Spend the day in the place I used to call home for 1/11th of my life: Cheyenne, Wyoming.
A gal so nostalgic that she has every card ever received, every movie ticket ever perfectly-perforatedly torn, ever yearbook ever signed safely sealed in a box in her guest room closet.
About six years ago, I was going through, what I think is the very common, very little talked about, mid-twenties “I don’t know what I’m doing with my life” stage which, as an over-achiever and perfectionist, is an emotionally ravaging place to live in.
I literally wanted to be able to escape from my own head.
I constantly worried that people judged what I did for a living because it had absolutely nothing to do with my degree.
All of my friends had moved away and I wanted nothing more than to “fit in”, so I traded my fun-loving, goofy, low maintenance personality for one that would never cause a commotion, never embarrass herself, never do anything out of the ordinary, and, frankly, never really live at all.
I spent months “shoulding” all over myself: I should wear that, I should eat that, I should say that (or I should say nothing), I should like that, I should say “Yes” to that. And what was left was a girl who had no idea who she was anymore and spent most of her time swinging on a pendulum between inescapably sad and uncontrollably mad.
When it came time for my then boyfriend to apply for residency, I knew one thing to be true: I needed a change and wanted to get out of the Midwest. With a guaranteed job in Wisconsin for when his residency was over, we packed our bags and moved out West when the “Match Day fates may be” sent us to Cheyenne, Wyoming.
Upon our arrival, I knew no one in Wyoming, I had no job, and I had no idea how to get anywhere at all.
As I sat on our patio chair (our only furniture for a week) while my future husband was at a “Welcome Retreat” in Rocky Mountain National Park, I promised myself that I would make the absolute most out of our three years in Wyoming, but, in order to do that, I had to get out of my own way and grab every opportunity by the lapels.
Three years went by in a flash and I will never be able to put into words what a monumental chapter of my life our time in Cheyenne became (but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to try).
I worked for people who inspired me to be tough and kind and confident and compassionate and I took on a role within an organization that, when offered to me, I never thought I would actually be able to do.
I got involved in a community that taught me that we all have a little more in common than we think we do and that everyone has an interesting story to share as long as you put your phone down and have the stones to ask questions and listen to answers.
I experienced beauty in the scenery around us that I would never see back home, but also became so appreciative of the beauty that had been in my Midwestern backyard for over a decade.
I learned that doing things alone is almost never as scary as you think it will be and that you really miss out on a lot of opportunities if you wait for people to go with you to do them.
I learned that jumping out of airplanes, hand-feeding bison, taking yoga in natural amphitheaters, hiking to frozen waterfalls in thigh deep snow, crying (and laughing) with coworkers, marathon-watching “24” with my love, adopting unfriendly hedgehogs and blind geriatric cats, and returning to my childhood hobbies are all ways to regain a real connection who I always have been and that that person doesn’t need to change in order to be happy and successful and strong.
To me, Cheyenne became that home away from home that I had been looking for. The friends that I made there became my family. And I will forever be an outrageous advocate to spend at least a few years of your life far away from the place you have always called home (just don’t let my daughter read this post in eighteen years).
Here are my top reasons why you should move away from home:
You learn about yourself and how to trust your gut.
Listen, if you are even 1% like me, you know how easy it is to become influenced by the people around you; especially if those people have been around you your entire life. It’s even easier to become stuck in old habits, routines, styles, and hobbies because “you’ve always” done that thing and even when “that thing” is no longer “your thing” the people around you will almost certainly question why you’re changing, why you’re giving it up, why you’re trying something new. Nothing will bring you closer to building a Best Friends Forever situation with yourself than people completely away from all of those people and those routines in order to determine what actually still AUTHENTICALLY feels right for you. As you move about your new town with an outsiders perspective, you have utter and complete freedom to try new things, to meet new people, and to get rid of the stuff that no longer serves you.
You become independent, bold, and brave.
OK, so I knew one person when I moved to Cheyenne: my boyfriend. But let’s get real about residency, they work a lot. In fact, I’ll never forget when a new resident asked me if they had “support groups” for the significant others of the spouses; when I gave him the stereotypical confused-dog-headtilt response he clarified by saying, “You know a group where you all get together and talk and do stuff.” Yea. Those don’t exist. At least not where I was.
So with no partner in crime and no support group, I was forced to do one of three things: (1) Do nothing (2) Make friends and do stuff with them or (3) Do stuff alone.
Sure moving to a new city makes everything unfamiliar and unfamiliarity can be totally scary, but I quickly learned that nothing was ever as scary as it seemed in my head. I never got lost in the middle of nowhere with no way of getting home. I never was mocked for going to a movie or a lunch by myself. And the more I did those things, the more I felt I COULD do those things.
Changing your location can’t fix you, but it can teach you.
Yes, when I moved away from Wisconsin, I was looking for an opportunity for change, but I knew better than to think my insecurities, fears, and self-doubts would stay in the Central Time Zone: I had to work at these changes, every minute of every day.
Really, what moving away from Wisconsin to Wyoming taught me was that no ONE particular place was home. I was my home (enter cheesy music). I learned in Wyoming that I had to feel happy and at home within myself before I could really feel at home anywhere else and until I was able to determine WHAT made me truly happy (not happy according to society) I would always be searching for something else.
Have you moved away from home? Share your experience in the comments below?