San Diego, Los Angeles, Buffalo, Atlanta, Columbia: All places I have had the opportunity to call home at some point in my 20 years on this earth. Each home brought a new set of friends, a new set of experiences, and a new set of lessons to be learned.
I do not hesitate to say that I am overwhelmingly grateful to have had this sort of “re-set” button every handful of years. From a very young age I learned to be nice to everyone, to appreciate the diversity each location brought with it, and that if you wanted to make friends you had to go through awkward small talk first. With each move my confidence grew, my sense of self became more defined, and my small talking abilities could impress even the most jaded school secretary. With each move my opinions, paradigm, mannerisms and even taste-buds expanded in influence from west coast, to northeast, to the southeast, and my network of friends expanded along with it.
Each move putting another drop in the bucket that makes up who I am, putting pieces here and there and eventually shaping me into the person I am today. I took something with me every time I said my last goodbye to a house, a favorite ice cream parlor, or a beloved teacher. I would walk away with these pieces held tightly to my chest and my head held high excited for the adventure to come.
What I didn’t fully realize was I was always leaving something behind as well.
There was always this indefinable ache in my chest that would appear when acquaintances would introduced me to their “best” friends, when classmates would be picked up from school by their uncles or cousins, or when my high school peers would reminisce about the time in kindergarten when they’d had two snow days.
At first this ache was always shrouded by the excitement of a new setting and new people, but as I grew this ache grew as well. It wasn’t until I graduated from high school and was on the cusp of hitting the “re-set” button yet again that I was finally able to define this hurt.
I missed my friends. I missed my family.
I had left a piece of my heart with every loved one I had met along my path. This was frustrating and even lonely at times. It felt like I was stuck being scattered to the four winds, only ever able to hold a few pieces at a time, never able to really fully assemble myself. With this realization pressing the “re-set” button felt more like losing a part of myself instead of gaining a new one.
Then it hit me.
The thing is, I wouldn’t have had the chance to lose or gain anything if I had not moved in the first place. I would not have met these people, had these experiences, or even had people and places to miss.
I wouldn’t be me.
I realized it was this ache that made these people and these places even more special.
I wouldn’t trade that for the world.