I've always looked at life as a progression of perpetual change, your story defined by the spaces between those changes, like breaks between waves. The experiences, which you account for when recalling your life story, are results of these conscious, and many times mandatory, evolutions in your life.
I've always been one of those people who not only welcomed change, but also looked for it. At 14, I felt my first pang of restlessness. Summers throughout my teen years were filled with trips to camps, boarding schools and anything that would occupy my restlessness. At 18, I left for college, knowing full well I would not so much as glance back. I felt that my life had finally begun as an independent adult and I could go anywhere from there. Of course, changes like studying abroad and going to college were temporary, definite periods, where part of me knew I could and would always return home.
At 21, I was back at home, in a new phase of my life, which I heard a friend insightfully define as "the bird years." I was living at home, back in the nest, planning my flight out of there. However, days turned into weeks, and weeks into months, and I was still unable to leave my comfortable, suburban home in Pennsylvania.
I had turned down two jobs in Philadelphia and planted a significant amount of doubt in my parents' plan to have a successful, independent daughter. But I was halted. For the first time in my life, I didn't know my next step. I had always had a detailed map laid out, but there was no plan after graduation. I could do anything I wanted. For the first time, I was the one who was drawing the next step on the map.
It wasn't until my brother had one too many gin and tonics and told the dinner table, including me, that I was a disappointment and a joke and that I needed to get a job. However misplaced his rage was, it forced me to realize I was setting a bad example, and I needed to move away, even if it meant struggling somewhere, as long as I was out and on my own. I made a plan to move to New York and figured I could find my dreams from there.
Within two weeks, I had a job that I felt was along the path to the greater goal I'd finally set for myself: my dream job, as they call it. I had not only found my path; I was riding it. I had purpose and meaning again. I had goals and plans, finally along the track of life I had been coasting along on, prior to my post-graduation stress.
Six months had passed and given me enough time to reflect and realize that my renewed sense of purpose wasn't the result of figuring out what I wanted to do with my life; it was a result of moving away from home. I quickly concluded that I wouldn't have made it to the next chapter, the next evolution, had I not made the conscious effort to move away. Moving away from my home, diving into the unknown and unfamiliar, saved me.
I'll be the first to admit that moving away is hard, scary and expensive. To many, it seemed "economically irresponsible" to pay rent for an apartment, while I could be living at home for free. It's a conscious decision to leave behind everything you know and become the new guy, the foreigner, in a completely unfamiliar place.
But I promise, it's not without this change that you can start the next chapter of your life, the chapter that's wholly and completely your own. No one lives without experiencing some type of adjustment, move or progression: lower school to upper school, high school to college, graduation to job, old job to new job, apartment to house. Life is a constant progression, an evolution of sorts, from one stage of your development in life to the next.
It's the momentary feelings of loss and terror that accompany those changes that make you a stronger, more complex human. You learn how to adjust, how to overcome those feelings of angst and bewilderment, and most importantly, you mature. How to accept and welcome change is what makes you unique; it's what separates the fearless from the timid. It's what is going to separate you from the group of friends still living at home, still looking for jobs and still complacent with their old lives.
Making a conscious effort to uproot yourself is key to success. You have to be willing to find and embrace change before it surprises you. It's about finding new paths and new opportunities that can only be discovered when you escape your comfort zone. The best way to stay ahead of the pack is to leave it.