It’s hard for me to believe that four whole years have passed since I chose to move six hundred miles away from everything I’ve ever known. At that point in my young life, I was so excited for that next big step, I had convinced myself that I was ready for it, and despite efforts from many family members and mentors, there was no one who could convince me to reconsider.
Sure enough, in August of 2014, I found myself packing up the bedroom I had spent all eighteen years of my life in, and loading it into my new (to me) Pontiac Sunfire to begin the road trip I had waited for what seemed like forever for. The day I began moving all of my belongings into my freshmen dorm in the South Carolina summer heat, seemed to be the best (and sweatiest) day of my life… at the time.
Looking back on that day now, I see a young girl, eager to take on the world without ever glancing back. Damn, things sure have changed since then. I find myself glancing back quite a bit these days; every time I do, I ache to tell my past self all of the lessons my present self has learned.
I have spent the past four years in a new place, surrounded by unfamiliar people, and exposing myself to a culture that I had previously never thought to be too much different than the one I had grown up in. (Man, I sure was wrong about that one. If you’re a northerner that has found yourself in the south, you know what I’m saying.) This life change has transformed me from a girl with big dreams into a woman with even bigger goals.
Sometimes, I struggle to see myself having a life back home now; it’s even harder for me to imagine that the girl who once did have a life there was, at one point in time, me. If you know me from when I lived in Beaver Falls for the majority of my life, first of all, thank you. For whatever reason, you clicked on the link that led you here and decided to read this far, so, thanks. Secondly, please allow me to reintroduce myself.
The girl I was when I left Beaver County in my rear-view mirror is not gone; she is still me, just a better version. She is stronger, more outspoken, and she takes better care of her eyebrows. She does more of what makes her happy, she does not use the opinions of others as a rubric for how she sees herself, and she does not seek a man for validation. She loves to joke around (and does so way more often than she probably should), and she cries unexpectedly, and she laughs loudly, and she is, most importantly, happy.
My point here, young grasshoppers, is that I never really knew who I was until I moved out of my small hometown. In the years that I have been away, I faced obstacles that I was sure I could never hurdle, yet somehow, I did. I have thrown in the towel more times than I care to mention and then picked the damn thing back up. I have visited places that I never even knew existed and I have turned a strange city into a place I now get to call ‘home’. I was shown what it means to be a true friend and I started being one. I met people from all of the world and from all walks of life. I developed relationships that ultimately changed the way I view relationships. I realized that I am not as smart as I once thought I was and I learned to be okay with it.
I struggled and I succeeded and I changed and I grew. I grew. I grew.
So, if you have made it this far with me, I will now finally answer the question that you all (y’all, for you southern folks), came here to have answered. Why is it important to leave your hometown, at least for a little while?
It’s important because making a major life decision is scary, but it is never not going to be. Four years ago, I took a leap of faith and even though there have been more than a few bumps on the way down, I have finally landed right where I never knew I needed to be. I stopped being afraid of choosing the wrong path when I realized that there is no wrong path, only the wrong attitude while you are on whatever path you end up on. We all only have this one life, so do the things that your heart is calling you to do, while you are still able to do them.
Life is a learning process; start learning.