I’m not writing this to preach about being independent, to make sentimental, inspirational cracks about “being the best you can be! you can do it! just believe!”
Someone (many someones) have written things like that before and that is probably why I am where I am. I lived in LA for a summer after my freshman year of college, Fort Myers in the summer of 2008 and again from Jan-Aug of 2009. Now, I am laying on an air mattress in my nearly empty living room, trying to get comfortable on my improvised couch. Comfort…
That word rings a bell I think about any place I have lived. I’ve been out of my comfort zone–in nearly every aspect. New roads? Interstates? Detours? Forget it. If you know me, I am GLUED to my GPS. I would advise that you not get in car with me unless you want to take the “scenic” route (unfortunately, not many people have time for that these days).
I’ve had to be the “new girl” more times since I turned twenty-one than in my entire life (I lived in the same house my entire life and stayed in the same school system) and that is not a particularly easy task when you don’t have cool toys to share or a Mom around to make cookies for your birthday at school–and you KNOW every kid in grade school thought those days were the best. Nope, you have to have the coolest smart phone and the ability to show off your cooking skills on your own. You have to be open-minded, take some chances, and hope your new found friends are something like the cast of How I Met Your Mother (ok, maybe not EXACTLY, but they do look fun…) and less a la The Hills or some other ridiculous group of friends.
Finding your way around? Well, I already mentioned my skills with geography, but lets talk about the social scene. In LA I wasn’t twenty-one yet and worked at night a lot so that helped out a bit. I was limited to shopping (lottttts of shopping) and going to the beach during the day but guess how we had to get there? DRIVING ON THE 405. THE. 4. 0.5!!! If you have been to LA, it’s that extremely crowded, crazy, scary mass of cement. I shake thinking about it.
Anyway, on to Fort Myers. The gentleman on the early morning shift at the 7-11 across the street from where I lived recognized me every morning. He learned my name (alright…I DID have on my Twins name tag most days but I like to think he remembered it) and noticed when I switched from coffee to tea (which didn’t last long. Coffee> tea.). The season ticket holders noticed when you got your hair cut (seriously!) and recognized you out of work. You were “that girl that works for the Miracle! You do the YMCA on the dugout, right?!” to others. “GCTC,” otherwise known as Gulf Coast Town Center, was where the social scene was. Bar Louie was cool in 2008, Fire Pit was the place in 2009. You sat at the same booth, got your drinks at the same side of the bar each time. You knew which bartenders poured them heavy and which ones scammed you out of your well drink. You got comfortable.
Then you move.
Insert the rest of college here–more of the same. Comfort. $2 Tuesdays ($2 Holla!) at Roys, half-off at Sports on Wednesday, $1 tequila shots at Brothers on Thursday before Roys/Sports then Roys/Sports again Friday and Saturday. See the pattern? In between, I went to class and graduated.
My move to West Palm was a little different compared to my move to Fort Myers. Yes, I had built in friends from work. I lived in an awesome apartment downtown. But I was an adult. A real adult. In the real world. I wasn’t here for an internship, looking forward to going to back to IU. I couldn’t be unhappy and decide to quit and move. I couldn’t “forget” to pay my bills like I “forgot” to do my homework. I couldn’t decide not to show up for work like I did (only once or twice..) class when I looked outside and saw it was pouring out. Or snowing. Or hailing. You get the idea.
Thankfully, I acclimated myself well. I think I can credit a lot of that from already living on my own once or twice before I got to this point. That’s not to say, however, that it is a total breeze to be the new girl, even if it is your third or fourth move. First and foremost, I didn’t feel quite at home until I found the nearest Tar-jayyy (for those of you with no sense of humor, that is Target). Next, I had to figure out where to shop…that lead me to City Place, which also led me to the Gardens Mall (if both were combined it seriously would be a shopping heaven). And wouldn’t you know it…I was in walking distance to City Place. I also learned to be pretty good friends with Clematis Street, which was home to many fun nights. Grease, Gratify, Bradleys, World of Beer, Roccos Tacos….and my favorite place, Roxys. Girl has to get her dance on!
The same thing happened at some of these places–they waved you on in without showing your ID (I’m still not sure if that is a compliment–I clearly go too much AND look older than 21?? Ugh).
Along the way of making myself right at home in West Palm, I learned that you can only use the internet at Panera for so long–and it hardly works. Your next move? Over to Starbucks where they hopefully don’t see you holding your iced coffee from Panera. Want to go to the movies alone? You can’t go on Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Only exception: if the movie has been out for a very long time and no one will be in the theater to see you sitting alone, wiping away that tear trickling down your face when you realize that Mila Kunis and Justin Timeberlake really do end up together in Friends with Benefits. You can go, however, on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday–at almost any hour. I’ve probably done it six or seven times and I have no problem with it. No one is hogging the arm rest or asking you what just happened. It’s just you, Mila Kunis, JT, and that pesky tear.
I’ve learned that you can’t have two “Call-A-Cabs” at Wet Willies. I once met my handsome neighbor there and unknowingly did the fore mentioned. I won’t go into details, but just. don’t. do. it. Luckily, he learned his lesson and let me order my OWN drinks from there on out–and we’re still friends.
Thank goodness for them, right? They’ve helped me move furniture, taken me to the airport, picked me up from the airport, made me dinner, checked in on me while I was sick, put together my IKEA furniture (it’s only cheap because of the hours of manual labor it takes to put it together…thanks, guys!), just been really great all around–I will miss every one of you so much! Chicago is FREEZING most of the year, so I’ll be back for a quick weekend :)
See? I’m not trying to inspire you with this, or make you think you can do anything you put your mind to (you already know you can, by the way…). I’m just letting you know that with the help of family, friends, and of course, yourself, anywhere can be “home” if you let it. Let’s see what Chicago brings….
“So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.”-Stephen Chbosky