In the midst of some research regarding the first stop on our trip, I found myself at the site for the School of Life in London. Offering classes from improvisation to having better conversations, I decided to look to see if anything interesting was happening while I was going to be there and signed up for a class called decoding the city. This was a night class. Meeting at the 1 New Change, a huge outdoor mall, at seven PM and going on a three hour long walking class of the city with Leo Hollis as our guide, this was not your typical class. Filled with a lot of history and some new perspective it opened the door to further learning and I realized again that it’s really up to you how much you want out to get out of your experiences. So with that, I decided to continue my learning from that class by picking up his new book and taking a gander.
Called Cities are Good for You, that, plainly, is his angle. As someone who is on the fence between living in a city and missing the natural countryside a lot, this book definitely made me think harder about what it means to be part of a city community. He goes through many things including problems with slums, traffic jams, pollution, but I think what resonated with me most was that cities offer creativity. Hollis says, ‘the city offers diversity and competition, the best forcing grounds for turning seeds into blossoming success. . . Competition forces innovation.’ In addition to that I think the city or lack there of can really take an industry to the next level, particularly mine- the restaurant industry. Growing up in small town Ohio, restaurants weren’t a thing. You didn’t aspire to work in or own them or at least I didn’t. They weren’t big or exciting and least of all they didn’t seem to offer any kind of challenge or environment to learn about business. I think in the little towns they’re viewed as a job to make ends meet but not a means to make something of yourself. But it’s a different opportunity that you find in the city.
Enter Chicago. One of the biggest foodie towns in America, the competition and creativity oozing out of its restaurants is ridiculous, extreme, and relentless. Consistently pumping out the next generation of amazing food, cocktails, dessert, it’s endless. And it’s a way of life. Something that grows on you and you grow into, something you start to understand and appreciate only by being a part of it. I think that’s why I felt a little embarrassed telling my parents (after getting my Master’s) that, ‘I’m working in a restaurant and I’ve stopped looking for work for what I went to school for,’ whatever that was supposed to be. But I’ve found that the people in cities, the people that I work with especially, have pushed me far beyond my comfort zone into a place where I feel comfortable going out on a limb to learn something new or try out a new idea. They push me to be creative, going back to Hollis’ point, and that’s something I never thought I would get from working in a restaurant. People in cities are so much more interested in out of the box, taking chances on ideas and people, rather than looking at credentials on a resume. Considering I really had no experience before that in a restaurant or in the ‘real world,’ these people of the city took a chance on me. They gave me an opportunity to see what I could do and in the process I saw what I could do. And while the city helped define me and allowed me to understand by potential more fully, it is really the people of the city who effected me the most. So I guess no matter where I end up- town or country- the city has been good for me.