It’s easier to be among the familiar. It’s comfortable, it’s cozy, it’s home. But that’s not what the world is. The world is not familiar, it’s not comfortable, and it’s not always cozy. I learned that the best way — by moving far from my family, alone.
The first time I moved far from my family was in undergraduate school. I headed to Louisiana, 6 hours away from the only world I had known. Granted, my boyfriend at the time lived there, but soon after starting college, I realized that I couldn’t rely on him to be there in the reliable way that “home” is. So I was on my own.
Three years later, I moved two hours away from home in Oklahoma City, and three years after that, I moved cross-country to sunny Los Angeles, California. Today, I live two hours from my hometown.
Though you can become an adult in your own way by growing up in the same city among old friends and family, people who move away, alone get a little bit extra out of life. Here what I figured out from living far from who and what I knew.
- I learned to be alone.
Learning to be alone is one of the hardest things that an adult must learn to do, but it’s necessary to becoming your own person. Living far from my family all of these years has taught me to be comfortable around myself, without the need or attention from others and that’s a powerful and liberating tool to have.
When I first moved away from my family, I talked every day to my parents and at least every other day with friends. Slowly, the calls and texts became a once a week thing and that was wonderful, because it gave me a chance to figure out who I was and wanted to be without the pressures or expectations of others.
- I learned to make friends, connections, and network.
When you’re far away from family and friends in a foreign place, you quickly learn that you can be lonely or you can learn to make friends, regardless of how awkward it feels. I quickly found my voice and courage and pushed past those awkward moments and spoke with strangers. I felt forced to learn to make friends and that was a wonderful gift of being far from home because it taught me to speak up and network with anyone and everyone I met which has become a helpful tool these past years as I move forward in my career and life.
- I learned the importance of independence.
I think young adults rely far too much on their families and friends to support them financially, emotionally, or mentally and that can hold them back from so many aspects of life. There’s nothing more important for a young adult to learn than independence. When I moved away, my parents slowly started guiding me toward financial independence, so that I was quickly paying for my own bills. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that you can financially take care of yourself. More importantly, I discovered that I didn’t “need” a boyfriend or friends or a parent to always be there for me. I took care of my own business and that’s a sort of pride that you quickly gain from being far from your home.
- I learned to interact with new people and cultures.
Just like I learned to make friends, I found that by moving far from my home, I was going to be experiencing new places with new people and new cultures. I learned to appreciate other cultures and the ways of life of others in the United States, which isn’t an easy thing to do if you remain living in your hometown for your entire life.
- I learned to adapt.
Adaptation is a powerful tool to have in your adult pocket. It allows you to roll with the punches when life gets tough, and figure out ways to accept new changes. When I moved to Oklahoma City, I had to adapt to an even more unpredictable weather than I experienced in North Texas. When I moved to Los Angeles, I had to adapt to a highway and driving system that’s more fast paced than what I was used to. Each time, I’ve moved to a new city, I’ve adapted to the going ons of that place and it has helped me learn valuable skills that I will carry for the rest of my life.
- I learned that I’m capable.
The best thing I learned from moving far away from home, alone is that I’m capable of anything I set my mind to. If my car breaks down in the middle of a highway in a city far from where my dad or family can assist me — I can handle it. If I’m having issues with my bank or my landlord, I can handle it. If I get lost and my phone dies, I can handle it. See, by moving far away by myself, I had to come to rely on my smarts and my own motivation to survive in this world. I didn’t have my parents or family there to help me out. I didn’t have friends I could always call on to lend me a hand. I had to learn that I, alone, am capable of getting things done. I don’t need a man, a parent, or a friend — I can do it, and that’s the greatest tool that will get me through life — belief in myself.