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CTA Riders Share Their Life Lessons And Advice — You Just Have To Ask

By Justin Breen | September 6, 2016 5:17am | Updated on September 6, 2016 6:42pm
 Myron Laban holds up the painting he created as part of the
Myron Laban holds up the painting he created as part of the "CTA Project."
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Alex Myung

CHICAGO — Myron Laban said you can find out a lot about the person sitting next to or across from you on the CTA, if only you'd ask.

Laban, a third-year pharmacy student at University of Illinois at Chicago, teamed with UIC graduate Alex Myung on a video they dubbed "CTA Project."

Laban interviewed 100-plus CTA "L" riders, either on the train or platform. He asked them: "If you could go back in time and give yourself advice, what would you tell yourself?"

Justin Breen details some of the advice people shared on their 'L' rides.

Myung, of Logan Square, filmed Laban and his subjects from June to August, and the work was released Tuesday morning.

"I take the train every day, and you sit by this other commuter, and I don’t think we acknowledge fact that we’re humans or people," Laban said. "This was just a way to connect with people in the city who otherwise you think are different, but at the same time we have a lot of similarities."

Laban said he was amazed by the responses he received from people he had just met. They included:

• "Remember: Your plans aren't other people's plans."

• "When people treat you badly, remember it's a reflection of them, not you."

• "Do not go to art school. Become a dentist or orthopedic surgeon."

• "Don't let the fear of failure prevent you from going after what you really want."

• "I'd go back to my 23-year-old self and say don't do it ... regarding don't go to raves, don't take ecstasy ... every week."

• "My advice for myself is that you can't always have control of yourself, so it's OK if you make mistakes."

Some of those phrases are drawn on the painting Laban created. Audio from the interviews plays in the video's background.

"People are interesting in general," Laban said. "And on the CTA in particular, I feel that's the most diverse space in the city. You'll get every kind of person there. Some people would be very vague with answers, but some people would get very deep."

Laban met Myung when they were UIC freshmen in the same dorm. They took an art class together, and Myung filmed Laban while he was working on a mural at Rush hospital. Myung, who runs a documentary site called "Live To Revive," said teaming with Laban was "an honor."

"When Myron and I linked up about this project, it was important for us that we provided an honest representation of our city through this video," Myung said. "It was amazing to see Myron’s positive energy create a space where people felt safe to be honest and vulnerable, especially in a city that can be overwhelming at times."

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