I’d only ever been in love twice. Both times ended in something just shy of disaster. Each time, I asked myself: “Why did I do this to myself?” The second time, I thought “I should have learned from the first time.” I recovered quickly from the first heartbreak because it wasn’t really meant to be in the first place, but the second one truly ripped my heart out. Really, I should say that I ripped my own heart out because I’m the one who ended things.
When it was over, my world sunk deeper into the abyss in which I already found myself. The depression I had felt throughout those years swallowed me completely, I couldn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. I was stuck in my hometown without a job, living with my mother, no friends nearby, and now without a boyfriend. I started to see this as my fate. This was just my life and there was nothing more to it.
I always hated the people who said they loved their lives because I couldn’t relate to that feeling at all. How could anybody love something so draining? Each day dragged by, and I couldn’t wait to go to sleep at night. I wanted to shut out the whole world. I didn’t want to feel the depression or unhappiness anymore. I didn’t want to feel anything, so I slept. I had reached a point of acceptance, this is just how life is. You grow up, lose your sense of innocence, and you become increasingly aware of how terrible life is and you just have to accept it.
After months of living in this state of drowning, sinking further and further into my depression, I made a change. I decided to leave my hometown. I figured I had nothing left to lose. I was terrified. I was scared it would somehow get worse. I was scared to leave the comfort of misery I had come to know. Most of all, I was scared that I was starting a pattern. I had left once before, but I only lasted two months. I came crawling back, ashamed and full of failure. I didn’t want to face the shame and judgment I had received the first time. I didn’t want to experience that again. When I told people I was leaving, I could feel the skepticism. I could feel them saying, “She’ll be back.” Or “I wonder how long she’ll last this time…” But I shut them out and decided I had to try.
Fast forward to the end of the summer and I was packing up my car with my best friend from college and my cousin. We began a journey cross country that was far less than smooth. It has become one of those stories that brings a smile to your face as you reminisce about the challenges you faced and how you certainly weren’t smiling when you were facing them. I must be honest though, I didn’t enjoy that trip as much as I should have. I was still engulfed in my depression that was now mixed with intense anxiety about what my future would hold in Washington. It wasn’t until my cousin and friend had left did the reality truly hit me that this was it, I’ve moved across the country and I can start my life over.
Little by little, my depression started to lift. I started looking for a job, I started going on dates, I ventured around to explore my new home. I learned how to drive in new terrain, I learned how to navigate a new city. I discovered the beauty of the Pacific Northwest. And I started to fall in love. I began to fall in love with my life. My new life. I began to understand the feeling that those people were having when they said that they love their lives. I was regaining the sense of independence that was taken from me.
All of my fears began to melt away as I fell deeper and deeper in love with my life in Seattle. It was always the simplest of things that brought me this intense feeling of love; driving through the city, drinking coffee by a rain-streaked window, hiking through the woods, seeing the mountains on the rare days when the sun shines. Walking through the city, knowing where to go, the places to eat, the best places for coffee—brought me a sense of peace, but also pride.
I was proud of myself for making these small accomplishments. I was proud of myself for taking the risk to have a better life. I reflected many times on my mental state from this time last year and the difference is striking, but also terrifying. I was living a life that I thought I had to live. I had no idea that there was so much more for me out there. It scared me because I know I’m not the only one who has been stuck in this situation, feeling like there is no way out. But there is. It involves risk, but there is a way out.
I still become overwhelmed with my love for Seattle and how it saved me. I become filled with joy every time I have a new experience. I have found myself literally skipping down the street that I’m so happy. Everyone always told me that leaving my hometown wouldn’t solve my problems, but it did. It hasn’t solved everything, but it’s put me on the path that I need to solve everything. It’s solved my depression. I found a job that I love, and an amazing, supportive boyfriend. I’ve grown closer to my family here. I’m making new friends. Everything is changing for the better and none of it would’ve happened if I had never left. Never in my life have I felt so optimistic about what the future holds for me.
And still—little things surprise me. On a particularly dreary day, I feel a sense of love and gratitude because I love the weather in Seattle. I smile when I see the flannel-clad Seattleites drinking their coffee by the window. I feel a sense of relief when the cashier doesn’t force me to talk because it’s Seattle, and passive interactions are the norm. I laugh at the confusion on my visiting friend’s face when I show them the Gum Wall or The Fremont Troll; Seattle’s idea of tourist attractions.
All of it, every last bit of it brings me a sense of joy, gratitude, pride, love, but most of all: peace. I’ve found the roots of who I am here, and that’s brought me peace. A sense of peace that has truly saved my life.