How a Cross-Country Move Showed Me Where I Belonged All Along

Lifestyle

How a Cross-Country Move Showed Me Where I Belonged All Along
Photo by David Dvořáček on Unsplash

There’s something to be said about finding your “home.” It can be a place, it can be a person, it can be an experience. Regardless of what it is, the comfort and freedom it brings can ultimately allow you to be your true authentic self—and there’s nothing more beautiful than that.

In light of this month’s theme, tend to your roots, I’m reflecting back on a time in my life when I was searching for my “home,” a meaningful place to find my sense of belonging. Through traveling over 2,000 miles, in a journey that was both challenging and uncomfortable, I was ultimately able to find it.

Doing the Thing Society Told Me To Do

It became a hot topic in the days following graduation: “After college, you should live somewhere else for a bit.” My parents had done it, my friends were doing it, and all the influencers in my feed were too.

It didn’t matter that I loved my Midwest upbringing, reveling in the plethora of outdoor activities, the close proximity to the cities, and having enough parks and space to pass the time with friends and family. There was this unnamed pressure on my shoulders—both from myself and society—to take a leap away from it all. It was essentially telling me that if I never left my Midwest roots, I’d somehow have less “life experience” than everyone else. And ultimately, in a day and age where people hardly stay in one place for too long, I felt like I needed to live up to this transient lifestyle to be happy.

So when the opportunity to move to San Francisco came up, a decision spurred by a boyfriend who received a job offer there, it felt like the perfect opportunity to tag along. It didn’t matter that my heart wasn’t really into it (or the fact that I was moving to one of the most expensive cities in America without a job)—this was my chance to check this experience off the list. After all, everyone else was moving to “cool places,” so why shouldn’t I too?

Not Thriving, But Surviving

Fast forward a few weeks and I was traveling out to San Francisco with everything I could fit into two checked suitcases. (Side note: I had sold or donated an entire studio apartment worth of things—which was a feat in and of itself). My goal was to travel light, stay with an acquaintance until I could find a nice Craigslist-sourced apartment, and slowly begin to rebuild my life alongside my boyfriend. In the meantime, I would live off of savings until I scored a job—all easy things, right? (Spoiler alert: I was wrong.)

I began by jumping headfirst into the apartment and job search, making new connections, and working to attain any resemblance of permanence I could. In addition to this, I worked to build up my social life, trying local restaurants, visiting all the city hot spots, and doing “as the locals do.” My boyfriend was supportive, but he had his own “security blankets” and I needed to find something for myself.

For weeks, I threw myself into everything I could on both fronts. And what started as optimism quickly faded two months later when I was in the same situation as when I began (re: no job, place to live, or meaningful connections). The harder I tried, the more I began to feel disconnected from myself. These were all things that were essential to my happiness. I was becoming more closed off and anxiety-ridden with each passing minute, and I couldn’t help but feel this sense of dread that I was the only one to blame for being in this position.

While I would eventually find a job and a rustic little apartment, it took much longer than I thought. And once I finally was in this permanent position, I found that these anxious feelings did not fade. In fact, they stayed with me for two years (the length of time I gave myself to “adjust”). The easiest way to describe it is that I just never found my groove. Here I was in this notable city, but I just couldn’t find that happiness I so desired.

It wasn’t until I found myself standing on one of San Francisco’s highest points—Twin Peaks—overlooking what many considered the most beautiful view of the city that I realized I wasn’t thriving, I was surviving in this new life of mine, and I wasn’t okay with that anymore.

Moving on and Making It Count

It was just over two years in my new city that I finally pulled the plug. The ironic part was, I moved out to San Francisco to make my life more robust than it was, but here I was floundering in an unfamiliar city that wasn’t making me a better person after all. With the help of this book, some wise words from a mentor, and many consultations with my boyfriend, I finally accepted there was no place I had to live just to check it off the list of “things you do in your twenties.” And coming to this realization gave me peace.

It took me many weeks but, eventually, my boyfriend and I packed up our belongings and began the move back to Midwestern soil. For the first time in what felt like forever, I felt excited again. In fact, the moment I landed back in my home state, I instantly felt a weight lifted off my shoulders. The anxiety melted away; it felt like I was finally free to be myself again.

With this newfound optimism, I was more motivated to do all the things. I connected with new people, moved to a new-to-me area, joined a fun volunteer group, and explored the best of my city. Plus, I was having fun in the process. I slowly felt myself gain back those things I had lost in my cross-country move—confidence, authenticity, excitement—and I’ll admit it felt good. I was enriching my life by coming back to my roots.

In a world that judges you by how great your feed is, it can be easy to confuse the “right thing for you” with the “cool thing to do.” It took me moving across the country to discover where my home was all along.

Lessons and Learning

In a world that judges you by how great your feed is, it can be easy to confuse the “right thing for you” with the “cool thing to do.” It took me moving across the country—and feeling so lost doing so—to discover where my home was all along. While the journey wasn’t pretty, it did help me find my authentic self—the one I’m most happy with.

For everyone, a “home” can be different. For me, it’s where I grew up. In this place, I’m more inspired than ever to get involved in my neighborhood, foster friendships with those with differing views, and do activities that feed my soul. And I’m happy these things were all possible, right on my home turf.

BY Sarah Schuh - May 24, 2021

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