What I Learned from Moving Away at Seventeen

Four years ago, I graduated high school in Upstate New York. I grew up in a small town nestled in the Adirondack mountains, where winter consumed the majority of the year and you couldn’t go anywhere without running into at least one person that you knew. For many reasons, I found myself struggling with the idea of staying close to the only town I had ever known after graduation. I had an innate need to gather my things and move as far away as I could. All I needed was a fresh start with new people in a new place, or at least that’s what I thought. After spending three years in Virginia and visiting my family who remained back home in New York only twice a year, I came to realize a few things.

1. Your friends will become your family.

When you move to a new city or go away to college, the friendships you make will become your support system. With the absence of the only family you’ve known, friendships will fill the void. It’s important to put yourself out there and have an open mind. Friendships will form with the unlikeliest of people and at unique moments. Building a connection with others will help you get through the holidays you can’t make it home and they will give you that pep talk before a big interview that your mom had given you every other time before.

2. You have to make a budget.

There is nothing better in the world than moving out on your own, but it is scary as sh*t. Financially you begin to do things and pay for things you never knew even existed. From property taxes to parking tickets, your bills seem to pile up before your eyes. Not only do you have to pay all of your bills, but you have to feed yourself, put gas in your car, and buy toilet paper! All of these things cost money and unless you have an unlimited amount, you have to budget. Knowing how much you have and how much you can spend will make life a whole lot easier and save you some embarrassment when your card doesn’t get declined at the pub down the street.

3. You will find self-fulfillment in the smallest of places.

Becoming fully satisfied with ourselves is a life-long quest we all embark upon. Unlike before, you will experience a new strong sense of pride and self-worth from living on your own. When you get a higher limit on your credit card because you’ve been paying it off monthly, when you take your car in for inspection and it passes with flying colors, and even when you’ve earned enough money that month to put some money towards your student loans, they are all celebratory events.

4. It’s okay to ask for help.

Living on your own isn’t easy, no one ever said it was. One important lesson I’ve learned is that asking for help is okay and necessary in some cases. Sometimes you need to swallow your pride and ask the people closest to you for a lending hand. Family and friends are your emotional support system, but when it comes down to it they will do anything for you. There is a level of respect that comes with being able to admit that you can’t do it all on your own.

5. You will make mistakes and sometimes they aren’t forgiven.

Making mistakes is natural and we learn that from a very young age. We also learn to forgive others for their mistakes, like when Johnny colored all over your math homework during recess. Your teacher would make Johnny apologize and you would say, “It’s okay” then you would give each other a hug…if only life were so simple. Some mistakes are unforgivable and after the apology is unaccepted, all you can do is learn from the experience and become better because of it. One of the hardest things is knowing that what was done can’t be undone or forgotten.

6. You will become a different person than you once were.

People change as they grow up, especially in their twenties. Moving to a whole new state without anyone and being in your twenties will change you even more. You are forced to be independent and self-reliant. You go on adventures alone and meet others along the way. You engage in brand new conversations, learn brand new cultures, and gain a new perspective on others along with yourself. When you go back home, it will feel a little uneasy. You will see places that remind you of a different time and person, but you will reflect on it all in a new way. Your home will no longer feel like the same home it once did, and that is okay.

7. You will want to cry to Mom and Dad.

Not only will you WANT to cry to Mom and Dad, but you most likely WILL on a few occasions. The wonderful technology known as cell phones creates an easy pathway in which you can vent from 500 miles away. My poor parents have probably heard me cry to them over the phone countless times over the past four years, and yet they still gave me the much-needed advice that I knew they would. A conversation with your parents is still as effective and full of wisdom over the phone as it would be over the dining room table, so don’t feel as if you can’t call home to Mom or Dad. They will also love it when you call them just on a whim to see how their day went, the little things count.

8. You will drift apart from people you never thought you would.

Whether you drift away from people you knew growing up or people you met throughout your journey away from home, you will stray from people you never expected to. Some friendships and connections may be more short-lived than you initially anticipated, but each of them will impact you forever still. Certain individuals aren’t meant to stay with you throughout your whole journey but guide you along to the next step.

9. You will fall in love and it will change your idea of every kind of love.

Once I fell in love it changed my idea of what it meant to love in all senses of the word. Not only did I now understand what it was like to care about someone else so unselfishly, but I also understood why others did what they did while in relationships. I began to perceive situations like my parent’s divorce from a whole new perspective. As a child, I didn’t comprehend what was going on, and yet when I got into a relationship and a love of my own, I did. I know that love is beautiful and sometimes that isn’t enough. It is also messy, complicated, and overwhelming. Empathy has now replaced anger within myself because I now understand the craziness that is love.

10. You can run, but you can’t hide…from yourself.

Once I graduated high school and moved to Virginia, I thought all of my problems would be left behind after I passed the Mason-Dixon line. I was wrong. Moving away from my hometown seemed like the perfect cure to everything I was going through. I thought I could start over and become a brand new and improved me. Even though I moved hundreds of miles away, my problems seemed to of snuck into my suitcase when I wasn’t looking. I soon had to face the fact that the city I was running away from wasn’t the problem. I had to confront my issues head on and it wasn’t easy. A new place to learn and work on bettering myself did help a little, but internally I had to face the demons that we all try to hide from no matter where I was on the east coast.

1 Comment

  1. Dad says: Reply

    Maybe you should go into journalism.

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