Introducing... the Kinda My Town Project
Updated: Jun 25, 2018
When people ask me where I’m from, I proudly say “Chicago.” I wholeheartedly believe it is one of the greatest cities in the world, its authenticity and uniqueness set it apart from other mid-size metropolises like it. I realize I’m totally biased-- my formative years were set here. I grew from an awkward 14 year old girl to an awkward 18 year old girl in Chicago. But those four short years were jam-packed with personal growth and self-actualizing evolution. I left Chicago to go to college lightyears closer to the person I am today than when I started my freshman year of high school.
However, after leaving this fantastic place for Maine in 2015, I never really came back. I spent my next two summers in Washington D.C. and New York City. I then crossed the ocean to study abroad in Madrid, Spain for a semester. I spent so much energy and time making these cities that were not my home my own, I became an expert at it. I now possess the keen ability to form lasting social media follow-ships with metropolitan fitness instructors all over the country. And, I am recognized by Spanish baristas at not one, but two Starbucks locations in Madrid!
The Kinda My Town Project
I can travel. I can rely on myself in an unfamiliar place and create roots wherever I go. But, upon returning home to work in Chicago this summer, I initially had an incredibly difficult time connecting to the natural roots I had planted here years ago. I went to a Cubs game, I took a Chicago architecture boat tour on the river, and I did a lot of walking down Lake Shore Drive. I was in awe of the city’s beauty, but I felt like an outsider looking in.
On a mission to discover new and exciting facets of Chicago that I hadn’t seen before, I visited the National Museum of Public Housing. It’s an unassuming building on the corner of Kingsbury and Ontario, I’d never noticed it before even though I’m a frequent visitor of the area. Currently, the museum is showing an exhibit titled “History Lessons: Everyday Objects from Chicago Public Housing.” I took a gander around the one-room museum and was immediately touched and felt very connected to the stories of those I had never met.
Former residents donated objects that were important to their everyday lives whilst living in Chicago Public Housing. Small descriptions accompanied objects and described its significance to its owner. These descriptions painted a picture of what life was like at the time. I couldn’t relate to the story-teller’s experiences, but I could relate to their descriptions of how the objects they donated made them feel.
A man described receiving a toy metal airplane from his grandmother after seeing it in a window one day. She surprised him with the gift, and he recounted that “the look of excitement and glee she had on her face was unexplainable.” Upon receiving the gift, he remembered “vibrating” with “pure joy.”
Another former resident donated an orange and white Pyrex dish which she explained was used for every special meal in her childhood home. She described the holidays as “a beautiful bonding experience.” After losing her mother, she kept the dish, wanting “that bond to continue.”
I never lived in any of the Chicago Public Housing residences, but I’ve experienced the sincere generosity of my parents on birthdays and holidays. And many of furniture items in my house allow my grandmother’s legacy to live on. I wasn’t there in the Ida B. Wells or Robert Taylor homes, but I’ve felt the way these people felt.
It dawned on me that to reconnect with Chicago, I’d have to forge a new path. I couldn’t spend all my time returning to my high school haunts, that would feel strange. I’ve grown and changed too much since I last resided here. What I’ve identified makes me feel closest to this city is hearing the stories of others.
The “Kinda My Town” project is my attempt to pursue that outlet of connection. And, you guessed it, its name is a play on the song made famous by Frank Sinatra that also is able to reference the distance I feel from my hometown. I want to hear people’s stories. I want to learn what makes them happy each day, how they’ve recovered from hardships, and what keeps them going. Most importantly, I want to hear about how they conceptualize their personal idea of home. The connecting factor amongst all my interviewees is that we all share the same homebase: sweet home Chicago.
I will upload a photo of each participant to the project’s Instagram account, accompanied by a link to their interview. Each part of this project will be conducted by me, I’m asking the questions, and I’m sharing my experiences by learning through others. Join me on my adventure, and please, keep reading.