When I graduated from high school, I thought I had a clear-cut idea of how life was going to be. I'd go to college, meet new people, and come out of my shell. I would ditch the introverted, shy exterior and make loads of new friends. It would be the year I learned to drive and become independent. It would be my year. And in a strange, painful twist of fate, it has been.
I graduated high school a year ago, but I could not tell you who I was even twelve months ago. After the night I donned a cap and gown, waved goodbye to the school that shaped my teenage years, my life flipped upside down. Without warning, I was suddenly living states away from my mother with a father I didn't know. And I went to college. I made friends. I even kissed my first boy.
But I wasn't happy.
Yes, I realize that these years are filled with growing pains and that's the point. Everyone tells you that college will be a defining experience, but it wasn't going to school that shaped me. I fell in love and got my heart broken. I lost friends. I even got betrayed by the very parents I was trying to get to know. Better yet, I was blamed for it, as if somehow emotional cruelty is ever a child's fault, no matter their age.
Then the semester ended and I took a leap. I went to see my mother for what was only meant to be a weekend, and in the end turned into months. For the first time since August, I felt self. But I still wasn't happy. Instead, I was frustrated; at the world, at everyone I knew, but more severely, I was angry at myself. I had heard all of these great things about how my life was going to change after graduation and here I was, sleeping on a couch and crying every night because I didn't know what I wanted.
Suddenly, my life no longer felt like mine.
In all the time I was gone, the people I had left behind never reached out to me. Other than my mom, I was alone. It was the scariest feeling I had ever had after a lifetime of being scared.
And then I got to make the decision for myself: what did I want to do? What did I want my life to be? I could either stay with my mother, feeling safe but otherwise being pretty unhappy...or I could take a blind leap into a city I didn't know, to live with a friend I'd only just gotten to know. There was no clear cut path if I went out on my own. But I did.
I'll admit, moving with only a few suitcases of my belongings was scary. Being somewhere new and once again being alone was a terrifying feeling.
It was the best decision I've ever made.
Moving gave me freedom I didn't expect. I still felt utterly lost and frustrated, but I still felt safe. That's something I can't explain. It was, and still is, a wonderful feeling. But it's come with its own set of growing pains. What I want to do with my life, how I accomplish it, and everything in between is now on me. Learning to love myself and how to be alone has felt almost cripplingly impossible, but it isn't.
When I took the leap to live with my roommate, to go out on my own, I did something I never in my young life expected to do. I jumped all in without any idea of what was waiting for me. And I found a best friend, not only in the girl I share a home with, but in myself. For the first time, I realized that I never knew myself before. And as I learned more, I started to like the person that I was. I learned the greatest lesson I ever could:
This is the best version of me. And she'll only keep growing.