I remember the day I left for college like it was yesterday. Now granted, though it does still seem like it's been a lifetime since I lived at home, it was only three years ago -- but my life has changed so much since I moved to Chicago that heading back after a visit home sometimes feels like a nostalgia hangover. (It doesn't help that I literally romanticize everything on Earth and could get nostalgic about a dirty napkin if you needed me to because I'm emotional trash - see above the picture I took pulling out of my driveway for the last time for a dramatic Instagram post - but we'll get to that.)
I'm sure my grandma's friends are all tired of hearing the story about how little kid me set my sights on Chicago and never thought twice about it again. "We took her to Chicago for her 5th birthday, she fell in love with the city and said she wanted to move there when she grew up - so she did!" But it's all true! Although for a while I dreamt it would be in a custom-built house shaped like Hello Kitty's head somewhere along Lake Shore Drive, I have always known/hoped I would get to Chicago. (Let me state for the record how very relieved I am that my aesthetic is no longer Shoshanna Shapiro in Japan and that I can appreciate regularly-shaped apartment buildings now.)
For me, leaving my hometown was what I really needed to feel like an independent, functioning (kind-of) adult. Leaving might not be for everyone, and to be totally transparent, leaving the house I'd always known, the people I cared about most and my sweet little red Jeep for an apartment that cost more than my checking account had ever seen, a city full of nothing but strangers and a CTA pass was not a frickin' walk in the park. But it was exciting. And as it turns out, super worth it.
7. You learn what actual responsibilities feel like, because you don't really have a choice.
I jokingly say I felt more like an adult at 18 than I do now - but that's just because I felt like I had real responsibilities and now that I have actual ones, I feel like I'm doing them all wrong. I was the first of my friends to get my license, which secured my position as the one who drove everyone everywhere for the rest of high school. Although the gas wasn't cheap, I loved feeling responsible. But, as it turns out, being an adult is more than driving everyone to Taco Bell for $2 Meal Deals (sigh, RIP) at 1 A.M. There's nothing that teaches you actual responsibility more than throwing yourself into the real deal. Signing a big girl lease, trying to build good credit (*audibly vomits*), learning to eat healthily, save money, drink water, Postmate responsibly (meaning...not every night), time manage, communicate effectively, pick up your own prescriptions, Google things like "sliding scale therapist chicago il" because (in my case) you don't have insurance that covers therapy, learning what the flying heCK "sliding scale" even means, actually following through and cALLIng the sliding scale therapist so that you can get your anxiety coping mechanisms on - the list goes on. When you move halfway across the country, no one is gonna do that stuff for you. And that's a good thing.
6. You learn how to be by yourself, and how to actually like it.
I was raised as a homeschooled only child with a single mom who worked full-time. On top of all that, I'm a Sagittarius. 😅 I'm by nature, a very independent person...but as I found out, not as much as I thought I was. I realized soon after I moved away that during high school, I was almost always surrounded by friends or family and I very rarely spent time just by myself. But moving to a new city, especially when you know no one at all, you learn to be by yourself and not mind it so much. And of course, when it comes time to make friends, you learn to force yourself to socialize and force yourself out of your very comfortable Netflix and Postmates cave.
5. You appreciate your hometown more.
My hometown, Toledo, Ohio is split between people who are have felt stuck there their entire lives and hate it, and people who are there by choice and believe in the city's rebirth. In the community I grew up around, it's considered pretty un-cool to hate on the city, because it's mainly the young creatives putting effort into upgrading the city (and I personally feel like it has the potential to be the next Portland if enough people continue to believe enough in it.) Nevertheless, living somewhere your entire life you fall into the same routines that eventually feel mundane. No matter the size of the city, sometimes you can feel you've outgrown it. But leave for even just a few months, and you'll miss the familiarity of the streets you drove to work on everyday, and the local restaurant faves you can't get in your new city. If you're anything like me, everything feels nostalgic and reminds you of the happy times that you had. That's one of the best things about moving away.
4. Your dreams will seem closer and your goals will keep growing.
Living in Toledo, moving to Chicago and creating an entirely new life for myself seemed so far fetched. It truly did not feel real until the sun was sitting my first night in Chicago. Sitting in my new bedroom, surrounded by boxes, realizing my family was already halfway home without me. (Yikes, I'm getting choked up just thinking about that and it's been a WHILE.) That shit was SCARYYYYYY. But as time goes on, you realize, hey! I did that! You get up the next morning, you unpack the boxes, you live your new life. You start achieving the goals you set out for yourself, be them personal, academic or aimed at your career. Never would I have dreamed I was getting ready to start the Conservatory program at The Second City just three summers after that scary first night. But here we are! Onto the next part of the dream to chase! 😊
The view out of my window that first scary night 😢
3. You learn how life really does keep moving, with or without you.
Even a visit home after just a few months you'll realize how incredibly fast life moves and changes, with or without you. Driving around your hometown and finding a new restaurant has popped up or an old one has closed. Realizing how gray your childhood pets are getting. (That's a real hard one to deal with, let me tell ya.) Going back to visit your favorite high school teachers and realizing you don't recognize any of the students. Shopping at your childhood mall and seeing kiosks once filled with Webkinz and Silly Bandz are now selling Fidget Spinners to middle schoolers that look SO INCREDIBLY YOUNG TO YOU. It's super eye-opening.
2. You become fearless.
You can't be scared of everything when you don't have a choice but to just shut up and do it. You learn to swallow that lump in your throat and do what you gotta do. You already did the scariest thing by leaving everything you've ever known. When you put it that way, everything else is a walk in the park.
1. You grow a fondness for your old life, but an excitement to keep growing. ✨
When you first move away, it can be hard for even the most adventurous/least homesick person. If you're like me and immediately nostalgic about everything, you start to romanticize those old memories and think to yourself "...maybe this was a biiiiig mistake." But as time goes on and there is a good amount of distance between new you and your old life, you realize that was an exciting time - but there's so much more fun and exciting stuff ahead. Allow yourself to look at those special old photos, but be even more excited to take more.
Thanks for reading! To read more about my transition from medium-sized town to big-ass-scary city, check out my article on 5 Things You Should Do for Yourself here.