Damnit, damnit, damnit, I curse to myself.
This is the third time this week I’ve missed something due to getting lost. I moved to Seattle about a month ago and despite my best efforts to get out, try new things, and meet new people, it’s not always a smooth process.
Moving to a new city entirely by myself is now well-worn territory (this is move #3 since I graduated from college 7 years ago), but despite the fact that this isn’t my first rodeo, it’s never easy. I’m a neuroscientist in academia, so frequent moves—especially early in my career—are very much part of the deal, and I knew that when I started graduate school. What I would discover in the course of bouncing around the country like a ping pong ball, however, took a lot longer for me to realize.
Over the years, I’ve had time to process all the emotions that come with a mobile life. At first it was crushing. I tend to be on the introverted side, and it takes me a lot of time to open up and find my community. My first move was from Virginia (born and raised) to Houston, Texas a few months after college. When you graduate from college, everyone tends to go off on their own adventures and starting fresh just felt right, even if it was lonely at first. My second move from Houston to Nashville, Tennessee hit me like a ton of bricks. I spent months feeling like I had invested all this time in building a community that I was so proud of, just to have to give up and start over again. Every trip back to visit ended with me almost in tears because I felt like I was returning back to the land of nots… the list of things Texas had that Nashville didn’t seemed to grow longer with each trip back.
Slowly, I began to find my way around my new city. The bars and coffee shops that I stumbled upon on a whim became my regular hangouts. There’s this emotion that fills you the first time in your new city where someone recognizes your face and name (bonus points if they have your regular order ready to go before you’ve placed it). It almost feels like home. You meet people you’re not sure how you functioned without before. They bring out parts of you that you didn’t know were missing.
I’ve come to find that when you fall in love with a place, you don’t give up anything when you leave. You’ve gained something that can’t be taken away. I am and will always be a Virginia girl, but I’m also an adopted Texan who left a piece of my heart in Nashville and now, a Pacific Northwest local. I would not be the person I am without each of these places, which is really to say, I would not be the person I am without the people I meet in each of these places.
I get comments from friends sometimes that my life looks like it’s full of adventure. And it’s true, I’ve begun to embrace the uncertainty that comes with my career path and life choices, and when I literally and figuratively get to stand on top of a mountain, it sure is a beautiful view. But these beautiful moments that I choose to share are only part of the story. It’s just that the petty frustrations of daily life don’t always need to be immortalized on the internet. I want them to slowly melt away like the dirt that comes off in the shower after a particularly hard day. When you move every few years, there are lots of these moments. The lonely nights and cursing at one-way streets that always show up at the worst times and the feelings that you’ll never figure out your new job, they start to gnaw at you. Learning to work through them has made me a kinder, more patient person, with a soul that longs to discover.
Maybe some people can learn these lessons staying close to home, but I know this is what I needed, even if it isn’t always what I wanted… My heart could not be more grateful and content with what this life has taught me, wrong turns and all.
Sarah is a Virginia girl who was born with wanderlust in her genes. Embracing her persistent (read: stubborn) nature and love of science, she grew up to be a neuroscientist by day and bookworm/runner at night, because neither her mind nor her body can sit still very well. She’s usually armed with a cup of coffee (black, because why water down the good stuff?) and a serious sweet tooth. Although she’s an introvert by nature, if you start a conversation lamenting why Pushing Daisies only got 2 seasons you’ll have a friend for life.