Earlier this month marked one year since I made the decision to pick my entire life up and move 1,500 miles away from everything and everyone I had ever known. To this day, that has been the biggest, most impactful decision I have ever had to make.
To offer some background, I grew up in the southwest; El Paso, Texas, to be exact. El Paso is a city unlike any other. Nestled snugly between Mexico and New Mexico while sitting on the far western arm of Texas, El Paso has a culture and way of life all its own. A big city, sometimes with a small-town feel, El Paso felt like both home and a prison to me (which, yes, is very dramatic). My entire family and all my friends live there, but save for a few close friends, I never quite felt like I belonged. Following my graduation from the local university, I felt stuck. Job prospects were low and I found myself feeling aimless and uninspired. After working a couple of different jobs at home, I received a job offer from a company in the midwest. It was kind of a no-brainer, but I still deliberated a long time. I’ll be completely honest and say that at the time, the midwest did not sound attractive to me at. all. So the thought of leaving home for a place I wasn’t sure I even wanted to live in was a little terrifying.
In the end, I decided to do it anyway, so on the morning of April 4th, with all my belongings stuffed into the trunk and backseat of my tiny little car, my dad and I set off on a 27 hour road trip to what would become my new home. We drove nonstop, only stopping (for a significant amount of time, that is) for dinner and for a quick nap at a rest stop (it was the beginning of April and that is still, today, the coldest night I’ve ever experienced). We arrived in the mid-afternoon the following day. We rested and early the following day, on April 6th, I signed the lease to my first apartment ever. The following day, I drove my dad to the airport in Chicago and started the daunting task of settling into my new life completely on my own (a friend of mine stayed with me my first week here. I am very grateful to him for that.).
My first few months here were a bit of a roller coaster. My new world was all very new and exciting, but I did feel lonely a lot of the time. I experienced a huge culture shock too; I hadn’t anticipated how central a role religion played in the lives of most people here and how common it was for people to get married at a very young age. Everything here was all very new to me, but I felt welcomed and comfortable. The landscape is absolutely beautiful and I took advantage of it fully, going for walks every day and exploring the area on my own during my first few months living here. It feels like it took me a really long time to make friends (a lot of people seem to leave this town just as you’re getting to know them, which makes it difficult), but once I did, everything became a lot easier. I found a family away from home in my coworkers and my new company (not the original one I moved to work for…that’s another story for another time) and started creating memories with them.
I experienced bonfires in the summer and seeing rows and rows of cornfields, along with beautiful open fields illuminated by fireflies at nighttime. I experienced my first colorful autumn (the leaves on the trees back home don’t usually go through dramatic color changes as they move from summer to fall to winter), war reenactments, autumn festivals, and everything that comes along with fall. I experienced my first real winter, with snow and ice and beautiful Christmas traditions. I’ve gotten the opportunity to meet and call my friends some of the nicest, most genuine people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. Along with the seasonal changes and the people, I also got to experience the beauty that is midwestern cuisine, and even better, sharing it with all the amazing people I have met and befriended.
I have been very happy and comfortable here, for the most part. I still get homesick every now and then, especially having to go months and months without seeing my family and friends back home. Early this year, I struggled with trying to decide what my next move (literal and metaphorical) in life would be. After a lot of deliberation and difficult decisions, I made up my mind to remain (physically) where I am, at least for the time being. This is the first time in my life where I’m in a place (again, physically and metaphorically speaking) where I am finally completely independent and I decided I wanted to take advantage of it.
Living in the Midwest now, I am constantly in awe of how close everything is. Wanna go see a show in Chicago or Cleveland or Indianapolis or Detroit? Just drive a relatively short distance! Drive a couple of hours and you can find yourself in a different state, or by the beach, or in a charming small town with cute coffee shops and antiques stores, or all of the above. I have never lived in such close proximity to such a variety of places before, so I am more than excited to explore as many of them as I can during my time here.
Accompanied by my good friend, Heather (a fellow Southerner), we have decided to take a weekend to set out and explore a different city in a different state each month for a year. Seems like a bit of a lofty goal, but it is definitely exciting! We have already started, having gone to Tennessee and Ohio and Pennsylvania just recently. I will post about those places even though those trips already happened, because why not? Ha.