I used to think everything I grew up with would be all I would ever have. The tiny town in Kansas I called home for 12 years would have given me my first job at the small grocery store down the street. The gas station with the best pizza would have been a pitstop for late-night adventures with my best friends. But I never made it to that point, and now I know I am better this way.
In elementary school, I expected to stay best friends with the same people for the rest of my life. We planned our futures together and designed the house we would all live in together. As a younger kid, I thought things would work out the way I wanted them. My routine consisted of the same thing with the same people all the time. And in a town of 900 people, everyone knew everyone. When I left – I knew no one.
My move to Texas introduced new ideas that felt hard to comprehend. The small town I came from supported little to no diversity, so culture shock sunk in. I went through stages. I accepted being the new kid as long as I still talked to my friends back home. Until I lost them. Then I realized I would need new friends to keep my social life intact. But I could not do it. I fell into a spiral of depression and grief for the relationships I lost.
From then on a pattern ensued and everyone I tried to let into my life left me.
Being “that kid from Kansas” brought on Dorothy jokes and questions about Toto. I did not want to be known for that. I wanted to be known for who I was. Not the movie about where I came from. I developed severe depression in seventh grade. I attempted to make relationships, but could never make myself call them friends. They were acquaintances. People who I interacted with to get by but could never let myself fully trust or confide in. And when I could not commit to them, they left and I started over again.
The only thing that held me together was the three close friends I did manage to keep from Kansas. They kept me grounded as I went through therapy, changed acquaintances and tried to figure out who I wanted to be. They talked to me, listened to me cry and listened to the things I did not want to tell my therapist. They kept my head above the water in an ocean of unbalanced dopamine and serotonin.
But that was in middle school. Now, I learned that we all just needed those two awkward years to get ourselves figured out and to grow – to grow into the future doctors, construction workers, teachers and scientists that will change the world one day. This sounds cliche, I know. But I learned from my experience that there will always be more than what you have in the moment. I improved as a leader, a friend and a person because of all of that. To sound even more cliche, I have one last thing to say– look ahead, pull yourself out of whatever rut you fall in and grasp onto the endless opportunities around you, because you will find them.