The Pros and Cons of Moving Away from Home
Earlier this morning, a good friend of mine asked me about my thoughts on living away from home. For context, I have spent the past three years going to school approximately 1800 miles away from the town that I grew up in. I have gone home for summer and winter breaks, and the occasional Thanksgiving or Spring Break, but I am currently on the precipice of my first full summer away from home, with no plans to go home anytime in the immediate future. Additionally this is the time of year that a lot of people are preparing to move away from home for school in the fall, or for their next job, or maybe just because they need a change. As such, now seems like a good time to write up my thoughts on the subject.
Before I begin however, I need to address the privileges that life has afforded to me, specifically as it relates to my being able to live far from home. I live in America, where the opportunity to live in a place that is significantly far away is aided simply by the geography of my country. My family is in the middle class, and as such, we had the necessary resources to be able to move myself and my belongings to a different part of the country. It also means that from time to time I have been able to fly back home to see family, so far just for breaks, but I have that ability in the event of an emergency. I am also a white able-bodied male who is tall and rather large. As such, I feel a tremendous degree of ease driving by myself, flying by myself, and walking around city streets by myself, without the fear of abuse or harassment that these activities often causes others who are in less privileged positions.
Additionally, I came from the west to the east, and in the west, there is a much more resounding push for individualism and for people to go off and do their own things. By my senior year of high school, I was regularly driving and hour away by myself to go dancing or go to shows, and this was not met with any resistance or hesitance. Furthermore, there were no expectations put in place by my family that made me feel pressured to stay near home for school or to go away. I had the choice presented to me and I made the choice, of my own volition, to go away.
I say all of this, because there is an important "For me..." that has to go in front of every statement that follows, that I may not always include. These thoughts on living away from home are based on my personal experience, and while some of this may resonate with many people, I do not want it to seem like I think that the only way of approaching school or work or life is to move away from home. That being said, for me, living away from home has been and continues to be the experience that I need to further my own personal growth, and, upon reflection, moving away from home was one of the most important choices that I ever made.
I think that my thoughts on the benefits of moving away are really best expressed in the analogy of eating healthy. At this point in my life, staying home would have been like eating nothing but junk food. Which is not to be dismissive of the many joys of junk food. There is so much variety and things that are incredibly tasty. Many of my favorite foods are junk food. But if I ate nothing but junk food, I would not be able to improve myself physically, or keep myself healthy. Living at home, I would be sustained, but I would not be living life to the fullest. Moving away has been a more balanced diet, with much more nutrient rich foods. As much as I love the junk food, and as much as I wish I could eat it every day, healthy foods make me a healthier person, and being healthier makes me happier.
There are, of course, many cons. Homesickness and crippling nostalgia are real. There are meals where I struggle to find something to eat, because the only thing I want is my Mom's potato soup. There are times when I want only to be driving down the roads that have found a permanent place in my memory. There are nights when I realize that if I were home I would be getting coffee with my old friends rather than just lying in bed and looking out the window, dreaming. Depression and lonesomeness are also real.
But, for me, (and this is probably the biggest for me) those cons have been outweighed by the many pros. First, while this has already been stated in the paragraphs above, I cannot begin to express how much living away from home has helped me grow as an individual. I've learned how to get myself around, to orient myself in a new space and find the resources that I need to keep myself afloat. I've learned how to cook for myself and how to buy my own groceries. I've learned the value of the dollar and how to budget. (Though, my mother will point out that I'm still working on that last bit.) I am a much more grateful person because I live away from home. I am not trying to say that people who do live at home do not learn these things. But my experience living away from home has showed me this more than anything else. I have had to do a profound amount of struggling, and that struggling has made me into a better person, more confident about engaging the world and knowing that I can take care of myself. Without hesitation, I think of myself as an adult.
Secondly, moving away has forced me to engage with the new. There is plenty that has been written on the value of diverse life experience, so I will not go to far into it except to say this: There are things out there, which you cannot possibly begin to imagine; food that tastes unlike anything that you have ever tasted; places that look unlike any place you have ever visited; people who think unlike anyway that you have ever thought. Some of those tastes may taste bad, those sights look unappealing, or those thoughts be unthinkable, but it is far better to have tasted and been disgusted, than to never have tasted at all. If you want to experience the fullness that this earth and this life has to offer, you cannot do it from the comfort of your own home. (I would like to take it a step further and say that you even cannot experience it from the comfort of a hotel room, but that is a discussion for an entirely different essay.)
Third, I would point out that, though it is not true in all cases, in this instance, the existence of broccoli does in fact make the chocolate all the sweeter. The moments I do get to spend at home are treasured all the more. Though this comes at a cost, a con for some, surely. Being apart from the ones you love comes at a risk, though it is often not the first thing that you think of when you are faced with the choice of moving away. This is a burden and a thought which you will be saddled with, that you will have to think about from time to time. However, I think that as people get older, the mortality of those who came before them becomes more of a prevalent thought. And while it is certainly sad, it allows us to reframe and to reevaluate the importance of the moments that we get and the moments that we have to share with our loved ones. While I believe this happens to everyone at some point, I think it has happened for me a bit sooner than some of my peers, and I consider it a direct result of be being away.
Finally, moving away taught me to say goodbye, or rather, to be okay with change. It almost needn't be said that you end up leaving a lot behind. I remember coming to college and listening to people talk about their high school friends with such a sense of a present state of fact, and I remember that this struck me as something that I just was not able to do. every sentence that I spoke about my friends came with a "back home" or some other modifier. Not that I would never speak to my high school friends again, but we had said goodbye, unsure of when we would get to see eachother again, and I had to be ok with that. And it was then that I became profoundly aware that, in being someone who would live so far from home, my life would be full of goodbyes and changes like this. Sometimes you just have to let things happen and hope for the best.
But, for fear that this has gone on for too long, let me conclude with this. If you are in a situation wherein you have the great fortune and privilege of getting to make the choice that I got to make three years ago, just follow your heart with conviction and boldness. Whatever you want to do, whatever thought keeps looming in the back of your head as you drift to sleep at night, chase that thought, that dream, until it becomes a reality. All throughout high school, I could not stop dreaming of the east coast. I got a taste of Washington D.C. my first year of high school, and I knew I had to go back. So, when I was looking at colleges, I realized that life had given me an opportunity, to go to whatever part of the country I wanted to the most. I thought of all of the times I had dreamed of D.C., and New York, and Boston, and I knew what I had to do. I took that opportunity, made my choice, and moved away from home, and it has been the most important choice that I ever made.