the second city

Before I left for Chicago, my father, ever the social worker, warned me about Chicago’s inferiority complex. Passing on advice from a Chicago-born friend, he jokingly told me not to wear New York sport paraphernalia or mention where I moved from. It would only send my new urban compatriots into a downward spiral of self criticism and then how would I make any new friends?

As usual, it was good advice. In my first couple of weeks after moving, I had this conversation many times:

“So where did you move from?”

“I moved from Brooklyn, New York.” (Honestly, I probably left out the “New York” part. I assume everyone knows that Brooklyn is one of the five boroughs. Hometown hubris does not leave a born New Yorker even when she defects to the Midwest…and just discovered she does not know how to spell “boroughs.”)

“You moved from New York City? Why did you do that? Everyone moves from Chicago to New York, but I have never heard of anyone moving from New York to Chicago. Why did you do it?”

“Rent.”

“Ahhh….”

Even back in my first city, people can’t quite conceive of why I am leaving the island. Two months later, my mom finally decided I was secure enough to know that when she told anyone at synagogue that I was moving to Chicago, they responded, “So what kind of a job is she moving for?” Without a job offer, what other reason would I have leave New York? I am lucky enough to be born there, grow up there, and now live in this center of culture and business for free (albeit with some very noisy roommates). Why leave?

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