For the past 8 years, polite acquaintances have asked, “How’s Columbus/Louisville/Chicago/Orlando?” and I finally have a really long, unedited answer for you.
When my parents dropped me off on Ohio State’s campus in Columbus, Ohio and I watched their red Chevy Tahoe drive off into the distance, I felt like I had just been dropped out of a plane. As the scarlet blip of their vehicle got tinier and tinier rolling down High Street, the lump in my throat grew. I believe that an animator witnessed that moment and modeled the Mr. Krabs meme entirely after me:
That first week of school I thought I was real chill for sneaking off into the stairway to sob so I wouldn’t bother my roommates, but I just joined several others who were low key calling their moms because we all had no idea what was happening to our lives. Going from a small, Catholic all-girls school to a giant, co-ed university was utterly disorienting.
As the months went on and I gradually stopped being shocked by the sight of men, the campus of 50,000+ became progressively less overwhelming. I found solace in taking care of similarly terrified freshmen when I became a resident advisor, and I met lifelong friends, and learned to love football in a profound and borderline-obsessive way.
Seemingly at the exact moment I had grown accustomed to my favorite view out of the Thompson Library (in the Mortar Board room, 2nd floor), and the heart-swelling sounds of the OSU Marching Band rehearsing (TBDBITL), I was accepted into graduate school at DePaul University and the University of Louisville. Marty (a cute boy I met), was moving to Chicago, where DePaul was located. I also planned to head to Chicago, but Louisville was like, “Hey girl, what if we gave you a teaching assistantship?” and I was like “I don’t even know u” but I visited anyway, and after a day on campus I looked at my dad and said:
“Dad, I can’t do this, I’m too scared.”
And he said, “Okay, then don’t do it.”
So naturally, I had to go for it.
BUT YOUR GIRL WAS FREAKING OUT–I straight up knew no one who had ever lived in Louisville, and while I had the blessing of a great roommate and a couple of amazing people in my graduate program, I spent most of the first year crying into progressively larger books because my brain hurt and I was lonely AF. It wasn’t until I found a great Chinese takeout place and I could tell you what goes in a mint julep that I started to feel at home, and then BOOM, I graduated and moved to Chicago.
I really thought that moving to Chicago would be like slinking into a warm tub of comforting feels because I had my man with me and some soulmate-level friends—but the train commute was long (45 minutes each way) and there was so much to learn about living in and taking advantage of a big city that I just wasn’t equipped for. Exhausted, post-grad Carly made her desktop background a picture of a field of wheat and dreamed of starting a farm because she felt overwhelmed.
And, as the story goes, JUST when strangers started asking me for directions and I felt confident telling them where to go, Marty and I moved to Orlando, Florida—also a city where no one we knew had ever lived. In a lot of ways, this has been a great experience, because both Marty and I knew what it felt like, separately, to move somewhere that felt scary and new, so embarking on it together was exciting and reassuring.
Some days, though, I look around me and still feel the immense weight of starting over. I keep getting confused when people “go on walks” during their lunch break because I forget that you can go outside in March. Someone told me alligators regularly climb and hang out in trees and I believed them for three months. People un-ironically wear winter coats when its 60 degrees out. It all still feels so new, and nothing beyond my screened-in porch feels comfortable yet.
In 2017, moving around seems to have become an integral part of the life of a millennial—an expected rite of passage that labels one as a “go-getter.” But this shit is hard. I hear people say all the time, “life begins at the end of your comfort zone,” but the exhilarating feeling of new-ness is always accompanied by paralyzing self-doubt and homesickness for a home that doesn’t really exist anymore (as all of my closest friends are now spread about the country, too). For example, I discovered an awesome little clothing store tucked away in my neighborhood yesterday that can’t be found on Google maps, and it made me feel like an awesome, super-chic adventurer– but I could also really use a night drinking wine with those who know what a “Pnina Bride” is (Marty and Gatsby try, they just don’t know) but my girls are far away.
One such far-away-soul-friend told me the other day that it is possible to get everything you want, just not at the same time, and it was surprisingly comforting.
No matter where you are in life right now—whether you’re far away, or close to home, or in a mental space somewhere in between—just know that your location isn’t the ultimate determiner of your happiness, though it can feel like it sometimes. We can obsess all day (and I do) about where we could be, instead of settling in as best we can to where we are. It’s something I have to work at every day. After I post this, I’m going to go buy some limes, because they’re 50 cents and fresh as hell here, and I know someday I’m going to say to Marty, “remember those cheap limes?” and he’s going to say “I remember you being excited about cheap limes” and we’ll miss things exactly as they are right now.