When it might be time to move



 And it’s one of those times when you’re going to have to actively choose to recast your outlook or else this whole thing might swallow you up.


You came out here because at 23, for some ridiculous reason, you believed you had to have life figured out. You saw your friends back home in their full-time careers, with benefits and a resume that was rapidly becoming more refined than yours. It appeared they had arrived at something that you were still searching for. In fact, when you left, you said to them, I am leaving to find what I’m looking for and I still don’t know what it is. 


You were scared after coming home last fall from Kosovo, a place that was suppose to be the start of everything. Instead, it revealed your passion for public policy was more about the idea of it, than the doing of it. So a couple months ago you went to DC to try to reawaken other passions. Politics and Non-Profits and the peace of sitting beside the rush of the Potomac rapids. Coffee on capital hill with well-connected friends and that endless chase for significance. You sit here now on the couch now, in the basement of your aunt and uncles house, a fraction less motivated than when you started.


And what is true, is that you feel like a failure, an abject failure and the imagery of you making your way back home is wincingly parallel to a pup trudging along with his tail tucked in his legs. This dream was too big to fail for you but now it’s on life support, on the verge of complete collapse.


This is how you feel and it will be how you feel as you continue to do your self-care. While your still working out your own junk.


In the meantime, as you walk forward making decisions about when and how, it might be important to note that it is in these hard places that we most often forget how much we’ve grown. What you’ve learned along the way.


For instance, interviews. Your first one here you were so nervous that instead of thinking of convincing answers to simple questions, you spent your time ironing, primping, making your hair do that faux-hawk thing. And when you arrived, you realized that none of that was flashy enough to fool them into thinking you were ready for this. And so you researched for the next one and the one after that and although you’ll never know how the decisions were made, you must’ve arrived close to second. The interviews went so well that the No’s left you feeling surprised, but more motivated.


Or how about the joy of working at the low-rung of the ladder? Remember how you stomped down the strip mall picking up applications from coffee shops and restaurants to retail stores and gas stations? You ended up nailing your interview at the hardware store and since you started, every day there has been this new comfort in the camaraderie with your fellow blue collar coworkers. A smirk exchanged here and there, because those moments are the only thing keeping you all sane, all of you sitting at the lowest seat in the Wealthiest county in all of Maryland, busy with soccer moms that look you up and down in disappointment, men of fine suits who don’t have time for your to fix the cash register, teenagers that are too cool with mommy and daddy’s money that they buy things because, eh, why the hell not? Despite the weirdness of some of the coworkers, you’ve grown attached to them. They keep you sane.


And in the end, you miss Minnesota. You crave the exchanges of Minnesota Nice even though it’s all a little passive aggressive. There is a part of you that dread the incoming block of ice that will drop and freeze everyone for several months, but another part that craves that first entrance into the warm house. That time of sitting by the fire reading your favorite book for the fifteenth time. The hot cocoa, the sledding, the resilient spirit of Christmas.


As much as you hate, hate, hate generalizations, there is something to be said about East Coast Culture. You know now that it is more or less a loss of translation. What they consider straightforward, efficient, productive, you take as blunt, cold, shimmering with too much snobbery. You went to the parties where you felt rebellious and regal for choosing a vodka tonic, but then you felt the full innocence cringe in you when others opted for knock out drugs.


And you miss the good gospel of friends and family. You miss community that knows you and loves you all the same. There’s a firm foundation, a rootedness that you didn’t know you needed until now. But you do. You need to hold little Wyatt and listen to him forming his own, unique laugh. You need to go golfing and fishing and out for drinks with your buddies. You need a bon fire, the smell of northern woods, a short vacation to the cabin where you’ll sit out by the lake and feel the change of seasons cold against your skin.


In your head, in your heart, you want this. But the hard part will be in the licking of your wounds and the feelings of failure. The hard part will be in swallowing your pride and remembering to take it with grace. Yet you know this now, and it’s better that you recognize it for what it is rather than having it sneak attack you like all those times before. You’re a bit more prepared to blunt these thoughts, address and resolves them, than you have ever been.


And maybe it’s good to recognize the reality of what you’re confronting. One entry level job you applied to at the YMCA had 25 other applicants in line before you. You read in the paper that a position you were qualified for and considering had four hundred others vying for it. The article went on to state that the competition was enormous here, millennials have been saturating this town over the past couple years, and it hit you that you weren’t the only one with this idea. You weren’t so sneaky after all.


Yet, there is a silver lining, perhaps one that you won’t appreciate until later: There is something so good about knowing what you don’t want to do and where you don’t want to be. There is importance in taking a romantic runaway idea into action and seeing whether or not it’s got the buoyancy to hang in there. It’s good to know this, even if it feels like loss of who you thought you were.


Go forward into today with all matter of intentionality. Head to the hardware store and chuckle at the absurdity of this town. Notice the goodness of those you’ve judged before. Breathe in this place, marvel at every corner you’ve missed. Take mental notes, photos, and other useful wisdom, because these will all serve you down the road you’re on. It’s going to be all right. Everything will be great.

  • Anna

    Hear this, from a generation older than yours, this is good stuff! Count the experience as exploration, not failure! And hold your head up!

  • This is a great post, Ben. (I love being able to use your name here now!) There are always lessons to be learned in the journey if only we are willing to see them. The fact that you are able to notice them already, while you are in the midst of it all, is huge. Most often, they come in retrospect.

    I remember when you were first writing about this adventure, you mentioned that it might not work out, but that was okay, because you just needed to go. And you did. You took the risk. You went for the adventure. In my book, the outcome is irrelevant. It is success that you stepped out in boldness to DO something, not knowing what would happen. I, for one, would love to see you back here in Minnesota, and not one part of me would see the journey back here as failure.

    In life, I often want to know the next path to go down, and where it leads, but often, I only know the next step to take. And once I am faithful to that step, that’s when I learn the next one. I hope you find courage and direction for your next step, whether it’s to stay or go, and that you are able to walk into it with confidence.

    • Thank you so so much for this Steph (been reading and rereading your comment these past few days, seriously needed it). ALSO- one of the benefits of me being back is grabbing coffee with you!

  • I have nothing to add but “keeping my fingers crossed for you. I am anxiously awaiting your next move. Whatever it is, I’m sure you will do it well.

  • Aibird

    Good luck and God bless with this. Moving is hard no matter what, and it’s always hard when you leave to go somewhere, hoping to make it in this new place, and then it doesn’t work out in the end. At least you’ve earned some experience and made some friends.

    I’m currently in the same place, where the place I currently am has turned into an unhealthy place with little to no prospects. Though I have no idea where to go next; it’s not like I can go home. There isn’t a home there anymore.

    Good luck to you. I know you’ll end up okay no matter where you go.

    • I’m praying that you will find that healthy place Aibird 🙂 You are amazing and deserve a safe, warm place.

  • Elleni

    You left at almost exactly the same time I did. Reading along about your journey has been very helpful and reassuring, as I hang in there with a new place and a new job I am grateful to have, but sometimes struggle to like. Last year, I learned what I “don’t want to do” and where I “don’t want to be.” You are so right about that experience being valuable even if it painful. Thank you for the reminder. Your insights are always so good. Wishing you all the best with the job and town. It IS going to be all right, isn’t it?

    • It IS! Thank you and best of luck to you! Hang in there, you never know what might be around the corner!

  • Bob Dole

    The idea of moving back to where you grew up is hard, that feeling that you must have failed, but the people you know back home won’t feel that way. They won’t talk about it with friends in hushed tones, because it never occurred to them, nor will it. They’re just excited to have someone they know so well back. A friend they lost has returned. And while your life is different, you have something that ends up making them envious: stories from far away places and jobs, even if you think the stories are really mundane. They’re stories that automatically become interesting because they are prefaced with, “When I was living in….”
    It’s an emotional obstacle, and a hard one, but it’s worth overcoming.

    • Wow. Thank you so very much for this. I feel like printing this comment off and carrying it around in my pocket. Exactly what I needed to hear. Bob, thank you.