I grew up in a bubble. A bubble with perfectly manicured lawns, perfectly manicured women (and men and children), and more seemingly perfect people than you would ever expect to meet. But perfect is a pretty relative term.
In Highland Park (Chai-land Park as it is referred to by
outsiders), it’s perfectly normal to see eight-year-olds running around with Venti soy sugar-free vanilla lattes while texting their fellow third graders from their iPhones. Getting your first Juicy Couture
velour suit at the age of ten is like a rite of passage. Your Super Sweet Bat Mitzvah can’t beat mine. There were six dancers. And massive centerpieces. And an unlimited dessert buffet. In high school, you may have to wake up five minutes earlier to find a parking spot wide enough for your Hummer, you know, before all the other seventeen year olds with Hummers fill them up. And of course, the biggest decision
of your life comes at the end of senior year: prom limo or prom party bus?
This is a big generalization, of course. I grew up with some of the most down-to-earth, authentic people you’ll ever meet. They shopped at Target, clipped coupons, raked their own leaves, but all inside the comforts of our protective bubble, of course. There are so many great programs and events and people in the HP I could barely even begin to describe them all.
Every other storefront in my beloved city is beauty shop or a bank. We used to joke that we have too much money and look way too good. It’s not far from the truth.
I’m not trying to snub the 60035. It’s my hood. I’d get it tattooed on my knuckles if I didn’t have career ambitions. Or, you know, vanity issues.
Growing up, I babysat for hours so I could afford glittery Abercrombie tops and a rainbow of Juicy hoodies. I also received a very generous allowance, enjoyed weekly shopping trips with my mom, and never thought twice about the price of food or gas or pretty much anything. Unlike many of my peers, not everything was handed to me on a silver platter—I worked hard for what I wanted and made sure to get it. I wanted it, it was mine, whatever it took.
But in my tiny bubble, it was easy to forget that watching Nickelodeon for $12/hour so I could buy another pair of Seven for All Mankind jeans was not quite equivalent to having a part-time, minimum wage job at Dairy Queen so I could attempt to pay college tuition and have minimal loans. Appreciation for what I had barely ever crossed my mind.
With Twitter accounts like Whitegirlproblem
and websites like Sushi With My Girls
, it’s easy to poke fun at ourselves, to laugh at our obsession with overpriced mochas and manicures and Mean Girls
. I’m not going to deny that any of those things are like, so fetch, but it’s not the real world. My personal tragedy of spilling soy sauce from my sushi on my Macbook while trying to take notes at my top rate private university barely even compares to real world issues. And while I adore returning to my dear bubble on Lake Michigan, every time I’m back I realize the importance of popping the bubble, seeing the bigger picture, while acknowledging all the while how my bubble prepared me in the best possible way to face the world head on.
So many of us who grew up in this bubble know how to get what we want and we’re not going to settle for less. We’re used to constantly competing to be accepted to the best and most selective programs, to follow the hottest trends while still expressing our individuality, to be smart and nice and pretty and funny and popular and all around perfect. It’s a lot of pressure, but after finally bursting out of the bubble, breaking into the real world, you learn to become resilient, understanding that you deserve everything you want and can work for it. No is not an answer.
You can take the girl out of North Shore but you can’t take the North Shore out of the girl. And let me just say, there is nothing I’d rather be than a Highland Parker/ New Yorker hybrid. You can
have your sushi and eat it too.