Let me start this off by saying that I lived in my hometown well past my personal expiration date. I filled many an afternoon by hanging out at the local coffee shop and complaining about how bored I was and how many great things I was going to do, if only [insert excuse here that is almost entirely self-imposed and wholly navigable]. I would see the same people, date in the same group, and drink at the same bars over and over to the point that my entire world felt like an extremely cramped merry-go-round. And even I was tired of listening to my self-indulgent spiels about how much I wanted to get out, so I can only imagine how everyone around me felt. With that being said, I eventually left. And I feel that the decision was, in almost every way, an enormous positive.
But the thing is, we know this. There is a reason that moving out of your parents’ house for the first time is regarded as such an emotional stepping stone, and a huge part of that is changing your scenery and the people who surround you. We know that if you are uncomfortable or unfulfilled where you are, for any number of reasons, the best thing you can do is work towards going somewhere new — somewhere with an environment that fosters you more creatively, professionally, or even geographically. And yet, no matter how much we can say to ourselves “Getting out is essential, I really need the change of pace,” it is so easy to get stuck in the emotional quicksand that is being somewhere where you are complacent.
We all know people who, after completing college or a final internship, return back to their hometowns and begin life where it left off — often doing the same things socially, hanging out with the same people, and making the same choices. Undoubtedly, some people who go back (such as those who live with their parents) are likely doing it for financial reasons, and their inability to move on is far more logistical than it is emotional. But often, the strangest thing will happen: you will see people who have the means to get their own place (and do), choose to live in the same place they grew up, and openly complain about the routine activities and familiar surroundings of the city they want to leave. Even if their job is not contingent on being there, even if they are not needed for any pressing familial reasons, they are going to stay against what is ostensibly their own better judgment.
I should take a moment to say here that there is nothing wrong with choosing to live, at any point in your life, in the place you grew up. If you are happy where you are and have a good circle of friends you enjoy, if your professional and personal lives are fulfilled where you are — more power to you. I think it’s as pretentious as it is unrealistic to suggest that everyone needs to move away just for the sake of doing so, and there is no one place which is inherently better than another. It’s all about what works best for you. That being said, the attitude of a lot of the people who have chosen to go back is often not one of open-hearted embrace. There is often a certain kind of resignation, even if it is an active choice.
There will always be a certain corner of your Facebook, for example, that is filled with people who are all in the same restaurants and bars and houses, seeing the same people. There is almost a warmth to it, because it is like looking in a time capsule of your own experiences, of your own history. And yet, even if the pictures are happy and the smiles just as bright as they were five years ago, often the conversations with these people will be ones of “Yeah, I know I really have to get out. I really don’t like it anymore. I’ve been working on moving out to [insert city here], but it just hasn’t come together yet.”
And what do you say to this? Even if you were, like me, someone who struggled with wanting to get out for a long time before actually doing so, are you really qualified to tell them to do the same? No one knows the intricacies of another person’s life and plans, so how would it be fair to insist that they are not getting out quickly enough? But the truth is that staying somewhere where you are no longer happy, and doing things that you’ve long ago stopped being surprised or fulfilled by, is never a good thing. Yes, there will be a difficult moment or several during the moving process, but it is at least a step towards taking active change in your life and putting it on a path that you want to see it go. I mean, if you’re at a point in your life where you are legitimately saying you are “over” the “drama” of your group — and you’re not on a reality show — there have to be some changes to make.
In any case, choosing to be somewhere because it’s familiar is a short-term fix to what is certainly a much bigger problem. There is a certain degree of charm that your hometown can take on after a long enough separation, and maybe it will end up proving the right place for you at some later point in your life. But don’t we all owe it to ourselves to explore a bit as an adult, and listen to ourselves when we constantly mutter how unhappy we are? A move is never a guarantee of a better life, but it is a guarantee of doing something you actually want to do, even if it means taking a chance.