Chicago- My Four Year Field Trip


Our guest blogger this week is Shea.  Enjoy!!  ReFlectionary!!!

I often laugh to myself when I consider that I learned to cross the street in Chicago.  If you know anything about me, you know that I moved to Chicago for college so learning this skill at the age of nineteen might seem preposterous.

At home, in Dallas, Texas, I remember being terrified of crossing streets.  After school, I would take a bus to my brother’s babysitter, pick him up and then cross a big scary street to catch another bus home.  I can distinctly recall the rush of air that would move my body as cars sped by and my counting to ten just to get through it.  Now, a decade or so later, I breeze through these streets .  I glide in between cars, jaywalk as I please and surpass groups of pedestrians waiting on the permissive walk signal.

While, I recognize the illegal nature of my relatively new skills, I cannot help but be proud that I am not stuck waiting for the sign to “walk”.

“Walking” away from my comfort zone, my home, Dallas was spur-of-the-moment choice.  My seventeen year old brain thought it would be nice to use my education to experience a new environment.  After all, traveling the world was not part of my impoverished family’s budget.  However, unbeknownst to me, my four year stay in Chicago would prove to one of the most significant decisions I made.

My discoveries range from small and perhaps insignificant to life changing.  I learned to cross streets , I discovered reggae music (Wild Hare-haha), I saw natural hair on an adult woman for the first time (shot out to Billz), I discovered THE BEST PIZZA ON EARTH (Giordanos), I learned to ride a moving train without leaning on or holding onto anything, I learned how much I prefer walking to my destinations than driving, I discovered the simple joy of bread, olive oil and parmesan cheese (Pasta Palooza on Halstead- holler), I found out about a thing called graduate school (PhD-bound, c/o 2012 ), I met my two of my closest friends (Mr. Mister and Ms. Funny), I stopped relaxing my hair and then cut it all off, I fell in love, I made love,  I learned about people, poverty, culture, class, education, policy, social stratification, gentrification, community, service, list is endless.  I could truly go on forever.  Summary: my mind, my heart, my soul (and even my body- sadface) grew in Chicago…and eternally grateful for every part of experience.

I hate to say that I would not have had just as wonderful of an adventure if I had stayed home or traveled elsewhere for school but I this is exactly what I believe.  There was something about Chicago that brought out the best in me.

When I reflect on my crosswalk transformation, I absolutely know that if I wasn’t in a situation that forced me to adapt to my new environment, I’d still be scared of crossing the street today.  Similarly, if I hadn’t decided to leave home, my friends, my family, my comfort zone… I just don’t know where I would be.

I leave you with a quote from Chicago’s queen bee: “Use your life as a class”, Oprah Winfrey

Shea

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~ by travelling womanists on February 23, 2011.

One Response to “Chicago- My Four Year Field Trip”

  1. Shea! I didn’t know I was your first! lol.
    If there is ANY place to grow, it’s definitely Chicago.
    Great article!

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