As a senior in high school, the big question my family and friends always asked me was “Where are you going to college?” When I told them that I would be attending college in Chicago, I got mixed responses. At first, people were happy for me. They would tell me how exciting moving to a big city from a small town was, and how many new adventures I would have. But their initial excitement gave way to something else. Instead of focusing on the positive, they asked me if I would feel safe in a city like Chicago. I was told many times before coming here by several different friends and family members how violent the city was, how I always had to be looking over my shoulder and watching my back. The part that bothered me about these conversations wasn’t the concern my loved ones were showing me, it was how often the talk of violence and safety outweighed the talk of the beauty and opportunity that the city also offered.
In the introduction to the anthology Smokestacks and Skyscrapers, David Starkey remarks that “Chicago is physical before it’s intellectual.” This quote perfectly sums up the city. Everyone who told me about Chicago’s crime rate was only looking at the physical aspect of the city. They hadn’t experienced Chicago for themselves, and were simply making their assumptions based on the violent stories that NBC Nightly News reported on. While it’s true that crime and cruelty in Chicago exist; the goodness, the beauty, the intellectual parts of the city that I’ve found when I’ve looked hard enough far outweigh the violence. This is what I’ve experienced living here for the past few weeks. I’ve learned that I must continue to “fight through the layers of anticulture grime,” to find the value and creative fuel that Chicago provides. Only then can I truly embrace my surroundings and accept the city as something beautiful instead of something to be feared. (Alana King/City of Stories Student)