Reality and the City

“Dear Carrie Bradshaw, You are a [swear word] liar.”

This is the first line of Jen Lancaster‘s book, “Bright Lights, Big Ass.”  Ms. Lancaster has a point.

Ever since my aunt was in law school downtown Chicago (I was a whole 10 years old complete with a perm, poofy bangs and a size 9 shoe) I knew I wanted to grow up and live in the city.  I have felt the same allure for Chicago ever since: the energy, the hustle and bustle, the business people everywhere, the big companies, the fashion, the buildings, the lake…

So here I am, almost 26, a resident of Chicago.  I am living out my own dream, yet at the same time, all that glitters is NOT gold. 

I know a lot of you college seniors and recent grads are thinking about making the move to the big city, whether it is New York, Chicago, LA, San Fran, or anywhere else in the world.  Definitely do it.  The people you meet, the opportunities you get and the culture you experience are priceless.  BUT, you MUST be cut out for it.  

So today I’ll take a break from dry resume and job search talk and inject a bit of entertainment into your day. 

True Stories About MY Life in the City

My first apartment was an interesting one.  Everything seemed OK at first (other than the fact that my bed barely fit in my room) until a pungent scent of mold started infiltrating our 800 square foot 2 bedroom apartment. I’m talking a freshman year boys dorm + mold smell.  My own mother wouldn’t even come in when she visited.

After the smell, came the bugs.  After several rounds of exterminators, the bugs were still there.  I didn’t realize African safaris existed in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood, but I was wrong.  Oh, and there are also typhoons here.  Such as the one that came from my neighbor above who left his kitchen sink on before going out of town for a week.  One night I walked into my room to find a huge rush of water coming out of the ceiling.   It ruined my bed and put me out of a room for 2 weeks until the ceiling was repaired.  I guess that’s what you get for paying $700 each in rent in Chicago.

I could write a whole post about the shanningans that went on in that apartment thanks to my roommate.  I had a ton of fun with her and she was a good friend, but things came to an end when I was called after I moved out and was repeatedly accused of stealing a bottle of $6 Yellowtail wine.   After several attempts at trying to replace my own bottle of $6 wine, I haven’t seen her since.  Except a few weeks ago when her mugshot was on the morning news- apparently my concerns about her lifestlye weren’t so crazy after all.

I was super excited to head to work that first Monday morning in the city.  I walked to my car feeling awesome and then stopped in my tracks only to see all of my car windows were bashed out.  A short time later someone threw a beer bottle at my windsheild and broke it.  Unfortunately, another time,  someone decide to bless my car with human feces.  There are many more examples of car vadalism, but you get the idea. At this point I knew I had to get a parking spot which I definitely couldn’t afford. 

So I started working as a brand ambassador for liquor companies after my day job.  I got paid to go to bars, socialize with people and have them taste our drinks.  Nothing was racy about it, except the one promotion event which required me to shine shoes.  Hmm.  Overall, this side job was a good experience and paid well, but was a bit odd compared to my nylons and suit type of day job. 

So I got my parking spot, but parking spots aren’t such a good idea for those who don’t pay attention. 

One morning on my way to work, I pulled out of my parking garage only to hit a man in a wheelchair.  He fell out of his chair.  I thought I killed him.  

I happened to be really decked out that day for an event I was attending after work, which for some reason only made me feel and look that much dumber.  How stereotypical that a done up blonde girl in a cute skirt suit, huge Chanel sunglasses and a flash red luxury car would hit a man in a wheelchair. Ugh. 

I obviously wasn’t strong enough to pull him back up into his chair in my heels, so luckly two men came by and got him back into it- all the while scowling and cursing under their breath at me. 

I appologized and gave the victim my hot pink Ms. Career Girl card.  I figured a law suit was on it’s way to my inbox.

Instead, the guy called my phone that night to let me know he was ok and asked if I’d like to go out sometime.


Now I question if that man was really disabled in the first place.  If this was some kind of sick pick up line, he really took it too far.

As you can tell, having a car in the city has been a source of stress over the past few years.  It took me 2.5 years and a new job in the Loop to take public tran to work.  Talk about glamour. There’s nothing I love more than 2 full busses that pass me by when I’m running late only to be squished into bus #3 like a sardine early in the morning.

But now I “need” my car thanks to my dog Giada, whose favorite game as a baby was jumping out of the car window while the car was moving.  And as you can guess, raising a puppy in a high rise presents its own challenges.  Try potty training a dog from the 25th floor!  There comes a point when your doorman just looks at your face, shakes his head and knows your puppy peed in the lobby or elevator again.  

Doing normal things like grocery shopping in the city is not as fun as it looks either.  In the movies people have one brown grocery bag with a french loaf and bouqet of flowers sticking out. 

In my world, grocery shopping includes carrying 4 heavy and over stuffed bags of groceries only for the bags to rip and break all over the street while I am on a business call on my headset.  I now have a cart- you know, the ugly ones grandmas use- and I am proud of if it!

After all of this, I wouldn’t trade living in the city for anything.  I’ve grown accustomed to $10 drinks and 10.5% sales tax.  I know that wherever I go I will meet interesting people.  I’m convinced that my career and outlook wouldn’t be the same had I stayed in the suburbs.  I also know that there is always an adventure and another hilarious story just around the corner!

Nicole Emerick

Nicole Emerick founded Ms. Career Girl in 2008 to help other ambitious young professional women thrive in a career they love. Ironically, growing MsCareerGirl helped Nicole transition her own career from commercial banker to digital marketer. Today Nicole leads the social media team at a large advertising agency in Chicago. Nicole also served as an adjunct professor at DePaul University where she helped develop the careers of PR, Advertising and Communications students. Tweet with Nicole @_NicoleEmerick.

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