Lessons I've Learned One Year After Moving Across the Country to Pursue a New Adventure

A year ago I made a big change. I quit my jobs, packed up my life, and moved from Indiana to Florida. You can even read all about it in one of my first blog posts, Transitions. Today is my one year anniversary of being a Floridian, so I thought I’d take some time to reflect.

Life is full of transitions that shape who we become. Moving across the country alone was one of the bravest, biggest things I’ve ever done. I’m a new person now, and I love who I am growing to be. And honestly, I’ve never looked back. I needed this. I needed an adventure, to spread my wings, to try something new. I think everyone needs a chance to pursue that kind of “leaving the nest,” “forging your own path” adventure during their lifetime. I’m grateful this has been mine.

And the journey is far from over.

Big life moments are full of big life lessons. So I thought I’d take that approach today. In today’s post, I’m going to reflect on and unpack some of the biggest realizations I’ve had over the past 365 days. I’ve learned a lot about myself, about the city of Orlando, and about people as a whole. And even though it’s been an unconventional year with Covid-19 and me spending some time back at home during quarantine, I couldn’t be more grateful for my first year in Florida.

So indulge me for a few minutes. And if you’ve ever moved, changed paths, or taken a leap of faith, I’d love to know what you learned. I’d love to add to my list. I’d love to celebrate you in your life journey. Because, I am forever grateful for all the people that have helped me celebrate during mine.

Here we go… things I’ve learned after a year in a new city:

1. Life never moves backwards.

When I first decided to move, I kept joking that it almost felt like I was living life in reverse. Like how most people move out, go on an adventure, or live in a new city right after college. They try it for a few years and then end up coming back home. I did the reverse. I settled at home for a few years, then decided to start my new chapter.

It’s scary leaving something that feels comfortable and familiar. I left jobs I absolutely loved to come to Florida, wait tables, and start auditioning for acting gigs. At first, that felt like a step backwards. But if I’ve learned anything, it’s that life never moves backwards. No matter who you are or where you are, time just doesn’t work like that. Having to recalibrate your plans doesn’t set you back, it simply readjusts your trajectory. Setbacks actually set you up for a new journey. Starting over doesn’t mean you failed before, it means that chapter is done and you’re ready for a new one.

So yea, I’m not working my dream job at the moment. But other dreams are coming true. Other parts of my life are moving forward and growing exponentially. And you know what? I’m happy. LIfe is pushing me in new ways, and always toward an exciting finish line.

2. How was I supposed to grow in a room of people just like me?

The other day after work, a few coworkers and I were out getting a drink. Everyone was talking about where they were from, and it hit me in that moment that I was the minority at that table. I was the only white person. I was the one struggling to understand when everyone else started talking in Spanish. And it reminded me how grateful I am to be experiencing the world beyond my front door.

I grew up in a homogenous community. It was very white, very upper middle class. Orlando, Florida on the other hand is a very diverse area. I work with people from all over the country and all over the world and from all different family and socio-economic backgrounds. I’m learning about culture, experiences, and nuances that I never would have even thought about in Indiana.

Too often, I hear stories of people who never leave home to even visit other places. But how can you fully understand your fellow man, all the beautiful traditions and crazy quirks, without spending time with people who come from different backgrounds than you? How was I supposed to grow in a room of only people like me?

I feel grateful and blessed for how I grew up. I also feel grateful and blessed for experiencing a new, diverse, different community in a new place. It has already made me a more humble, empathetic person. And I can’t wait to dive in even more.

3. Found family is important, even if you like the one you were born into.

You know how people always talk about “found family?” The people who get you through hard times when your real family isn’t around? I always thought I didn’t need that because the family I was born into is so stellar. But since moving away from home, I’ve realized found family is essential no matter where you come from.

Because sure, my family is a phone call or FaceTime away, but they can’t bring you a McDonald’s Diet Coke after a rough day. They can’t jump in the car and drive over when you just need someone to eat ice cream with and watch Mamma Mia. They can’t go see a movie with you or go out for dinner on a Friday night. But found family can.

So even though I love and cherish my real family, my Florida family has found a special place in my heart. Love is exponential. It can only grow. And the people down here have made it home and have showed me that I really am never alone. I have people fighting in my corner and I’ll fight for them as well.

4. Call your mom. It always helps.

Mom always has the answer. Whether it’s to talk you down from an emotional breakdown, help you with insurance information, or encourage you to treat yourself to Noodles and Company. Call your mom.

I’ll be honest, when I first moved away to college, I was so caught up in the world of school that I had a hard time keeping in touch with my family via phone. I was so busy, young, and stupid. Now, I call my mom almost every day if not every other day. I don’t know what I would do without her to talk me through literally everything in my life. I mean, if you didn’t call your mom (or whoever your adult figure is in your own life) about it, did it really even happen?

5. Where you are shapes who you are, but it doesn’t have to change you.

I’m not going to lie you guys, there are some parts of Florida that I am not a fan of. The unbearable humidity, the split political climate, and machine gun ranges, for example. In my first year, I have realized that this probably won’t be my forever home. That’s okay. While where I’m living is shaping who I am and opening my eyes to a lot of things, it also isn’t going to change who I am at my core. You’re always you, no matter where you live because where you are shapes you, but it doesn’t have to change you.

6. Never apologize for choosing yourself.

Now I’ll be honest, with this one I don’t know if this is as much the location or more about my personal growth. Over the past year, I’ve taken more and more steps toward consistently and relentlessly prioritizing myself.

In the past, I overextended myself to make sure other people were comfortable. I threw myself into everything and felt burnt out. But now, I’m learning that I can make decisions for me and me alone. I don’t owe anyone my energy and I am not required to participate in things I simply don’t want to do.

I’ve cancelled plans with friends because I needed rest. I’ve asked for time off from work when I needed it without feeling too guilty. I’ve found places and people who bring me joy, and I’ve cut out the people who dull my sparkle. I’m learning to stop apologizing for these things. I’m learning to stop apologizing when I choose myself and my own happiness. And it is my genuine hope that every person on the planet can find that same sense of joy and freedom.

7. Your average day could be someone else’s best day ever. And how cool is that?

When I used to come to Disney as a kid, I would wonder what it would be like to get to come to the parks for a few hours on a Tuesday afternoon or hang out with friends on a Friday night not at a bar, but at Epcot Food and Wine Fest or to go out on a date at Disney Springs. And now, I’ve done all those things.

I’m not gunna lie, it’s kinda fun being a local when everyone else is a tourist. Of course, it’s a little annoying when they take over my Walmart or when the traffic is unbearable with a bunch of out of state drivers, but overall it’s really fun. I love people watching. I love hearing stories. I love making memories at my job for people from out of town.

It’s a truly unique experience to be enjoying an average day surrounded by people who are experiencing a lifelong memory. I’ll be at Hollywood Studios working and having a drink, but that kid across from me just made a lightsaber and freaked out meeting Chewbacca. And that couple is celebrating their honeymoon. And that family is laughing while they eat their Mickey bars and take pictures with their kids.

Being a part of special moments, even as a fly on the wall is an amazing experience. It reminds you of all the genuine good there is in the world and how precious moments deserve to be appreciated. And I think we could all use that reminder every once in a while.

So there you have it. I’m sure I’ll have more thoughts, observations, and life lessons I’ll think of that I didn’t include. I’m sure I have many more lessons to learn myself. And hey, that’s what the blog is for to keep sharing, growing, and learning. Don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere. 😉

But I’ll leave you with this. If you’re on the brink of a big decision, if you’re contemplating a change, if you just need that extra nudge to take a leap of faith, consider this your sign. I encourage you to try new things. I encourage you to be brave. I encourage you to explore. My leap of faith has taken me to new places and given me some of the coolest experiences I’ve had to date. And you have so many new things out there that will only help you grow. And I can’t wait to hear about all the valuable lessons you’re sure to come away with.

Now, go explore.


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