MINI PENNY: My Kind of Town // Chicago in Review

Friday, October 26, 2012

My Kind of Town // Chicago in Review

I'm sitting in O'Hare airport writing this and thinking about how crazy life can be. On October 29th, 2011 — nearly one year ago — I moved to this crazy city. I left my Ohio life behind, in a way, with very little planning and foresight. It was "on a whim," as many would say. Everything in my world was turned upside down. I was in a new city with new people and a new job and a new environment. And I loved every second of it.

The path that my life has taken to get to where I am now has been nothing short of miraculous. At work I was passed up for a manager position that I had my sights set on, and I was devastated. I went through periods of doubt. Was I in the right field? Was I writing enough? Was I connecting enough? I found myself discouraged in my love life as the people I thought cared about me fell by the wayside. Things were out of my control and at the time, I didn't see the benefit of it.

For a long time I was a little secretive on my blog about where I work. It wasn't out of any sort of secrecy or shame, it was simply because I had come from working at Apple Inc, a company that (at least when I worked there) made it very clear to not represent yourself as an employee. They had me a little brainwashed in that way. It was very rare that I referenced where I work in my online life. Because of this, the little story of my promotion hasn't really been told.

In May, Urban Outfitters prompted their team leads (the best way to describe them are full-time associates or assistants to a department. I was the women's team lead at my store) to make a video promoting the new training program for the year. Immediately I had an idea in my head for a cheesy 70s infomercial knockoff. My store manager, Beth (who is the best person ever) gave us the time to make it — which is pretty unprecedented for a store of our volume. Me, Matthew, Rudy, Caitlin, and Bart filmed the commercial in about an hour — and it only took me about an hour to edit. We made it cheeky with a lot of inside jokes and a touch of Carly Ray Jepsen. How could we go wrong?

When the finalists were selected by home office, I was so excited that ours made the cut. I felt so confident and proud of the work we had, for a lack of better terms, thrown together. This little silly video was my baby and the response to it was so great from all levels of the company — it was a great feeling.

From there, everyone in the company was asked to vote on their favorite of the top ten videos. Our store was getting emails from employees all over praising the work and I had a great feeling. Fast forward to July when I heard that some folks from home office were in Chicago and that they were visiting our store — I had an even better feeling.

When Drew told us that we won — and that our prize was a trip to home office in Philadelphia — I was speechless. Inside I was screaming and jumping up and down and on the verge of tears. On the outside I was trying to keep my composure. I knew that we would meet some awesome people in Philadelphia and make connections that could be really good for my path with Urban, but in the grand scheme of things, I had no idea that it would go this far nor this quickly.

The trip was in August, as many of you may remember, and I already had a few interviews scheduled during my stay. Interviews came and went over the next couple of months, until the end of September when I was informed that I didn't get the position I [thought] I wanted. See, I was in a bind. My apartment lease was up come October 1st and I had nowhere to live. I had put off apartment hunting because of Philadelphia prospects, leaving me about a week or two to find a place to live. And to be brutally honest, I was broke.

Just as I was trying to figure my life out, I got another call from a recruiter asking me not to sign a lease and that there was a position that she knew I would be interested in — Social Media Manager. A lightbulb turned on for me. Alaine, who is an extremely patient and kind person, offered me an extra room in her apartment. It wasn't really a room, in fact, it was a covered porch. And it was cold. But it was a place to live and an extreme show of hospitality. I took her up on it. At first I had anxiety about putting my life in a storage unit and sleeping on a couch — something I did back when I became unemployed in 2009. But after a few days with Alaine, I felt at ease with the situation and knew that if I set my sights on what I wanted, I would make something, anything work.

After phone interviews, I was asked to fly to Philadelphia. On a whirlwind trip of less than 48 hours, I interviewed again. On my flight back to Chicago, which was at night, I saw the skyline as we came in to land. I cried. Chicago is my home and deep down I knew that I was doing the right thing for myself by moving forward with my career. I was scared and excited at the same time. And it was time to wait.

Well, waiting was something I did not do. The next day, as I was about to begin the Mini Penny x UO DIY Workshop, I got a phone call. It was a job offer. And I cried again.

I think it's really interesting when people approach me in public or send me emails and really think I have it together. I struggle like most everyone. Since I left Apple in 2009, in fact, I have done a lot of struggling. And I trusted it. And by doing so, and by working hard at what I love, people noticed. And now I have such an incredible opportunity in a new city with a great company. To all of the messages from readers and notes from friends telling me that I'm an inspiration — thank you. I still can't believe that I am here and I'm amazed every single day at how crazy life can be. You all inspire me.

Every single person I've met in the past year has changed me. Whether we have been internet acquaintances, reconnected friends, ex-lovers, or whatever: I've grown. I've learned so much about myself. My outlook is more positive and more confident. I have been surrounded by the best people I could ever ask to be. My coworkers made it so easy for me to love my job. My fellow Chicago bloggers made me so comfortable in a new environment. I cannot thank Chicago enough for welcoming me with open arms, nurturing me, and shaping me into the woman I am. The past year has easily been the best yet, and I can't wait to make everyone proud.

The Year In Photos

November: Bicycle Film Festival. Photo by FourEyeChi.

November: Bombshell Skateboards Art Show at Uprise Skateshop

November: Intarsia

November: Thanksgiving with Mom

December: Birthday with Geoff

December: ModCloth Spread the Cheer Event

January: Kelley Came to Visit

March: DIY Wall Mural

April: Twin Tipped

May: Kelley and Scott Came to Visit

May: NATO Summit

May: Randolph Street Market

June: Beach Party

June: Cubs vs. Red Sox

July: Lauren Moved In

July: Lichtenstein

July: Warby Parker Bocce Social

August: Savers Event

August: The Field Museum

September: Renegade Craft Fair

September: Phil Chester Photography

So with a heavy heart, goodbye Chicago. I will be back.

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