I’ve mentioned before that I’ve moved twice since college. The first was a small college town in Central Illinois. I’ll admit I talk a lot of shit about that little town. No good mall – but lots of places to eat. Lots of growing families starting their lives and obnoxious college kids – not a lot of young unmarried professionals planning their career. Actually most of the young unmarried professionals I’ve known that are on the fast track in their career have moved somewhere else within 3-5 years of living there. It was somewhat diverse, but mostly white.
What brought me to that small town, you ask? I moved there for love. And a few months in I got a great job opportunity where I found my passion. I got involved with a variety of nonprofits and found a gym that I went to pretty regularly. But my love decided he wanted to be closer to his son – which I loved and am not complaining about. We decided that he would talk to his supervisor to see what he needed to do in order to telework and I would start applying for jobs. We projected that we would move in a year. But life always has a different plan. It took his supervisor all of two months to get the request approved and get him moved. Where did this leave me? In this small town, no friends, no family, just my damn self.
I cried. A lot. I was so mad at my boyfriend for leaving me there alone. But I had to figure it out and fast. I was forced to learn me – likes, dislikes, hobbies, talents, joys. I had to love me. I will be honest I spent most Friday nights with a bottle of wine, chicken panang from my favorite Thai restaurant, a movie and one of my best friends on FaceTime. I threw myself into the gym, my volunteer activities, puzzles and books. When I finally left that small town in August 2014, I knew and loved myself more than I ever had. So, as I sit on the train today rolling through my old stomping grounds, I can’t help but feel a little melancholy and appreciate the alone time I spent there growing up. Growing into a better me.
Whenever I get the chance to talk to a young person, especially a young woman early in her adult life, I encourage them to do something uncomfortable. For me it was living by myself, being by myself, being truly alone. Take time to explore who you are, then learn to love who you are. It may not always be easy but you will thank yourself later.