Originally I’m from Long Island, New York. I was raised in a quiet suburb an hour away from Manhattan where attitude was measured by the thickness of your accent or the borough your parents were from. Where I’m from, growing up means following a pre-determined circular migratory pattern. It looks like this: spend your childhood in the suburban Metro area, pursue higher education in upstate New York, spend a few post-grad years in Brooklyn or Queens, sow your wild oats and return to the suburbs. It’s a pattern known by many.
As my own upstate college years came to a close and I watched my friends throw themselves into post-grad gentrification, I plotted my escape route. I ended up in Southern California (just south of L.A. to be exact), and while I occasionally miss real bagels, I’m happy I left.
Don’t get me wrong, moving 3,000 miles away from home was scary, but if I hadn’t left, I’m not sure I would have ever made it off Long Island, and to me, that’s scarier. Besides, moving gives you the opportunity to truly live independently. I’m a walking, talking go-find-yourself cliché, but life is about taking risks, and living ten minutes away from Mom doesn’t count.
When you move, you’re forced to grow up, and grow up fast. In a matter of months, my life went from 0 to 60. You learn how to navigate around apartment searches, lease agreements, insurance, job hunts, underemployment, car troubles, electric bills, student loans, new doctors, new friends, and new experiences all without the complacent comfort of a safety net. Sure, it can be tough, but it’s also incredibly rewarding.
My parents taught me the value of hard work; so while I’m not a particularly affluent person, I know how to stretch a dollar, and I made the cross-country jump on my own. For months leading up to my move, I worked my ass off. I saved every penny I made off 80-hour work weeks, and I headed west figuring I could live off those savings until the right job came along. It isn’t always easy, but life never is. I guess I just sort of figured that occasional credit card debt is favorable to the eternal debt of “what if.”
When people ask about my move they often say something similar to: “I wish I could do that.” The thing is, you can, and it really isn’t as crazy as it sounds. Work hard, save your money, and sell your unwanted crap on Ebay. Take a job you’re overqualified for, trust Craigslist apartment listings, book a flight on the world’s cheapest airline and go. Apply to grad schools in San Francisco, Chicago, Montreal, or London if you want. See the world from couches and hostels. Be a little reckless while you can, and worry about your retirement fund later.
Your parents will understand.