What I Learned from Moving Across the Country

Moving 3,000 miles from home by yourself when you’re 17 is an enormous step.

In high school, I depended on a lot of different people. You could say that I had an “independent” personality (I did, after all, make the decision to move), but I couldn’t say that I was independent. I was entirely dependent on others for validation on my looks, my social behavior, rationalizing irrational actions, everything. I was not my own person. This didn’t change immediately. In fact, it didn’t change until I moved back to the east coast at the end of the school year. When I decided to transfer, it wasn’t purely because I didn’t feel like I was at the right school. At the time I mostly wanted to be closer to home because I hadn’t accepted that I needed to move on from that dependency I felt. 

The hardest part of transferring was telling my friends. I hadn’t realized yet that they were, undoubtedly, some of the best people I had ever and probably will ever meet, and that realization came when I broke the news and saw their reactions. For some reason, I didn’t expect them to be so sad. I guess I also hadn’t realized how much I meant to them. Over the course of the last few months of the school year, I started focusing more on them and where I was at that present moment rather than staying stuck in the past or worrying about the future, and I was so much happier, but it also made leaving all the more difficult.

The summer after I left was rough. I felt absolutely terrible, but being in such a bad place was what brought me to a new, healthier kind of dependence. I asked for help instead of validation so that I could learn to rely on myself rather than other people to tell me the same things I wanted to hear. I knew that those people wouldn’t be there forever and eventually I would have to be able to deal with my emotions on my own. I also learned to an even higher degree how important it is to focus on where you are in the present. Thinking about how much you wish you could be with people who are in an entirely different time zone won’t help you feel better. Instead you should appreciate the friends you have near you who are there for you in the here and now.  

I can’t say that I wouldn’t have it any other way. I still miss my friends every single day, and it makes me extremely sad to think that I haven’t seen some of the people I love in months, but I know that every experience I’ve had, bittersweet or not, has been necessary for me to become the person that I am. Everything that I went through taught me so much about the kinds of people I want to surround myself with and what the world has to offer. Moving from coast to coast showed me that I was capable of a lot more than I had thought and that taking risks absolutely pays off. Most importantly, I was forced to learn firsthand that doing what’s best for you won’t feel good every step of the way, but even those negative feelings have led up to and shaped the exact moment that you’re living in. Missing people and regretting missed chances teaches you to make the most of whatever situation you’re currently in so that you don’t look back and wish it could have been different. Being able to appreciate even the hardest things you’ve gone through takes a lot of effort and time, but I’ve learned that unless you can recognize the importance of both the lowest lows and the highest highs, you’ll never fully be able to move forward.

Photos courtesy of the author.

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