Chicago's Lessons

Chicago's Lessons
Photo courtesy of Shannon Duffy

This post is part of The Heart of Chicago Series that will be running on South of I-80 for the month of March. Today's post is  by Shannon Duffy of Deepest Worth who I was fortunate enough to meet last year when we were a part of last years Listen to Your Mother's cast.

Chicago's Lessons by Shannon Duffy

I am not a Chicago native. Let me get that out of the way right from the start.

I moved here only four years ago with my husband and three kids, and I have never lived in the city.

So, am I qualified to talk about the “Heart of Chicago?” Maybe not. At least not in the same way as someone who has lived here her whole life.

I didn't grow up with the Cubs or the White Sox. I grew up in small town, rural Ohio.

I don’t know much about the Blackhawks. Hockey wasn’t really a thing in the small Kentucky town that we called home for fifteen years.

I prefer pepperoni over sausage on my pizza, prefer my caramel and cheddar popcorn in separate bags, and used to put ketchup on my hot dog (key words: used to. I’ve been cured of that. And, I now keep celery salt in my spice cabinet).

What I do have are fresh eyes and ears to see and hear this city as a relative newcomer.

And this is what I see:

I see ten million people existing together, all with their own individual stories, their own contributions to the story of this city.

I see the diversity of vibrant neighborhoods and suburbs, each unique and flavorful.

Photo courtesy of Shannon Duffy.

Photo courtesy of Shannon Duffy.

I hear so very many voices and languages and accents as I walk through the supermarket, reminding me that there are so very many different kinds of people in this world - that most of them offer kind smiles and warm greetings, no matter the language used, and that a few of them will inevitably cut in line at the deli counter.

I see a working organism as I disembark from the train during rush hour and witness the mass of individuals heading out to their corners of the city, making their livings, leaving their marks.

I see the history of this city. I see it in the architecture. I hear it in the stories of its citizens. I taste it in the foods. I feel it in the hum of constant movement. I imagine what this place was like a hundred years ago, knowing that much has changed and much has stayed the same.

I see one of my children head off on a field trip to the Lyric Opera House while another watches a play at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. I see the changes and opportunities that this city has brought upon us.

I see parks and museums and festivals and …

I also see poverty and homelessness on street corners or lined up outside of churches. But with the seeing comes understanding and awareness and the impossibility of pretending that it is not there.

What makes me qualified to speak about the Heart of Chicago?

It’s the rush I get when the train pulls into our station, knowing what awaits me at the end of my ride. It’s the awe I feel when I walk along the riverfront amid the giants of this city. It’s the love I have discovered for a place miles away from the place that I came.

I will forever miss the rolling hills, friendly smiles, and southern drawl of my old Kentucky home, but Chicago has taught me that change can be good, that change brings opportunity for growth. Chicago has taught me so very much.


Photo courtesy of Shannon Duffy.

Photo courtesy of Shannon Duffy.


And the lesson has only just begun.

My Favorite Chicago Discoveries (so far):

The Riverwalk - I love being able to walk along the river as an event in itself or as a means to get from one place to another. It never feels crowded and there are no stoplights or traffic to worry about.

Chicago Planet Food Tours -  It has become a tradition that whenever my dear friend from Kentucky comes to visit, we do a food tour. We’ve done three with this company and they are fantastic. They offer a great way to experience the flavors of various neighborhoods (Gold Coast/Old Town, Chinatown, and Bucktown/Wicker Park).

The Shakespeare Theater - I am not really a fan of Navy Pier, but I will make the trek there just to go to a show at the Shakespeare Theater. It’s reasonable and there is not a bad seat in the place. We’ve seen Short Shakespeare plays and family shows like Pinnochio and Beauty and the Beast.

Pizano’s - I love almost all pizza, but if I had to pick a favorite, this would be it. As a matter of fact, if I had to pick a last meal, this would be it.

The Spice House - My mother and I have made it a tradition to visit The Spice House in Old Town at least one time per year to stock our spice cabinets. I love the smell upon entering the store and once you’ve tried their Saigon Cinnamon, there is no going back to the grocery store variety.

Chicago Ideas Week - For the last two years, I have attended sessions during October for Chicago Ideas Week. This event offers talks by a wide variety of experts and speakers. I have seen Malcolm Gladwell, Tig Notaro, Mitch Albom, Rebecca Skloot, and Deepak Chopra, to name a few. Tickets are only fifteen dollars and so very worth it.

Chicago’s Water Taxi - The water taxi will drop us off right outside our Metra station, making this our chosen mode of public transport after a long day of walking in the city. Plus, who doesn’t like a boat ride (on a warm day, at least)?

I am so grateful to have years and years ahead of me to discover the many, many experiences that this city has to offer.

Bring it on, Chicago.

When Shannon Duffy is not sharing her beautiful writing and amazing photography through her blog Deepest Worth, she is supporting her three creative and active children and brilliant husband.

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