Elizabeth Maxwell writes about how it’s not always necessary to find your future in a place away from home.
Soon after I began attending school across the country from my home in California, I realized I may not always want to be so far from everything I grew up around.
College is often advertised as the years you’ll want to return to for the rest of your life. Though this can be the case for many, it’s crucial to not rely on this to be true for you.
Now, it’s important to understand that my life has been extremely calm and blissfully uneventful. I lived in the same home for 18 years, holding close relationships with my only sister and my stable and supportive parents. The nearby presence of my maternal grandparents allowed me to be raised with a second generation of support and constant love.
Moving to Chicago from San Diego was the biggest change I’ve ever made. Even so, moving across the country for college was simultaneously something that I was determined to do and something that terrified me to my core.
So, I committed to Loyola and I made the 2,000 mile move.
Although it would be a tough change, I figured I would easily fall into the category of people who spend the rest of their lives in the place where they attended college and with the people they met there.
Two things led me to believe this. The first was that I didn’t particularly love my hometown life. I had always yearned for a place that experienced seasons, and I had never completely felt like I fit in with the people I was surrounded by. The second was that my sister is my main role model. Although we have opposite personalities and dreams, I watched Chicago become her entire world when she moved there to attend DePaul University three years earlier.
Not surprisingly, the pressure that Chicago had to be where I belonged led me to feel discouraged.
I looked down on myself for not being able to immerse myself in everything the city offered. Here I was, living in downtown Chicago, studying with city views and taking walks to Millenium Park with my roommates. But I was suddenly missing the Eucalyptus trees of my home that I had always found so ugly.
I’ve always known that changes affect me negatively and hold the power to shatter my confidence, stripping me of the ease I typically carried. But my new life brought millions of changes with no remorse and caused the months I spent away from home to be nearly impossible.
Suddenly, I had no sense of community — a hard reality to accept when I had been raised with such a familiar one. I no longer had the comfort of my childhood home at the end of a hard school day or a hug from my friend of over a decade who could mirror my anxieties.
Even though I developed close friendships I hope to hold forever, I found myself comparing these relationships to the ones I have at home. This is clearly an unfair comparison to make, as my hometown friendships contain years of history and comfortability.
I began my college years so determined to build a completely new life, and I neglected to realize that I could return to my old home if I wanted to.
I had always expected to parallel my sister and live out my days in various cities and countries, but I realized I could find my own adventure nearby the place I’ve lived all my life. Simply put, there is no shame in returning to the place you are most comfortable.
This new perspective will seem so obvious to some, but for me it took an immense amount of pain to reach. Knowing I want to return to San Diego after my college years has allowed me to find a new appreciation for Chicago and relieve myself of the pressure of reconstructing my life in a new place.
Feature image by Ryan Pittman / The Phoenix