One year ago at the time of this post I drove my red Corolla loaded with my worldly possessions down the Edens Expressway from Prospect Heights, crossing the border into Chicago for the first time as a permanent resident. After a weird day of following my soon to be roommate through Downtown and later waiting at her sublet as she and her friends got ready to party, we ultimately went to the Fizz Bar and Grill for an open mic and within minutes I was also (unexpectedly) performing in Chicago for the first time.
It blows my mind to look back at everything I have done since. The resume of this year alone pales in comparison to everything I scratched and clawed to do in Seattle over the preceding years.
- I’m on an improv team at the Comedy Clubhouse, currently working with a Chicago Co-op Team, and formed an improv group with classmates from Annoyance.
- I got to study with and perform under Kevin Mullaney for an improv production at Under the Gun Theater.
- I’ve performed one-off solo pieces at the Playground, Shithole, Second City and Jack and Wolf’s Bucket Show.
- I formed the sketch duo Sam and Elden with another Annoyance classmate (Elliot Northlake).
- I remounted Drawn Dead at the Elgin Fringe Festival, and (details to come) am about to perform the show again in Chicago.
- And this never minds the countless jams at various theaters I’ve been able to participate in, or the training I’ve received from iO Chicago, Annoyance and One Group Mind.
Even after several audition rejections, I still managed to create and receive so many opportunities that those rejections weren’t a problem. I can approach auditions with more agency, with the idea that each is just a take-or-leave pitch that will point me either way towards the next opportunity, that I’m also auditioning the production or theater as well as them auditioning me. All these opportunities allowed me to look at my still developing comedy career with a sense of abundance and opportunity rather than trying to follow a career narrative.
Work: My new job is an occasional pain in my ass but pays a bit better than my last Seattle job.
Cost of living: I do find myself spending more than hoped or expected, and part of that is being so busy that I’ve had to eat out or grab and go more.
I did compare my old budget to my current budget, and even with some unfortunate breaks on my living situation, even taking more classes than I originally budgeted for, I’m at least breaking roughly even and paying about 4-5% less overall than I was when I left Seattle.
Quality of life: A lot of Chicago residents are spiteful bitter assholes, and the city is run with the relative corruption, systemic/cultural racism and lawlessness of a third world country. Yet I don’t feel Chicago is markedly more dangerous than Seattle’s worst, or even the worst of Las Vegas. There are parts that are maniacally dangerous due to gang crime, but they are largely pockets of neighborhoods and I don’t live or work near those areas.
Much of Chicago is really not that dangerous. Like any city, just watch your back or generally avoid walking outside or using public transit after midnight, or travel in groups. Just get a cab or rideshare home, honestly, and you’ll be fine. Nightspots in Seattle were honestly just as dangerous after midnight, and I gave people there the same advice.
Also, two years of driving through Seattle’s nightlife prepared me well for handling Chicago’s terrible traffic and spiteful drivers. I don’t enjoy driving in Chicago (I have only used my car for driving to work and back, and the occasional road trip). I may even ditch my car as soon as I can. But knowing how to legally, safely work around choke points and traffic jams, as well work around as slowrolling drivers trying to troll everyone behind them, has helped me immensely here.
I maybe use my car once or twice a week. Parking (even with a residential permit) is a pain in the ass here, but it was a pain in Seattle too. Parking near home by 6pm has made it easy for me to deal with it. The traffic jams aren’t as impossible as Seattle’s, but the traffic here is heavy more often, across a wider scale.
I’ve made exponentially more friends than I did in any year in Seattle. Seattlites are as bitterly defensive in their denial of the Seattle Freeze as Chicagoans are about the south side’s crime problem or the dubious nickname Chiraq. The Seattle Freeze is where people are outwardly friendly but difficult to connect and form relationships with beyond casual chat and public events. Here in Chicago, not everyone is friendly of course, but a lot of people (students, comedy colleagues) have much more quickly welcomed me into their lives. People here hang out together a lot. Or maybe people in Seattle just didn’t hang out all that much in comparison.
Chicago comedy is battling to improve their scene’s racial diversity, and yes it’s got serious work to do. But it’s light years more inclusive and diverse than the scene in Seattle, which was only 70% white but whose arts scene was more like 95%, and quick to exclude any minority performer who wasn’t amazing or kissing a sufficient amount of ass. Here in Chicago there’s a wide range of terrific minority performers, with more climbing the ranks. It’s not only getting there, but diversity is clearly an actively discussed and addressed topic for improvement in the scene.
The weather hasn’t been so terrible, though my folks and I did coordinate to make sure I had suitable winter gear before I arrived. It was 6 degrees the day I arrived, and a big snowstorm hit later that week, plus the Super Bowl Blizzard happened a month later. It was one of Chicago’s tougher winters, not as bad as the infamous 2013-2014 winter but still pretty tough. But I got through it without terribly much struggle.
I was more concerned about how I’d handle the summers, which get very muggy and can top 95 degrees. Despite growing up in a desert, I hate the heat. It did top 90 here and there, and it certainly didn’t feel good, but the heat was never unbearably bad. It helped that my roommate was gifted a window A/C, which helped cool off our apartment substantially.
Overall, this has been as great as I could have hoped for.