There are two things that happen when you're born and raised in a small town (shout out to Fort Wayne, Indiana); you either love it and never want to leave or you hate it and look for any opportunity to get out. Personally, I prayed for every opportunity to move once I got out of high school.
Unfortunately, I rushed it. When I graduated in 2015, I moved to a small suburb near Atlanta, Georgia called McDonough. As much as I love the south and wanted to stay a part of it, I had constant anxiety and depression that was mostly from fighting with myself. Deep down, I knew it was too soon to be too far out of my comfort zone. Not only was I being thrown into the adult world, but into the adult world without all the familiar faces around to help guide me. I decided that it would be in my best interest to move back to Fort Wayne so that I could get a little bit of knowledge and experience of the "real world" that I believe we are all still trying to figure out. I accepted my first job offer, experienced the struggles of buying a car, and learned how to budget my finances so that I could pay all of my bills. I truly don't know how well I would have done without the help of so many great influences in my life that God has blessed me with.
I was raised by a Christian family who, thankfully, sent me to a Christian school my whole life starting with pre-school and ending with senior year. It's safe to assume I was always learning and hearing about God because of the people I was constantly surrounded by and learning from. I hardly ever made time to study His word on my own during my school years because I spent all day around it which I thought was good enough. Once I graduated, I realized that not everyone has the same beliefs, which is respectful and understandable, however, I wasn't hearing about God and His word. I noticed that my depression and anxiety dramatically increased and I wasn't quite sure why. I dealt with it for a long time and eventually had to seek out medical attention. It was during that week that I realized it wasn't a coincidence that I was dealing with those emotions and feelings at the same time my relationship with God started to fade and fall apart. I made a promise to God and to myself that I would actively work on becoming the best version of myself which I know I can't do without a strong relationship with Him. I deleted the social media that took up all my free time so I could use that spare time to be more productive. I started studying His word and actually putting in the work to thoroughly understand it. I was making the effort to not only strengthen my relationship with God, but also finding ways to help and motivate others to do the same. I also don't think it's a coincidence that my whole life was more enjoyable with less stress once I kept Christ at the center of everything I did and truly believed He has my back.
I knew I wanted to move again eventually when I was ready. It wasn't until sometime in early 2016, that I finally felt completely ready and thought of a unique way to do it. I decided that I wanted to move to a different city every year, God willing. It appears that whenever I tell someone that, I get a very confused facial expression followed by the typical questions "why would you do that?" or "what are you running from?". To me, it seems simple. I'm not running from anything, but rather running to opportunity.
There’s a whole world out there and life’s an adventure when you live outside your comfort zone. Not to mention, I strongly believe the only way someone can grow and learn is if they are in their discomfort zone. Moving to a completely brand new place can be a tad scary, but it forces me to stay out of my comfort zone and to never get into a rut. It forces me to meet new people, learn awesome new jobs and do things I have never done before. Obviously, I can do the activities that I find myself getting into from just visiting the place, but there’s something about the spontaneous, last minute decision of it that makes it so much more fun. I don’t have to take off work and plan an entire trip just to do it one time until I can find time and money to go again. Living somewhere also gives me a completely different perspective on the place and the time to form friendships and network with people. I also have time to find the amazing little hole-in-the-wall places to eat or shop at. I get to learn the culture and the different types of accents and people that live there. I have the time to find and explore all the hidden gems that I'm surrounded by that most tourists wouldn't know about. Like I said before, there’s a whole world out there and I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am to learn all about it and share it each year.
I previously stated that I wanted to move every year if it’s God’s will. The day I decided that I was going to take this dream journey seriously, I chose Indianapolis as my first location being only two hours away from Fort Wayne where most of my friends, family, and lovely dog, Cooper, live. Once I was set on Indy, I spent almost an entire day looking online and making lists of apartments to visit. That night, I prayed to God and asked Him for His help and guidance through this first major step if it was His will. I also told Him I wouldn’t be mad if nothing worked out because I understand He has a plan for me and if this wasn’t in that plan, I trust Him. "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."-Jeremiah 29:11.
I started thinking about the bible verses Matthew 28:19-20: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” To me, these verses mean to spread love and God’s word to everyone all over, lead by example and help anyone who needs help. I would like to think I have demonstrated these verses by the life I have lived so far and I can only pray that I get better at it throughout the years where ever I go. I don’t really remember falling asleep that night while I was talking to God, but I do remember waking up to a Facetime call from my long-lost friend Mallory and her friends who go to school at IUPUI. She started explaining how their fourth roommate backed out last minute and asked me if I wanted to take her spot. Of course, I couldn’t say no because I knew it was God’s will, so I went down to Indianapolis the next day to meet up with the girls and look at a gorgeous apartment downtown which is where we ended up that summer for a year. Although I wasn’t expecting God to answer my prayers so quickly, I am very thankful He did. It was such a comforting feeling to know right away that this was His way of telling me it was in His plan for me.
The other question I always get asked after explaining why I want to move every year is "what allows you to do that?" Nothing allows me to do it. I just don't allow anything to hold me back. Of course it's difficult to leave family and friends you meet along the way because let's be honest, a place is only as good as the people you're with. That doesn't mean that I won't continue to meet great people where ever God leads me. Thankfully, there are many forms of transportation and communication that allow me to stay in touch and see everyone that I eventually say good-bye to. You'll never hear me say that leaving your comfort zone and everything in it is easy, but it is worth it. Don't be afraid to take an unfamiliar path because sometimes they are the ones that lead you to the best places and learn the most. I'm not telling you to pack your bags every year and literally move out of your comfort zone, but I am saying that if you want something you've never had, you have to do something you've never done. You can only grow if you're willing to feel scared, awkward, and uncomfortable. Push your boundaries and do something every day that forces you to learn and challenges you to become the best version of yourself. If it doesn't challenge you, it won't change you. You are only confined and limited by the walls you build yourself. As long as you have passion, faith, and are willing to work hard, you can do anything you want to in this life. But whatever you decide to do, make sure it makes you happy. Whether you're from a small town or big town and you love it or hate it, I pray that you receive the encouragement, motivation, and guts to go where ever you want to go and do whatever you want to do. My goal from all this is to hopefully be that encouragement and motivation that someone needs.
Spread a little love today, kid.