On a brisk January day, I packed my bags and left behind the life I’d always known.
I remember feeling guilty that day because I couldn’t find emotion. As my friends hugged me tearfully, I knew I would miss them dearly, but I couldn’t cry. I was moving to California. In an attempt to protect myself, I focused solely on the excitement of it all.
I envisioned myself on the beach with a permanent golden glow. I envisioned myself wearing trendy clothes, working for a cool retailer. I envisioned myself meeting my dream man and riding off into the sunset.
When I stepped off the airplane that day, I was greeted by sunny, cloudless skies, and palm trees swaying in the wind. Everyone looked so tan and happy and relaxed. Whoa, I guess I’m really here now.
I instantly loved my new home. But the gravity of what I’d just done, the distance, didn’t hit me until a Friday night a few weeks later. I was alone that night when I saw photos of my friends at a party together. A pang of jealousy hit.
What am I doing here? They’re having so much fun without me. I clicked through the photos, wishing desperately to be there. I finally let my tears of loneliness flow. Big heaping sobs left my chest as I sat alone in this strange new place, questioning why I’d chosen to leave the comforts of home behind.
If you move away from home, you’re going to miss out sometimes.
When you move away from home, you’re going to miss birthday parties and engagements and holiday dinners. You’re going to miss many of the moments you’d normally be there for. You won’t get to be there for your best friend when she gets dumped. You won’t be able to have celebratory margaritas with your sister when she gets promoted.
When you move away from home, you’re inevitably going to miss many milestones. You’re going to miss seeing babies grow up. To my friends’ children, I’m always going to be “Auntie Alissa from California”, the elusive aunt they see once or twice a year. If I think about it too much, it breaks my heart.
When you move away from home, you’ll get so excited for your trips back home. You’ll feel special during those visits because everyone wants to see you. You’ll cherish every minute of seeing your best friend in person. Your friendship will strengthen because you’re so much more grateful for your time together. Every moment together becomes a cherished memory.
Leaving is always the hardest part. As soon as you get used to seeing your people, it’s time to leave again. You always have to leave, you’ll realize. You’ll get used to that feeling of saying goodbye. That doesn’t make it any easier, though. You’ll always wish your trip was just a little bit longer.
When you move away from home, you’re really going to miss your people. But if you think about it too much, it hurts.
If you move away from home, you’re going to get stronger.
When you move away from home, you’ll feel a pang in your chest when people talk about your home state. You’ll have a sudden sense of pride over it. That’s your place. No matter how you felt about it growing up, it’s now the most special place in the world.
When you move away from home, you’ll become more nostalgic. You’ll find places in your new home that remind you of your old home. Anywhere that reminds you of where you came from is suddenly special. The old Irish pub that serves Bud Light in big plastic mugs? It might become your favorite place because that smoke-filled patio smells like your hometown bar.
When you move away from home, you’ll inevitably drift away from people you thought you’d be friends with forever. You may actually find that it’s a blessing because you can identify who was meant to be in your life forever and who was just there for convenience. That doesn’t make it hurt any less. But just remember that it’s okay, it’s going to happen.
When you move away from home, you won’t be able to have a wine night with your best friends when you really need it. They’re always a phone call away, but you’ll learn how to soothe yourself. You’ll learn how to be your own best friend sometimes.
When you move away from home, you’ll feel lonely sometimes. Maybe that loneliness will linger for longer than you think it should. That’s okay. You don’t always need to be so strong, you know? I hope you feel proud of yourself for being brave and moving away. You did something that a lot of people won’t do.
One day, your new home will really start feeling like home.
When you move away from home, you’ll realize how much you took for granted, like having a dentist and a doctor you’ve gone to for years. You’ll realize how convenient it was to know the layout of your local grocery store and how lucky you once were to have a person to call if your car breaks down.
As you spend more time in your new home, though, you’ll start memorizing the streets and learning the quickest route home. You’ll get to know your local grocery. You’ll know exactly where the hummus is and which cashier has the fastest line.
There isn’t a timeline of when your new home becomes home. It could be weeks, months, years. But eventually, it happens. You begin to settle into this brand new world you’ve created for yourself. One day you’ll have a new doctor and dentist to go to. You’ll know where you can get the cheapest gas and the best coffee.
And don’t worry, you’ll find your people. You may go through several rounds of surface level friends, clinging to anyone you can because you can’t stand another Friday night by yourself. Don’t worry, it’s normal. In time, you’ll find people you really like and actually connect with. You’ll find people to build solid friendships with.
One day, you will have a person to call when your car breaks down. You will have another friend to laugh until you cry with. You’ll get to celebrate new engagements and holiday parties and major life milestones. That doesn’t mean you’re leaving your old friends behind, you’re just expanding your world. In the best case, your new and old friends will eventually meet and become friends, too.
It’s been five years since that brisk January day. And today, recounting that day does bring me to tears. When you move away from home, you’ll grow so much. You’ll expand your world. You’ll be proud of the person you become.