How Leaving Everything Behind Made Me Find Myself
A few months ago, I stumbled across this article on Elite Daily titled “Why You Should Move To A New City Where You Don’t Know A Single Soul.” I shared it immediately after reading because, I, too moved to a city where I didn’t know a single person… twice.
I was 12 the first time I went to London. It was rainy, cold, my feet swelled and I loved it. I vowed that I would live there one day. Nine years later, I stepped off the airplane at Heathrow, nervous, anxious, exhausted, and so happy to be back in that beautiful city I had fallen in love with. But I was alone.
I purposefully chose a school and a city where I didn’t know a single person studying there. I think at 20 years old I was under the impression that it would be some grand romantic adventure. It was, but not in the way I thought. I didn’t go there and meet the son of a Lord and ride around on a vespa (I’ve watched Winning London way too many times, okay?) every day. But I fell in love with a city, and looking back on it, it’s where I started to fall in love with myself.
I returned from London having had an experience that is still hard to describe and finished my last year of college. Much like every other college senior, the most popular question I got asked was, “what are you doing after you graduate?” My answer: “Sleep.” And I did. I fell asleep on the day of graduation at 8 pm and woke up at 1 pm the next day to my mother shaking me awake and asking if I was planning on sleeping all day. I probably could have.
I spent that summer… detoxing, if you will, from the last four years of life. I loved school, I loved my friends and I loved all the experiences I went through, good and bad. But I was exhausted. Somewhere along the way, I stopped taking care of myself, and started taking care of everyone else.
I worked the same job I’d had at the campus library through the summer, applying to jobs here and there, but ultimately unsure of what was next. At the end of June, I found a job listing for a year-long service corps program in Los Angeles. On a whim, I applied and found myself accepting a position on July 5th. I arrived in Los Angeles on August 5th, without ever having set foot anywhere on the West Coast. I arrived at the chaos that is LAX feeling nervous, anxious, exhausted and excited. But I was alone.
The first few months after moving, there were many days that I questioned why I did this to myself. Why I left all my friends and family behind and moved across the country to this giant, consuming city. Why I plunged myself into a job I knew nothing about. Why I moved in and spent all my time with a group of people I didn’t know and who didn’t know me.
But slowly, I began to remember myself. I found myself feeling lighter than I had in years. In minimizing my life, in taking out so many extra things that I thought were so important (and they were in that time and space), and in realizing that I could say “NO” to people and not be a bad person, I realized that I am the same person I always have been. I just love myself more. And after that happened, I started saying “YES.”
I won’t lie to you, moving anywhere is hard. Moving across the country to a city where you don’t truly know anyone is harder. It’s not for everyone. But it is for you if you are willing to go through the bad days and the good. If you look beyond the Instagram-filtered snaps of perceived reality, you just might find new friends, new experiences and maybe even yourself.
I have been in Los Angeles for a little over 18 months now. There have been great days, terrible days, and many days on the spectrum in between. I’ve had uncomfortable experiences. I’ve met people who are not nice and who have chosen to judge me based on the few superficial things they know about me. I’ve had days (more than I care to admit) where it’s been hard to even find the motivation to get out of bed.
But, I have also had incredible life-awakening experiences. I have spent days on the beach, hiked through the mountains, stood on the edges of lakes. I have worked at events to raise money for projects I am passionate about. I walked miles across San Francisco alone, discovering little shops and places I never would have noticed on the bus. I’ve seen Kevin Bacon picking his nose. And I have found a community of people who I have fallen in love with and hope to be connected with for the rest of my life.
But most importantly, I’ve come to love myself, to cherish myself. Because I have made it through each and every single terrible day, and I would not trade a single one of them. Because with each terrible day that I feel alone, comes the next morning when I wake up and realize that I am not. Comes the next time I sit at a table of friends laughing and playing games. Comes the next time someone gives me a hug and genuinely says “I’m happy to see you.” Comes the next time I can look in the mirror and says “I’m happy to see you, too.”
Hannah is a storyteller, photographer and lipstick addict. She grew up in Nashville and graduated from Belmont University in May 2013 with a degree in Journalism and French. She’s lived abroad in London and has travelled across Europe in Germany, Czech Republic, France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Turkey and Croatia to pet as many cats as she can. Now she lives in Los Angeles where she spends her days lounging on the beach with a margarita in hand. Just kidding! She has no idea what she’s doing with her life, but she’s enjoying the journey.