IT'S NO SECRET that I'm in love with Chicago. From my first visit to the city over thirteen years ago to any given day now, the second city has always held first place my heart.
But today I'm wrapping up my first-ever trip (I know, I know, what's taken me so long?!) to New York City, and tbh, it's been life-changing. From my first walk to the subway out in Brooklyn to my first stroll up 5th Ave, I've felt a surge of creative energy and drive unlike anything I've experienced before.
"Is this just your BS way of telling us you're going to move to NYC?" you ask. To which I say no, don't worry, I'm not packing my bags and heading east. What I do want to unpack, however, are a couple of style- & culture-related lessons that I've learned during my time in the city that never sleeps. So take a second to ogle at the leaves in Central Park, then follow me down into this newly formed empire state of mind.
Lesson #1: STYLE IS WITHIN EVERYONE'S REACH.
In NYC, personal style is literally everywhere. I couldn't walk down any street in Manhattan or Brooklyn without seeing dozens upon dozens of people who have clearly taken the time to put together a look that expresses some aspect of who they are. It's genuinely a culture of style.
That gets me really excited. Why? Because it doesn't matter who you are or what you do or what your gender or sexuality is or what strata of society you find yourself in. Style transcends all of those borders, and it's nowhere more obviously the case than in NYC.
Don't mishear me. I'm not talking about crazy looks and outfits that none of us would wear IRL. If anything, style in NYC is marked by how effortlessly-stylish everyone looks. Yes, it's personal expression, but no one is out to make a loud statement.
As Chicagoans (or whatever your city may be from!), we too have the opportunity to create a culture where we can all get excited about expressing ourselves through what we wear without the need to be exhibitionist about it. And I can't think of any sentiment more midwestern than that.
Lesson #2: SLAY OR BE SLAIN.
No matter who you meet in NYC, everyone is hustling. A full-time job and four side gigs? That's basically par for the course. New York is a city of workaholics, and the energy that approach to life creates is electric. If you're not at the top of your game in everything you do, there are roughly 30,000,000,0000 people who are waiting to take your spot.
Now, I'm not saying that an approach to life like that is healthy or sustainable. NYC has a way of chewing people up and spitting them out. We midwesterners value a bit more balance. But I couldn't help but get inspired to be the best at what I do and to show that with how I use every minute of my time. We have infinitely more capacity than we think to lead in every area, from how we dress to how hard we work to how much change each of us can affect. We just have to recognize that every minute matters, and we have to be willing to use every one of those minutes to its full potential. Because if we don't, there will always be someone else who's willing to go that extra mile in our absence.
I CAN'T WAIT to be back with all of you in Chicago. I also can't wait for my next visit to NYC. But it's the lessons above that I'm most excited to carry with me. Because more than anything else, this Chicagoan has learned what it means to combine an empire state of mind with a Chicago sensibility. And I'm excited to see what it's like to work and live with the best of both worlds.