple months post graduating living at home in Minnesota not knowing what was next for me. I was offered a job to dance for a modern dance company here in the city and was very reluctant to join but told them I would do one performance with them and then would be moving out of Chicago… yet after a 3 year stint with the dance company I am still here! Not dancing anymore but very much in love with the city with no plans to leave anytime soon.
Why do you stay?
I feel like I have found a super strong sense of community, a wonderful church family and a really strong appreciation for my neighborhood, I want to see my neighborhood thriving in all its unique messiness and I don't want to miss out on the journey!
Do you have an experience or a specific encounter here that has moved you/stayed with you that you'd be up for sharing?
About a year and a half after moving to the city I was nannying for a family in Uptown, I was walking home with their son who was 3 at the time when across the street from us shots rang out and we saw the shooter run across a gas station parking lot. I grabbed the boy and started running the other direction away from the shots. He was freaking out, I was freaking out. 2 men were shot and killed in their car that day and I just remember only being able to think of all the “what ifs” of that situation for weeks until finally I feel like God changed my questions of “what ifs” to the question of “what can you do to be an agent of peace and justice in your neighborhood, maybe its small, but what can you do?” Instead of that being an experience that made me want to leave my neighborhood that marks a time for me the solidified me wanting to stay.
Our Chicago Stories Winter 2018
TAYLOR HANSEN HUGHES
We love every bit of this process, it's a special project for both Rachel and I, and we will continue to pursue it and grow it. We are confident that our stories are IMPORTANT and they need to be shared.