MHS Voice

The city that spoke to me

Anna Beth Baugher at Chicago's Cloud Gate sculpture, commonly known as

Anna Beth Baugher at Chicago's Cloud Gate sculpture, commonly known as "The Bean."

Anna Beth Baugher

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My first reaction was an overwhelming sense of discomfort. I didn’t see the auburn-colored trees that littered every patch of grass in Chicago, or the skyscrapers that towered over me, larger than life itself.

I only saw the Northerners dressed in black, white and gray, walking swiftly from one destination to the next. They knew where they were headed, and I didn’t. I felt inferior to them in a way- because I wasn’t wearing a suit or spitting statistics into an earpiece.

I was just a young Arkansan with an intense craving for sweet tea, who by some miracle, was given the privilege to attend the 2018 JEA/NSPA Fall Convention in Chicago.

The wind was relentless and the rain was cold. Because of the honking horns and clouds of cigarette smoke, I didn’t notice the elderly couples walking their dogs or the children dancing in the rain- until I starting searching deeper into the stony appearances of the people of Chicago.

College students were massaging their heads in defeat as they studied for upcoming finals at the closest Starbucks they could find. Men were rushing home to see their families after a long day of work and women were doing the same. It became a game for me to look and listen to the people around me and guess what their lives were like, wondering if maybe they had been lost like me once- so unsure of what the future would bring.

I began to play the game so much that eventually, I craved to know the people of Chicago. One night, while watching “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” at the National Journalism Convention, my fellow journalism classmates and I met a boy that was visiting from Indiana.

“Arkansas sounds so different from where I live,” he said. “I love your accents!”

It was in that moment that I realized people wanted to know my story just as much as I wanted to know theirs. It’s human nature to be curious- to be drawn to those who are different from you.

As my week in Chicago progressed, my eyes were opened to a plethora of personalities and cultures that I had not even begun to explore.

The trees became brighter shades of orange and red, the city lights shined like stars, and the rain was a refreshing reminder that I was there to grow and expand my horizons.

I felt completely and utterly overwhelmed with opportunities that I didn’t even know existed. I felt like I could go anywhere in the world and belong. I realized that I didn’t have to stay in one place to grow and prosper. There were people like me who were alive and thriving everywhere.

I realized that I didn’t have to stay in one place to grow and prosper. ”

Chicago is not just a city. It is a home to people of all cultures. It is a home to architecture that should be appreciated as the artwork that it is. Most of all, it is a home to people like me. Children and adults who don’t yet know all of the possibilities that wait for them beyond their comfort zones.

I see the beauty in adventure now, and I invite it.

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