How to be a Twenty-Something Chicagoan

As I approach the waning months of my twenties, I have been thinking about what my friends and I dubbed our “urban childhoods,” which began when we graduated college and is ending, well, now. While I don’t feel any different of a person as when I first came to Chicago, I don’t quite have the same free time and flexibility that I did a few years ago, and wanted to take this opportunity to give advice to those just starting their adult life in the city, too.

1. Keep going new places. For years, I only went to North Avenue beach and complained about how much I hated it. It took way too long for me to venture to the different beaches and neighborhoods, and I was amazed by the diversity of beauty in the city. There truly is a place for everyone.

2. Be a tourist in your own city. Don’t wait for someone to come in from out of town to go to the Art Institute or Shedd Aquarium. You will enjoy the city more if you revel in the things that others travel hundreds of miles to experience.

3. Don’t go to bars with gimmicks. No wrist bands, no drink deals, none of that nonsense. Your time is better served buying one unique drink at a nice-ish place than guzzling an unlimited supply of cheap drinks with no ambience. You’re not in college anymore. Do, however, try to make it to Pub Trivia at your local establishment. It’s a great way to connect with friends and keep your weeknights fun, without totally draining your energy.

4. Take classes, whether in sociology or skydiving. Don’t make “learning” and “discovering” things of your past, but embrace the fact that your new experiences will make you much more interested in topics you previously never even thought about.

5. Don’t worry about buying a place—yet. Renting is a great way to experience the different neighborhoods of the city with maximum flexibility—and let’s be honest, with student loan debt, most of you aren’t even thinking of buying a home anyway. Take advantage of your rootless existence to live in a range of places in a multitude of areas. That way, you’ll always be able to say, “I lived in ___ before it was cool.”

Of course, this list is only a starter. One of the great things about Chicago is that there is so much to offer that everyone can experience the city differently. If I’m being honest, I will say that nothing magically changes when you turn thirty and of course you can still do all the things you missed in your twenties—but wouldn’t it feel so much better exiting the decade knowing you didn’t miss a thing?

What other advice would you give to people just starting their lives in Chicago?

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