By Carleigh Turner, Web Editor

Leaving my school in downtown Chicago was one of the most difficult yet important decisions of my life.

In order to keep in touch with the happenings back home, I still follow various Chicago news outlets on Facebook and Twitter to get my daily dose of Chicago news.

However, I have recently contemplated unfollowing these news sources because of the incredible amount of violent content and news that quite literally hits close to home.

When I lived in Chicago, I found out about a stabbing and shooting just feet from my apartment after passively scrolling past a familiar street in a post from ABC 7 News’ Facebook page. Now, when I see a post about a shooting in Chicago, I hesitantly click the link and pray I don’t know anyone in the article.

The city I still love and have learned so much from looks different when you move 277 miles away.

The violence in Chicago has begun to garner media attention with the release of the film “Chiraq” and recent debates on gun control. However, I believe the extent the violence reaches is impossible to imagine or portray in a film that lasts only 118 minutes.

The daily violence is documented by the Chicago Sun Times’ Homicide Watch where one may keep up with homicides in the Chicago area. On Jan. 26 alone, there were six reported homicides.

According to the Chicago Tribune’s Crime in Chicagoland, Chicago Shooting Victims webpage, there have already been 244 shooting victims from Jan. 1 to Jan. 27, 2016 and 2,986 shooting victims from Jan. 1 2015 to Dec. 31, 2015 .

I am tired of opening up my Facebook newsfeed to body counts and mugshots.

Keeping up with the city’s violence is more heartbreaking than leaving it.

When I sit on my bed and look up at my Chicago Transit Authority EL maps, I understand how incredibly lucky I was to have never been personally affected by the violence of a city I called home for two years.

However, I never stopped anticipating violence.

Living in Oxford, Ohio, for a semester has opened my eyes to what living in one of the more violent places in the country has done to me.

Walking home from classes at night, I still slip my keys between my index and middle finger and mentally practice the moves I learned from a self-defense class I took last year.

I still don’t like walking with headphones on because I was taught it can make you more vulnerable to an attack and I still get nervous watching everyone stare at their phones while they are walking. ‘Do they not know that is such an easy way to get mugged?’

Certainly they have seen the statistics, old Facebook photos and mugshots. However, these too can get numbing after a while. Headlines such as, “Man, 76, found shot to death in far south side home” begin to have little to no effect.  That is incredibly frightening.

Leaving Chicago has allowed me to truly understand the gravity of what is happening in the city and I didn’t know how to respond.

When you live in Chicago, violence is commonplace. Hearing faint echoes of gunshots and the  rumbling of the EL are just part of the ambiance.

However, after separating myself, I now realize why my mother began calling hospitals and police stations when I did not answer my phone for five hours.

That being said, focusing on the violence in Chicago may be counter-intuitive. Keeping up with Chicago ultimately leads to keeping up with homicides in Chicago and I have begun to understand that many view the city as “Chiraq.” However, I refuse to see Chicago that way.

Being aware of the violence is important and I will continue to do so. I will also remind people that Chicago is worth more than its violence and has taught me more about life in two years than I ever thought possible.

I learned, and memorized, a transit system. I learned how to be independent and to ask for help. I befriended bus drivers and coffee shop baristas while learning how to stand on a train with 50 other people and not spill my coffee.

Chicago is more than its violence and I will not let news outlets convince me otherwise.

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