I was on the New York City subway the other day when I passed the stop for one of the local colleges and a group of students (presumed from their university apparel) got on. They were discussing school and their hometowns and what they might do after graduation. I was only half aware of the conversation until I heard one of them say, in reference to moving, “there’s nothing for me here.”
It’s a sentiment I’ve heard before as people talk about moving, mostly, but this time my mind seemed to fill in an auto response that caught me off guard:
“There’s nothing for me here… and there’s nothing for me anywhere… until I bring it.”
I let my memories dance back to my first weeks in New York City at age 21. I had a new college degree, a few job prospects, and a questionably rented bedroom in a pest-infested apartment with no WiFi or kitchen access. I had zero friends except my brother, his partner, and their community. This would appear, it seems, to define “nothing for me here.”
There was no reason to stay. I had friends and loved ones in other places telling me to come visit, to come stay. And certainly on paper there was something for me in those other places: community or career opportunities or cozier housing arrangements. But I would still be bringing myself there. My uncertainties and doubts and fears. I needed to figure out what I had in me. I needed to stay.
I flash forward to my time in another state, years later. I gathered my New York friends (“something for me here”) at our favorite Ethiopian restaurant and said I was going to go to Washington state for about a month. While thrilled for me, they also had questions. Namely, why? Your life is here. Your friends, your apartment, your work. And that was all true.
And once again, I faced this question of “bringing myself there.” But it was different this time. I would be bringing my energy and excitement and love. I needed to get back to my truest self. I needed to go.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how you often know when it’s time to go or when it’s time to stay. It feels short-sighted, even arrogant, to ever believe that something has nothing to offer you. After all, you are there. You will choose what a place becomes for you. You will get from it what you put into it.
The only time there’s nothing for you somewhere is when you aren’t willing to be there fully.
Everywhere has something to teach us. Every experience is an opportunity to learn.
With that in mind, I no longer take for granted a place with roots. I don’t lean on pre-existing friendships or accommodations or workplaces as reasons something “is worth it.”
It’s worth it because I’m making it worth it every day.
It’s worth it because I’m there.