Say What You Want About Leaving Illinois, But This Chicago Writer is Here to Stay

The author and her Illinois-born boyfriend, whom she met in Chicago, stand over the city on the Ledge at the Skydeck at Willis Tower on Valentine’s Day of this year.

A recent Gallup poll revealed that an Illinois resident is as likely to want to stay in the Land of Lincoln as leave. Yes, it’s a 50-50 split, a coin toss, as it were. What type of coin? A penny, of course! You’ll want to stare Lincoln in the eye once more before you decide.

According to the poll, Illinois leads the nation in the number of people who responded “Yes,” to this survey question: “Regardless of whether you will move, if you had the opportunity, would you like to move to another state, or would you rather remain in your current state?”

While half of my fellow Illinoisans are fantasizing about packing their bags, I’ll gladly speak for the rest of us and proclaim from the top of the tower formerly known as Sears: I love Chicago. As a Windy City resident for nearly five years, I’m thrilled to call Illinois home. I’ve spent quite a bit of time living in Nevada (where 43 percent of residents say they’d leave) and Texas (where 24 percent want out), and I have to say, I am smitten with Illinois.

Here’s why: Chicago is the best of both city and rural worlds. It’s a bustling metropolis, a world-class city, where you can get your fix of anything you want: four-star dining, top-notch shopping, culture and sports galore, green spaces, incredible career opportunities, and the list goes on. But it’s also known as the City of Neighborhoods. So after you’ve seen the latest show at The Goodman Theatre or have whiled the day away at the Art Institute, you can retreat to your little village within the city, wherever that may be.

In my case, retreating means gazing at the tree-lined streets near my apartment in Roscoe Village; wandering to my local coffee shop, Bad Wolf Coffee, for a fresh croissant; choosing from Mediterranean, Thai, vegetarian, Japanese, Mexican, Italian, Vietnamese or other cuisines, all within a 10-minute stroll, for dinner; walking the dog over to Scooter’s Custard and getting a human-sized cone for me and a complimentary doggie cone for her; spending the afternoon at a street festival or shopping at neighborhood boutiques; heading to the vintage Music Box Theatre to see a movie; and the list goes on.

In Chicago, the city has a life of its own. There are days when the wind hits the Vienna Beef factory just so and the whole city smells like hot dogs. Other days, it hits Blommer Chocolate Company and the streets smell like cacao. Sometimes, it smells like the most delicious loaf of fresh bread ever baked, but I’ve yet to find the source for that (time for another trip to Bad Wolf for a croissant). Every time I step out of my front door, I’m enveloped into a vibrant cityscape, and get a sense that the possibilities for that day are endless.

I was worried, when I moved here, that I would miss the open spaces that define the states out West. I was afraid I’d feel claustrophobic amidst the towering buildings, and get lost in the anonymity of America’s third largest city. But that was before I discovered the 18-mile Lakefront Trail, where I can run or ride my bike along the shores of Lake Michigan before heading to a free concert at the green-as-can-be, 319-acre Grant Park. It was before I heard the intriguing stories behind the city’s architecture and learned what distinguishes one historic building from one another. And it was before I got used to strangers smiling at me in passing, because that’s just how friendly the Midwest is.

Of course, every city and every state has its problems, and Illinois is certainly not immune. But I’m a big fan of the Land of Lincoln, and would stay no matter which way that penny flips.