The Path to Underlying Happiness: Moving Away From My Hometown Area

Moving, Oregon, Pacific Northwest

For a while, I haven’t been very happy.

I’m sure most people who read the above statement are thinking I’m pretty crazy for saying such a thing. Yes, I have an associate’s degree in early childhood education, and a bachelor’s degree in English Writing. I’m working a full-time job with medical and dental benefits, as well as paid vacation time. I have a happy and healthy relationship with my husband, who I’ve been friends with for over five years, exclusive with for over four years, and married to for over six months. On top of that, neither of us have any major health problems. With all of that being said, I may as well scamper up to the top of a mountain and shout for joy because my life is perfect, right? Wrong.

After five-and-a half exasperating years, I finally graduated college. Just a few months after graduation, I landed a part-time job within my field of education. Four months later, I was promoted to full-time, which is pretty much unheard of now for a lot of college graduates around my age. However, my experiences there haven’t been very rewarding, but I will save that for future blog posts. Last October, I got married to Robert. I won’t lie, he’s the only person who has been keeping me sane over the past few years, but that still doesn’t change the fact that I’ve lived in my hometown area practically my entire life.

Before I even graduated high school, I knew I wanted to move out of the area I’ve resided in since the day I was born. Don’t get me wrong, most vivid memories of the first half of my childhood are positive. For example, I met my best friend Michelle in preschool, was involved in a lot of extracurricular activities like mini theater and Girl Scouts during elementary school, and the most popular girl in my fifth grade class befriended me. I was well-liked, and life was pretty dandy.

However, after fifth grade ended, and puberty began, my life started to become a living hell. The popular girl didn’t like my best friend, so she decided she didn’t like me. On more than one occasion, said girl threw a pool party in her backyard (within viewing distance of Michelle’s backyard, mind you) and invited the entire sixth grade class, with the exception of Michelle and I. At the same time, other girls who I thought were my friends turned on me, and I had to deal with bullying both in person and through AOL Instant Messenger long before the term “cyberbullying” was even coined. Michelle changed a lot during sixth grade and became more of a stranger to me the following year so, in seventh grade, I ended our eight-year-long friendship.

In eighth grade, a bunch of untrue rumors about me were spread among students and teachers. Getting through the day without encountering numerous whispers and stares as I passed by everyone in the hallways became such a struggle that my parents contemplated sending me to a different school. The drama carried over to high school, which hindered my ability to build new, genuine friendships. I couldn’t even go to Sunday school two years later without someone bringing up one of the rumors.

There was no other way for me to escape the negativity I endured throughout most of my preteen and teenage years than to go to college. I will admit, being in my final year of secondary education, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life after high school, nor was I serious about which university I wanted to attend. Rather than carefully selecting a college, I carelessly chose one of two universities I had put forth effort to visit that happened to be an hour-and-a-half away from my hometown.

I shared a dorm room with a girl from my graduating class. I hung out with her a few times outside of high school but didn’t know her very well. She was friends with my long-term boyfriend at the time, who was currently enrolled at a college two hours away from mine. He thought we had enough in common to get along, but we barely talked to each other.

Out of nowhere, I was thrust into this more adult-like world and didn’t know how to process it. I abandoned algebra assignments and English essays for constant phone calls to my boyfriend and mom, crying and complaining about how lonely I was, and how I wanted to come back home. After two weeks, I withdrew from the university and went back to living with my parents. I didn’t realize it then, but as much as I craved the ability to be more independent and get out of my hometown, I wasn’t ready to take on the daunting responsibility of attending a school in another city. In the meantime, I worked two part-time jobs until winter term started at the nearby community college.

A year-and-a-half into completing my degree, I was miserable. Not only was I still trying to cope with my boyfriend of over two-and-a-half years breaking up with me shortly after starting community college, but I was still clueless about what I wanted to do with my life. My mom encouraged me to finish out my degree and move on to something else, so that’s what I did. In the meantime, I began another romantic relationship that I thought would bring me happiness. It did, but only temporarily because he eventually broke up with me after a year and three months.

Two months later, I became a college graduate with an associate’s degree, but I didn’t know which path in life to wander down next. Before we broke up, my ex and I made hypothetical plans to move into an apartment together, and I was willing to sacrifice my dream of moving away for staying in my hometown to continue working my crappy job in retail and food service. (The things you do for love, right?) No matter how badly I wanted to live on my own with him, it’s a blessing that relationship didn’t work out because I guarantee that I wouldn’t have been nearly as happy as I am today had I lived that sort of life.

As a newly-single young woman, I began hanging out with who would eventually become my future husband, a former co-worker of mine. He, along with my mom, pushed me to go back to school and achieve my goals. I got accepted to my dream college in the Windy City, but due to some financial issues, I opted to further my education in the suburbs due to lower tuition and scholarships. I thought that moving near one of the three biggest cities in the United States would be the immediate answer to my problems. While there were some benefits to it, I was still unhappy and found out that it was not the kind of environment I would have wanted to live in for all of eternity.

After two-and-a-half years of attending college, and almost two years of being in a relationship with my future husband, I received my bachelor’s degree and got engaged shortly thereafter. Although we both had a strong desire to move away from the hometown area we shared and lived in our whole life, our wedding is what put that on the back burner. A few months later, we moved into our own apartment, located in a remotely familiar nearby city to be closer to both of our jobs. At first, the idea of moving to a city we had never previously lived in was exciting, but soon after, we began to realize it wasn’t really that different because we were still living in the same general area as our hometowns.

In between the time we started dating and got married, we took several road trips and vacations together: the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Gulf Coast, Las Vegas, San Diego, Los Angeles, the Colorado Rockies, Helsinki, Rome, and many other places in between. Due to our love of the show Portlandia, we had a yearning to visit the Pacific Northwest and get our engagement pictures taken there, so we traveled to Portland and Seattle in April 2015. We were already looking forward to going there before the flights were even booked, but the moment we caught wind of the landscape and nightlife in person, we instantly fell more in love with the area and didn’t want to leave. In fact, out of all of the places we had visited up until that point, the Pacific Northwest was the one part of the United States we could actually see ourselves living in and being happy.

While we had applied to jobs here and there in the Washington and Oregon areas after our trip, desperate to leave our current employers, we decided to hold off on any serious job searching until after we tied the knot. Once winter came, and wedding-related events halted, we continued the application process. To our surprise, a potential job for Robert came up in a town three hours south of Portland, and an hour away from Eugene and the Pacific Ocean, and he decided to apply for it. Lo and behold, he got an interview. During our trip to Japan, we found out that he had officially been accepted for the position! We were so worried about the timing not working out, but everything couldn’t have fallen into place more perfectly.

It’s been a little over a month since we found out Robert got the job. Words can’t express how relieved I am to finally be moving away from my hometown to a place where no one knows my name or my past. I’m anxious to finally start the new life I’ve needed for over a decade in a part of the United States that caters so well to Robert’s interests, as well as mine.

In addition to being closer to Portland, Seattle, and the Pacific Ocean, we’ll also be near San Francisco, which neither of us have been to. We’ll have easier access to numerous parks, forests, rivers, mountains, and other states in the U.S. that we have yet to explore. During winter, we’ll encounter little to no snow, which means smoother roads, no potholes and, if I get a new car, it’ll last longer than vehicles in the Midwest do. The state is also very bike-friendly, so we can finally utilize the bicycles we purchased almost two years but haven’t ridden much since then.

Looking back, our wanderlust just wasn’t a need to travel and explore the world. It makes complete sense now that whenever we ventured on to another city, state, or country, we were doing to so to escape the monotony of our daily lives in our hometowns, and to find a place in this world that better feels like “home” than what we’ve known since birth. It took a little longer than I had hoped to find that because life kept pulling me back to the area I grew up in, but as the cliché goes, things happen for a reason. I believe the reason why I continuously returned to my hometown was so I could get acquainted with the person who would not only help me find the next path I needed to go on in life, but also, the person who would join me on that journey to find the underlying happiness I’ve been craving for a while.