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Central Standard

Going To Kansas City: Finding More Room To Think, Literally

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Chel O'Reilly
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“Going to Kansas City” is a series that shares the personal stories of how people came to Kansas City — and why they stayed.  

Chel O’Reilly is what you might call a Kansas City super-fan.

She proudly wears a necklace with a Missouri pendant, a heart marks where Kansas City is. But all this Kansas City pride has been kind of new to O’Reilly.

Originally from the Northeast, O’Reilly was living happily in Brooklyn, N.Y., with no plans to leave. But one visit to hang out with friends in Kansas City three years ago changed her life.

During that trip, O’Reilly was offered a job, found a place to live and made tons of new friends, friends she now considers family.

She just recently purchased a home in Kansas City, which is something she says she wouldn’t have dreamed of being able to do in New York. O’Reilly is a writer and founder of the weekly Tedx Salons in the Crossroads. She’s having a lot of fun here, keeping busy and settling in some ways, while still pursuing her many creative dreams.

Name: Chel O'Reilly

Age: 36

Neighborhood/city: North Hyde Park

Came to Kansas City from: New England by way of New York City

Arrived in: 2011

First impressions of the city: A city full of warm, kind people, full of hidden gems (and not so hidden gems, like the Kauffman Center.)

Why I came: Someone called my bluff. I came to visit and my friends kept teasing me, saying, ‘You like it here, you like it here.’ I told them they'd have to pry Brooklyn from my cold dead hands. Truth is, KC had me completely charmed from moment one. When I was heading out to the airport to return home to NYC, another friend said, "When are you moving here?" I replied, "When someone offers me a full time job." And I was offered one on the spot. By the time I got to the airport I called one of my dearest friends and said, "Um.... so I think I just agreed to move to Kansas City..." He asked if I was happy about it. And I realized I was. People ask me if I moved here for a job, but I didn't. I moved here for here.

View of the city today: It's evolving so beautifully. I hear about places no one would have wanted to walk 10 years ago that are hip and happening now. I am deeply saddened by the state of public schools and wildly hopeful about the future due to the amazing community leaders we have here.

The biggest surprise: Everyone has family in town. They're neighbors with their parents or siblings, they've moved back from afar. So I guess I was the surprise to others. I knew three people when I got here and that that was it.

What I miss: I miss the ocean from the island I lived on in Maine and the 24 hour bodegas in NYC. But I don't miss the cramped apartments of Brooklyn and the feeling that I'll never keep up or catch up. 

Why I stayed: Sheer happiness, and room to think (kind of literally.) Also, the work/life balance. The fact that people around me strive to do great things and aren't sacrificing their happiness to do it. They're finding their happiness doing it. I love that KC has so many hometown proud citizens because we don't rest on our laurels. We're building a better city every day from makers to community to festivals.

Favorite thing to do in Kansas City: Monday nights TEDxCrossroads Salons at PT's Coffeehouse and if I'm not too tired after, The Brick for live music.  

Watch Chel O’Reilly’s TEDx talk in Orlando, “The value of things we cannot comprehend”:  
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nTSW9ekm9jk

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Every part of the present has been shaped by actions that took place in the past, but too often that context is left out. As a community storyteller taking a new look at local history, I aim to provide that context, clarity, empathy and deeper, nuanced perspectives on how the events and people in the past have shaped our community today. I want to entertain, inform, make you think, expose something new and cultivate a deeper shared human connection about how the passage of time affects us all. Reach me at hogansm@kcur.org.