I have moved eight times over the past four years.
Prior to graduating high school, I had only lived three places in 18 years. All three of those places were in Franklin, Tenn., and two of those homes were in the same subdivision.
In 2014, I started college at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, only two hours from home. I lived in a different dorm or apartment, with a different set of roommates, each of the four years I was in school.
In 2016, I interned with Walt Disney World, in Orlando. I packed my things into my car and moved 10 hours from home.
Those 10 hours felt like a lot at the time. I only saw my family once during the six months of my internship. Some days were harder than others, like when I couldn’t give my dad a hug on Father’s Day, or when I couldn’t attend my sister’s high school graduation. But I could still talk to them every day.
Then, in the spring of 2017, I studied abroad in Belgium. I spent five months in a country where, prior to moving there, I did not know anybody. I barely even spoke the language. I couldn’t bring all my stuff, just what could fit in one large suitcase. Not only could my family not visit, but there was a seven hour time difference, making it difficult to find times to talk.
It was difficult, being away from my friends and family, feeling like a stranger in a strange land. But it was also worth it. I got to see sights and visit cities I had dreamed of. I made new friends, tried new foods and learned a lot, about the world around me and about myself.
It’s 2018. I’ve just moved to North Fulton County, Ga. Only five hours away from home. Only one hour time difference. I know to some of my peers, moving away from home as soon as they’ve graduated college seems intimidating. But for me, it’s pretty tame.
North Fulton reminds me of where I grew up in several ways. Both places are suburbs of larger cities. Places that pride themselves on good schools and Southern hospitality. I can eat at the same restaurants and expect the same weather. So I don’t have to contend with the culture shock I did when I moved to Belgium.
When you pack up your life once every six months or so, you start to realize what things are really important. We accumulate a lot of junk in our lives. Every time I’ve moved I’ve thrown away, recycled and donated bags and bags of junk I’d collected.
The desire to carry as few boxes as possible compelled me to be unsentimental, throwing away homemade cards, old school projects and knick-knacks from friends. But I never got rid of anything important, because what’s important isn’t the stuff. It’s the memories I’ve made and the people I care about.
I think one of the things I will miss the most about being a student is that every year I had an opportunity to reinvent myself. Like clockwork, every August there would be new classes, new teachers and new peers. And for some students, like me, there are opportunities to study abroad or intern in new cities.
It felt freeing to know I could join new clubs or switch up my wardrobe. I could make new friends and set new goals for myself. It was an annual reminder to evaluate the kind of person I wanted to be.
It’s the same reason we make New Year’s resolutions. Or why we turn our house upside down with spring cleaning. Human beings have the remarkable ability to change, to grow, to be multiple people over one lifetime.
It’s been six months since New Year’s, and I’m willing to bet you haven’t kept up with all your resolutions, if you made them to begin with.
No judgement here, I haven’t either. I haven’t read as many books as I would like, and I haven’t gone to the gym as often as I promised.
But consider this your semi-annual reminder. Take stock of what’s important in your life. Call the friend you haven’t talked to in a while. Think about the kind of person you want to be and start making steps to be that person.
You don’t have to move to a new country or even a new state to make a fresh start.