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I grew up in the Chicago area for 17 years before moving to college. After ten years, and a lot of effort to convince employers to give me a chance, I came back to Chicago for my career. I bleed red and black when the Blackhawks play, blue and orange with the Bears, and there’s little I like more than a Friday afternoon game of the Cubs. The people of Chicago are the friendliest, hardest working, most genuine people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. The city offers culture, fun, diversity and authenticity that rival the largest cities in the world. I have two tattoos with the Chicago flag and I’m considering one with the skyline. In short, Chicago is my home. It’s where I belong. It’s who I am. It’s what I know. And those are the reasons why I’m leaving.
I’ve been back in Chicago for 18 years now. But in the ten years I was gone, when I flew home, I got shivers when I saw the skyline. I’d be crazy to go out into the neighborhoods, eat the food, see the teams, connect with my friends over drinks and really experience Chicago. I was in love. I would brag about my city to anyone who would listen. Chicago was my pride and joy.
I don’t feel that way anymore. Right now, Chicago feels more like where I live than my home. Some of that may be Chicago’s fault. It certainly did not weather the pandemic well. The politics of lore is less of a memory than most residents would like to believe. The violence is ubiquitous and appears to be escalating. Taxes are astronomical and the education system can look bleak. But all places have flaws so I blame myself more.
Related: How to Never Let Fear Hold You Back
A few weeks ago my good friend Eric told me that many of us, maybe all of us, are back in Chicago because “it’s known.” Familiar… that word is not a compliment in this context. It means we are complacent, comfortable and saturated with the routine. I don’t want a routine. I don’t want complacency, and maybe I should feel uncomfortable. Without going into the merits of the film, in The internshipOwen Wilson’s character says something that has always stayed with me: “The thing in life that scares the most is change? Change. I think most people are stuck in their ways. I know I need change to get by. come and kick me in the ass to get me moving.”
I’m clearly at a point in life where I need change to give me a kick in the ass to get me moving. I thought I’d go back to Chicago, get married, and raise a family in the only place that ever really felt like home. Does that make any sense if I can’t even appreciate this great city anymore? Where it doesn’t feel special? If it doesn’t give me chills? When did it become routine? Absolutely not. I have to go so I can appreciate Chicago again, its culture, its people and have those magical moments when I come back. I need to get out of my routine, shake things up, embrace a monumental change in my life.
Related: Your Success Is Defined By How Well You Can Embrace Change
Good enough is never good enough
But let’s face the obvious. Change is scary – scary as hell. Uprooting everything I know and everything that makes me comfortable in favor of the unknown is scary. It would be a lot easier to sit still and settle for ‘good enough’. But I don’t know if I’ll ever get better, ever progress, ever appreciate where I’ve been if I don’t keep changing and evolving. If you take one thing from this article, let it be this: “Good enough is never good enough.” Not for me, and not for you.
By the time this is published I will have left Chicago. I will be in Colorado taking on new challenges, meeting new people and most importantly, feeling uncomfortable. Discomfort forces adaptation, which leads to growth and in turn progress. We don’t get better doing things we want to do because they’re comfortable. We get better because we do the things that aren’t comfortable – things that test our limits and push us over our thresholds.
I have a tattoo on my arm that says, “The only risk you regret is the risk you don’t take.” I have this tattoo for a reason, and to be honest, as the title of this article indicates, it’s because my biggest fear in life doesn’t matter. If you want to be important, you have to take risks. You should feel comfortable when you feel uncomfortable. You have to push your limits and dare to be big. It doesn’t mean you won’t fail. On the contrary, you will fail. You will likely fail many times, but there are lessons to be learned with every failure, and each failure will make the successes all the sweeter.
I don’t leave my roots behind. I will be back often and fully expect to see all my friends routinely in exchange for the cheap accommodation I can offer for skiing. I love you, Chicago. I love what you stand for. I like what you are. I like the promise of what you can be. Most of all, I love the people who make you what you are. I will always be a Chicagoan. You will always be my home. And although I have to go now, I’ll be back soon. And when I see that skyline through the airplane window, and I feel that magic and those chills again, I know I made the right choice to show you what can happen when I embrace change, the unknown and the uncomfortable.
Related: How to Thrive on Change
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