I have lived in Ohio my entire life. That is, minus a brief stunt gallivanting around Colorado for a short summer in between undergrad and graduate school. (More on that later) I grew up in a stereotypical small town in northwestern Ohio. Where I’m from, everyone has large families, and though my generation has started leaving home to go to different universities in Ohio, eventually most everyone moves back home after college to be with their large families. I spent my life before college dreaming about only leaving my comfort zone for the standard 4 years, and then settling down in the lovely little town of Versailles, OH. My new husband and I would live down the creek from all my family, and my children would grow up happily with their cousins and grandparents, just as I was fortunate enough to be able to live out my childhood.
Later in high school, I started to develop bigger dreams about moving away to NYC or LA to experience bigger and better theatre. However, deep down I always thought I would end up back in Versailles, where I felt I belonged. Little did I know then that every step I took away from home would bring new experiences, which in turn would bring curiosity and momentum to venture further for newer and bigger adventures.
The ABSOLUTE BEST group of high school friends in the history of the world
My first stop out of Ohio (though I did not realize this at the time) was The University of Cincinnati. It was not a pit stop. It was 6 years. It was in Cincinnati that I learned how much I did not know. It became clear to me I had lived an evidently sheltered life. This should not have surprised me as the most recent crime in my area was an ATTEMPTED robbery of the town IGA when I was about 10 years old, and the fact that there is only one culture: Catholic-European America. I had much to learn about other cultures and the outside world. The friends I made at college (my fiancé included) who are not from small towns tell me the way I speak about growing up and the terminology I use sometimes makes it seem to them like I’m from an entirely different country. If you get the cultural reference, they actually tell me the things I say to them sometimes is like the things Robin says to the friends on How I Met Your Mother about her home country, Canada. To me, the things they have not heard of are shocking. Dancing in the hog trough? Anyone? Guess not.
Anyways, once I reached all the new experiences Cincinnati could bring me, I thirsted for more.
Around the fall of 2009, I had a new boyfriend for whom I was falling pretty hard. I realized he had one co-op left 1200 miles away from me the next summer. We had begun our relationship 1200 miles away so I made a passing comment that I wished we would not have to separate again. At that time he said, “So let’s not. Come with me.” Well that was all I needed. I immediately began searching for a summer internship so I would have a valid reason to join him in Fort Collins, Colorado. It was at a perfect time for me because I would be graduating with my bachelor’s degree so I would be qualified to be an SLPa (Speech-Language Pathologist Assistant) in Colorado. By November, I had lined up a place that agreed to let me intern for them over the summer. Luckily, I was flying down to New Orleans for the national speech pathologist convention, as was my future boss so we were able to meet for an interview at that time. Luckily for me again, that boss had a friend who was also interested in an SLPa for the summer, so by working for the two places combined, I had a full-time job for the summer in Colorado, and made enough money to keep me alive.
My second stop on the way out of Ohio was Fort Collins, Colorado. My boyfriend and I drove his family’s Honda Civic (stick shift) out to Colorado together. When we got far enough into Colorado that I could finally see the entire Rocky Mountain mountain range laid out before my eyes, I could not help but cry. My boyfriend looked at me and said, “If I would have known seeing mountains could make you this happy, I would take you to see the mountains every day.” Every day that summer, we saw the mountains. It was the greatest summer of my life.
Just another day of my magical summer romance in the Rockies.
The things I learned as a result of yet again stepping outside of my comfort zone were priceless. At the end of the summer, one of my employers offered me a job at her private practice for when I graduated. I absolutely loved working for her. Yet, as pleased as I was, and as safe as that felt, I couldn’t wait to see what the rest of the world had in store for me.
My/what was slowly becoming “our” next stop was back to Cincinnati. Wait, what? I guess it’s like when you’re flying from Colorado to California, and you have a layover in Dallas. Sometimes you back track, and sometimes the journey doesn’t make any sense, but you still get there. Flash forward a year. My boyfriend and I were getting very serious and it was time for him to graduate and find a job. I was in the middle of my master’s degree program. For him, there were many possibilities. Even within the company he had always co-oped for, there were 4 different locations: Boston, Austin, Fort Collins, and Sunnyvale. We both had a place we didn’t want to live. He’s not a fan of the east coast not having mountains, and I didn’t know anyone in Texas. We knew we both loved Fort Collins, but we were also both curious about California. I kept thinking if moving to Colorado was one of the best experiences I ever had, why not try other places and see what else we can experience? Eventually things fell into place, and my boyfriend landed a job in Sunnyvale, CA. There was talk of possibly seeing if he could transfer to Colorado after about a year or so of working. He moved out and started working in August of 2011. 3 weeks later, I came to visit for 3 weeks. I, and I think we, both fell in love.
Summer romance, now on the beach. 🙂
(My Dad actually took this picture and insisted we kiss for it.)
The birth of a niece, a proposal, and a master’s degree later, it was time for me to leave Ohio. For most of the year, it was very easy to focus solely on the excitement I had for my new adventures, and for finally being with my fiance. In fact, I chose not to think about the hard part at all. Though it was subconscious at the time, I actually spent my two years of graduate school trying NOT to make new friends, and focus on quality time with all my old ones. I guess I already knew I couldn’t handle the idea of having more people to say goodbye. About a week before I was supposed to leave, I let myself start feeling emotional about all the goodbyes.
Hanging out with all my favorite people one last time was really hard and saying goodbye to them was even harder. At the same time, I still have all my favorite memories with these people I can always look back on, and because we became so close in my lifetime in Ohio, I know we will always be able to be friends. Sadly, what I did not realize I was not prepared for was the gut-wrenching, heart-twinging, agony of missing out on someone’s life I did not get the chance to make enough memories with: my niece. Saying goodbye to her was almost unbearable. I truly believe that if my sister-in-law had not had the strength to take her from my arms, I never would have let her go. I bawled the whole way home from her house. Knowing how much I want to be a part of her life, and knowing how much I want to be a key player in her repertoire of early childhood memories, but won’t be able to is deeply unnerving. For now, I must settle for the “cool aunt” who drops in on the holidays with gifts and goodies. Also, with the modern convenience of Skype, I’m hoping she will at least be able to recognize and remember my face and voice. Little E, if you should ever happen across this in the future, I want to say that my biggest regret will be not being there right next to you for every step and every success of your life. I will hold dear to me the sweet memories of rocking you to sleep in my arms. Know that I will be loving you every second of every day, and cheering you on like crazy in everything you do, no matter how far away or how close I am. I hope someday I can explain to you why I left, and you will understand. Also, I know this is a little cliché but if you ever really need me, I am only a phone call and 5 hours away. 🙂
“Aunt T, you’re leaving me?! Traitor!”
And so, with all my goodbyes behind me, like Fievel on his journey out west, I must separate from my family and make my own way only to discover loved ones waiting for me on the other side.