As much as I hate to admit it, I just hit my ten year anniversary of my high school graduation. I have been reflecting on the evolution of myself in those ten years and who I have become today. Looking back, I went from being a young high schooler with the world in front of her, feeling on top of the world, to feeling as scared and insignificant as I felt when I entered high school as a freshmen. My path post graduation, took me out of my small town to central New York for college and then to Los Angeles with very little money and big career goals. Not everything on my road map has gone smoothly, but I am still incredibly grateful that I took the leap and left my hometown.
For the 20-somethings that have taken that dreaded but beautiful step out of their hometowns into the unknown – here’s 9 humbling lessons I’ve learned in the last 10 years:
1. Moving to a city will always be more expensive than you think.
Moving is expensive and life is expensive. When taking your first leap out of your hometown you really only concentrate on one thing – not falling flat on your face. But then you get to your new town/city and realize things are going to add up faster than you’d realized. I didn’t know that moving to a big city meant that you were destined to live in a shoebox for thousands of dollars. Your idea of finally being an “adult” and having “nice things” gets knocked down a peg or two when you realize that you’ll have to settle for Ikea furniture and Target clothes, if that means you can still put food on the table. I resigned myself to the fact that brand names and better furniture would be the goal of my thirties.
2. Your sense of direction needs to increase if you want to keep up.
The second you leave the little bubble in your hometown, suddenly, your sense of direction goes completely awry. Everything looks bigger than usual, the highways are confusing, all the streets start to look the same – cue massive panic for me. Arriving in a big city you are completely forced to learn the lay of the land immediately. Your smartphone will only get you so far and forcing yourself to learn the subway line and streets will make you feel like more at home. Ten years later, my hometown streets have become the unfamiliar territory.
3. No one knows you.
The beautiful thing about moving away is a fresh start. Your history and baggage does not follow you. No one knows if you were the prom queen or the town stoner and the best part is, no one really cares. It’s about who you are now. And eventually you will get to the point where you can take a look at who you were in your hometown/old life and completely shed it off like dead skin, if you so choose. You let go of your past life and turn the page to be exactly who you want to be without caring. The only drawback is you lose the familiarity you once expected back in your hometown.
4. Keeping in touch isn’t for everyone.
Moving away will force you to see who your real friends are. It’s a sad story that distance sometimes does not make the heart grow fonder. As we get older, life gets more complicated and messy – people get married, have babies, get major promotions and time slips further away from us. People get more selfish, more self absorbed, and give less f*cks about what’s happening outside their net. It’s not intentional, it’s just the way things go – things that you once had in common no longer bring you together. But the gems that are left standing long after your move – those are forever friends.
5. You need your family more than you think you do.
You will not believe that there was ever a time when your family embarrassed you. I miss being a part of their craziness and often countdown the days till I can see my family again. You call your parents and siblings on the regular – and on the days you are homesick, they are the best reminders that being away is exactly what you needed to do for yourself. On the other hand, being away from your biological family – forces you to make your own family in your new home. The friends you make in your new town suddenly become your family and biggest cheerleaders and above all, the people you turn to most when everything goes to shit.
6. Not everyone grew up with the same views you did.
Arriving in a new place you will meet people from all walks of life. People will not always see things like you do and you may not always understand where they are coming from, but hearing different perspectives and learning people’s stories of how they got to where they are will help you grow into a more mature, well-rounded human. And even if we don’t want to admit that, we always have room for that growth.
7. There’s a huge gap between expectation and reality
Life is going to knock you down regardless of where you live. It’s not going to be a smooth ride by any means. It’s hard to let go of your expectation that with a little work you will get your dream job, car, apartment, and significant other. The dream that you have for yourself will evolve and every time you will learn a wonderful lesson: that you can stand on your own two feet. You’ll learn to make choices for yourself, and no one else, and will finally stop feeling like you have something to prove.
8. Making friends is as difficult now as it was in grade school.
HOW DOES AN ADULT MAKE FRIENDS?!?! I’m still at a loss sometimes. New cities are full of weirdos and people that you actually relate to or click with are few and far between. Sure, some co-workers are able to be your friend outside of the workplace, but that was not always the case for me. You have to be proactive, even if being in a new place makes you shy.
9. Leaving my comfort zone was something I had to do.
Moving requires an immense leap of faith and courage. You are constantly filled with fear and doubt that impending failure will be knocking at your door before you know it. Your head spirals with thoughts and it’s hard to concentrate on the reason you moved originally, and what moving away used to mean to you. Life does not have a rearview mirror for a reason – there really is no reason to look back. Stick to your guns and stay the course. Comfort zones are made to fence you in – it’s safe and familiar and we’d rather stick with what we know than try something new. Making a change was a terrifying step for me, but I’m glad I left. Crossing self-made boundaries is what keeps my life interesting.