Huntington. Some of my best childhood memories are in this town. The annual catfish derby, taking 4th place in the school wide spelling bee, the pink dress I got to wear to my kindergarten graduation, singing to Billy Ray Cyrus with my best friends, birthday parties, my Dad coaching my baseball team, my first crush… I only lived in Huntington until I was 7, but much of my worldview was shaped here. This was my city for discovery. I discovered that I loved learning, that I loved chocolate milkshakes, that I never wanted to be poor, that I wanted to live in a big city, that my sister was my best friend, that my brothers were so much fun. I remember a particular afternoon that my Uncle Joe helped me and my two brothers dissect a dead bird and my curiosity in biology began. It continued until high school where I was one of the only girls having fun dissecting a rat in anatomy and physiology. I also remember learning to protest. I loathed the fact that my brothers were allowed to own BB guns, but “guns weren’t for girls” so I couldn’t own one. My Dad still gets to hear about that. I learned that working hard is essential. My Dad drove an hour away for days at a time to work as a paramedic and support us and my mother helped make ends meet by waiting tables at the truck stop. All while raising four children together, coaching sports teams, and Dad volunteering with the Huntington Fire Department. I learned that there were consequences for my actions. I snuck out to a birthday party that I had been grounded from and when my Mom and Dad came knocking on the door, I was held accountable for going without their permission. I also learned that life was valuable. Amber was a girl in my grade that passed away in a house fire shortly after I moved and I remember the confusion I felt in realizing that someone my own age was capable of dying. I took a lot of the lessons I learned in Huntington with me and I still carry them in my heart.
Boise. This was my city to experiment. I spent the majority of my life here and went through way too much to even think about. Divorce, custody hearings, falling for boys and breaking up with them, planning my future and changing the plan, living with each of my parents, changing schools, being popular, being a complete loner, losing close family members too soon, friendship drama. In high school, I was a different person every week and it wasn’t until my junior year that I settled somewhat in my own skin. I continued to learn a lot about myself in Boise. Mostly the same things I started learning in Huntington, just in a more mature and abstract way. I experimented with who I wanted to be and how I saw myself and my future. By the time I left, I was really itching to get out. I needed to use what I thought I had learned about the world and test myself in it. I needed to use my independence and find my life outside of the security of the city I was raised.
Boston. This city was my freedom, my first real taste of being out in the world somewhat alone. At 18, it was a safe freedom. I had my boyfriend, room and board at the college I was attending, a credit card, and my Dad just a phone call away. But for someone who’s always had a dream in her mind and an independent spirit, it was what I needed to teach me the lessons I needed to learn. On faith alone, I drove 3000 miles in the hope that it would just all work out somehow. And it did. My boyfriend and I were able to secure really great jobs close to campus and pay off 4,000 dollars in cash for my semester’s tuition before Christmas break. And somehow we could still afford the occasional Dunkin Donuts run or night out with friends. There were definitely nights that I cried myself to sleep missing my Dad and wondering if I was doing the right thing. And sure, a few times I drove out to the edge of town by myself because all I could do was just be with God and pray or else I would break down from fear. But Boston showed me that life was waiting for me if I was willing to go live it. Boston showed me that I could do and be more than I ever dreamed of. I had been given a little taste of what could happen if I decided to try to create my own future and I was hooked.
Denver. My transition into adulthood. First apartment, graduating from cosmetology school and beginning my career, rescuing my first dog, watching my ex graduate college, buying a car for the first time… I moved to this city a month after getting married at 19 and left just after signing divorce papers at 23. This part of my story involves a little confusion, some truly great times, a lot of heartache, a lot of exploring and finding out who I was, and some questioning. I was everyone from a hippie, college girl to an overeager, way too girly and self-concious cosmetology student to a hiking, biking, tomboy with no make up to finally just myself: an odd combination of all of these things. I spent the first three years in Denver exploring lifestyles and passions and asking a lot of questions of myself. I tried out different hats and put way too much stress on my shoulders from what others thought of me or what others were doing in their lives. I laugh just looking at pictures of myself from this life phase; even on camera I look so uneasy with who I am. My last year there, however, I sought self-employment and for the first time since I moved to Boston, I felt some ownership over my life. I remembered how much I loved that feeling of accomplishment that comes from knocking down high goals. I didn’t want a life of mediocrity or dreading work or always being broke. I reclaimed the woman I had started to become before leaving home years before. The girl who never lied about what she needed in order to please someone else, who wasn’t afraid to be alone, who had big dreams for her life. Denver, particularly in the last year, was my growing up. It was breaking down the belief I’d come to have that I needed to be anyone’s anything. I highly regret that anyone had to be hurt in the decisions I made, but I don’t regret that I made them. Through my time in Denver, I was able to find out whole-heartedly who I am and what I want in life. I was able to transition from a scared, unsteady girl to an assured woman with some purpose in life and the drive to carry out her goals. Denver was me taking all of the experience I’d gained in the short life I’d lived and feeling like for the first time, I finally knew what to do with it.
Seattle. Coming home. I’d only been to this city once just a month before I moved to it, but I knew I was coming home just stepping off the plane. I had become a new person from my time in Denver and Seattle was where I needed to go to allow myself to start living. Even with little money, few friends, and no job prospects, I could breathe easier than I had in years. It was so much more than leaving the relationship I’d just ended, I also left the girl I’d always tried to be with my ex. I was myself. Now, I was only accountable to myself and my God. I will never forget how touched I was to hear my Dad tell me when I came home for Christmas that I looked good, more like myself than I had looked since high school. I had come home to myself. Signing a lease with one of my best girlfriends, having no one waiting around for me after work and staying as long as I want, hopping on a bus when I want to, paying my own bills… I know it’s a little ridiculous, but my ex did almost everything for me and I think that was part of why I lost so much of myself with him. It feels like a new chapter in my life for a lot of reasons. In the short four months I’ve been here, Seattle has been my city to own my life and my decisions. It has been moving on from a mere recognition of what I want out of life and actually chasing after it. Seattle has given me the confidence that I don’t need another person to tell me my worth, that I get to decide who I am and what I will do. It has given me time I needed to think and figure out what I want in my life and what is and isn’t worth compromising. It has been really hard, too. I’ve had to give up more than I realized I would have to and I’ve had to face my insecurities head on. I’ve had to learn to be on my own for the first time. But Seattle has given me a new excitement for my future. For growing my career, for allowing myself to grow, for learning to rely on God daily, and for getting to a place where I can hope to fall in love again someday.