In Seattle, biking is more popular than driving.
What do the Southeast, Texas, the Northwest and the desert of Arizona have in common? People live there — and that’s as similar as they get.
These four destinations boast entirely different strains of activities, cultures, landscapes, values, and, of course, people. If you had told my high school self, a privileged, naive kid from suburban Atlanta, that within five years I would live in all of these places and love each of them, I would have been very skeptical.
Luckily, my 18-year-old self was open to moving away for college, which was the critical first step in my path towards growth. Now, each of the four cities that I have lived in — Atlanta, San Antonio, Seattle, and Phoenix — holds a unique place in my heart and has helped me to understand the value of keeping an open mind and a willingness to try new things.
• Atlanta – The value of solid relationships
If things were good for you in your younger years, you have somewhere safe and welcoming to call “home.” Whenever I get to return home to Atlanta, I try to soak up the time with my family and friends and the feeling that I get of returning to what is comfortable and known. Even if you don’t have this kind of affection for your hometown, the importance of solid, permanent relationships will never change.
My group of best friends came together in the second half of my high school career and we have been in each others’ lives ever since. I’ve learned that no matter where I am in the country and no matter what I’m doing with my life, it’s critically important to find those people who make me feel like I am home, even if I’m 4,000 miles away.
If you’re lucky, you’ll have a group of friends or a family that makes you feel comfortable even when you are somewhere new. If you don’t, now is the time to put yourself out there and try to make new decent, kind and loyal friends.
• San Antonio – The necessity of expanding your horizons
No matter where you go to college, you’re going to be witnessing and experiencing new things, but it’s important to seek out new things.
Although Texas is one of the more conservative states on the map, San Antonio is one of the more liberal cities in the state, so this made for an interesting group of people on my campus. My school had tobacco spitting cowboys, shoeless hippies, countless international students and wealthy students all on one campus. What’s more, San Antonio itself is an incredibly diverse city, not only in demographics but also in activities, history and location.
While in college, I tried to take advantage of the diversity of both my campus and my city.
I was a science major jock who roomed with a brilliant, self-starting sociology major who was always introducing me to new and diverse friends — I made a conscious effort to get off campus in any way possible to see new things. After getting to know the city and the people on my campus, I realized how much value there is in expanding your horizons and I became a much more well-rounded individual.
• Seattle – The pleasure in discomfort
Washington state and Texas may be about as different as two states can be.
When I moved to Seattle, my mom would call me weekly just to make sure I hadn’t sold all of my belongings to live in a commune. In Seattle, I witnessed my first pride parade, made friends with a few homeless men and women, worked at a job with teenage mothers and fathers, attended my first political rally, and, for the first time in my life, biked more often than I drove.
All of these things were brand new for me and took me way outside of my comfort zone, but they also helped me to realize that this was a wonderful thing, rather than a scary one. Allowing myself to be open to all of these new events and activities helped me to find the pleasure and the fun that can come with being completely uncomfortable in your surroundings. If you just give in and let the experience take over, you might find that whatever anxieties you may have had were all for naught.
• Phoenix and Beyond – Reflection
I’ve been in Phoenix now for eight months.
It’s definitely a drastic change compared to Seattle, but reminds me a lot of both Atlanta and Texas. I’m still not sure what Phoenix will teach me, but I am grateful for the time I’ve had here to reflect on the other places I have been. From Atlanta to San Antonio to Seattle, each new place that I have explored and come to love has taught me more about the world and, more importantly, about myself.
I never would have realized how truly important it is to explore my own opinions and values if I had not first been willing to explore these new and diverse external environments. My willingness to move away from what was comfortable may be the only thing about me that hasn’t changed in the last six years, and it’s my hope that I will maintain this openness throughout the rest of my life wherever it may take me.
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