About two and a half years ago, I packed all of my belongings in my ’06 Jetta Volkswagen, and drove 18 hours and 1,400 miles from Miami to Chicago. It wasn’t easy (I definitely underestimated how hard it’d be to leave family, friends and my whole life behind), but all this time later, I still wholeheartedly believe that was the best decision I ever made, and the absolute best thing I ever did for myself and my HAPPY.
I had moved back to Miami from Gainesville in December 2007 after finishing my first master’s at the University of Florida (Go Gators!). I worked as a marketing project manager for the YMCA, enjoyed being homework-less for the first time, well ever, re-connected with old friends, and everything seemed just dandy. I had fallen in love with Chicago back in 2007 when I had visited a good college friend for the first time, but I couldn’t move there, could I? Miami seemed better than I had imagined it would be, and sure I had moved to Gainesville at 17 when I had even less of a clue what the hell I was doing, and I had done just fine, but Chicago? Nah. Other people do big things like that. Not Sonia.
Then 2009 rolled around. I had gone from living with my older sister (that did NOT work), to an efficiency to a pool house, and I was growing increasingly restless with no advancement opportunities at my job and a salary that barely kept me afloat with all of my poor girl debt. On top of that, I went through a heart-numbing falling out with a man I had loved, and who I had dated on and off in a twisted, unofficial, intense, unreal mess of a relationship, if you could even call it that (I’m fairly certain you can’t), for three years.
Then, Miami and I were just not vibing – not one little bit. I didn’t like the culture, the atmosphere, the lifestyle. I didn’t fit in, I was bored, and I was incredibly restless. Even though I lived alone, I still felt an immense amount of pressure from family to be what they needed me to be at all times, and I didn’t feel in control of me or my life. I felt so stuck, so broke (despite extracting small luxuries from money I was making freelance writing), so down, so sad, and so completely, horrifyingly empty. It was then that my complete and total obsession with getting the hell out began. Chicago, the only place that had ever made me feel so exhilaratingly in love with mere geography, would be my destination.
For most of 2009, everything I mustered up the energy to do in my sadly sad state had to do in some way with my escape. I spent hours, weeks, months job searching online, sending out hard copy resumes and cover letters to a long list of companies in an effort to stand out, and making follow-up calls. In August of 2009, I visited my friend in Chicago again, and set up appointments with employment agencies. I even got close a few times. I had a few great interviews with the agencies and even one phone interview with a hiring manager for the United Way in Chicago, but I kept running into the same problem. I was not local, and although they liked me and felt I was highly qualified, I was not at a stage in my career and certainly not in that economy, where people were willing to relocate me.
I was getting desperate, but I continued pushing. At some point, I even applied for a $10,000 loan from the bank (crazy, I know). I thought if I could get it, I could move without a job and stay afloat for three or four months until I found something. I’ll never forget the day I received that rejection letter. I thought that was my last hope, and now it was gone.
But then, as I always do, I fought through the tears and desperation, and I kept trying to think of other alternatives. What other avenue could I take to get to Chicago and the hell out of my present situation? Then it came to me. I had always wanted an MBA, as my prior education had been mostly creative-based. Ideally, especially since I had just finished a master’s degree not even three years earlier, I would have waited a few more years before pursuing it, but life was telling me I had no time to wait. Yes. That would be my ticket to Chicago, to opportunity, to HAPPY. I could live off of financial aid for a bit until I found full time employment.
So I began the application process. I used my entire tax return that year for application fees and the GMAT. I’m terrible at standardized tests, despite being a pretty smart and successful gal. No, seriously. I have three degrees, two of them advanced, but if you took a look at my standardized test scores, you’d wonder if I even speak English. I completely bombed the test the first time, and again, I was completely heartbroken, but I had come too far to give up now. My amazing friend Sofia lent me the money to re-take the test, and I was able to pay her back for half of it with money from a freelance job. She never let me pay her back for the rest. She said it was her gift to me because she was so proud of my perseverance. I will never forget it.
I did a little better the second time, and I was accepted into Loyola University Chicago’s MBA program. I was at lunch one day, at work, and when I got back to my desk I had a voicemail on my cell. I listened, and at that very moment, my whole life changed. My heart exploded with a HAPPY I hadn’t felt in what seemed like forever. I had been accepted. I had been freed. I had done it. I never gave up, and now I was on my way to Chicago, baby! That was around April 2010. For the next few months, I saved every penny I could, figured out my living situation with my college friend in Chicago, planned the trip, and let everyone know I was OUT!
Two and a half years later, I am the proud owner of an MBA (and what a wonderful experience it was), I have a great job and make a great living (despite the debt that still haunts me, but that’s a topic for another post), I have friends that are like family, and I’ve managed to build a pretty sweet life here. I have experienced more HAPPY than I had probably felt in my entire life. I have met amazing people, and learned so much about myself, about life, about all the opportunity that is out there. Plus, I feel an undying sense of accomplishment, because damn it I had to work hard to get here, but I got here.
OK. So that was my intro. Couldn’t you have kept it a little shorter, Sonia? Sorry! I had to set the stage. You know what I mean jelly bean? Just go with it. Thanks!
Here are four reasons why you, too, should find a place you love, and move there.
1. Even the worst days are better days
When you live somewhere you love, somewhere YOU chose to live, even the bad days are not so bad. You can always find energy and reinvigorate your HAPPY by simply admiring your surroundings, and reminding yourself what a huge, huge thing you did by picking up and taking a chance.
2. An incredible, lasting sense of accomplishment
After more than two years in Chicago, I still feel this incredible sense of accomplishment almost every day. Whenever I have a bad one or feel a little unsure of my badass-ness, I remember what I did and where I am. I remember all the rejection I fought through and all the nay-sayers I ignored to get here, and I am reassured, every time, that I am strong, I’m a boss and I can do anything I set out to do – no matter the obstacles. Plus, the simple pleasure of knowing you’re living a life you built for yourself, on your own terms, is pretty damn sweet.
3. Opportunity Awaits
For whatever reason, Miami was just not for me. Things did not work out the way I wanted there, and I felt like I was always swimming against an immense, unforgiving current. Chicago, on the other hand, has been nothing but lucky for me. I’ve continually been on the up and up here, financially, intellectually, spiritually, and all that good stuff. If you’re just not feeling it where you are right now, maybe there is a place out there that is better suited for you where opportunity undoubtedly awaits.
4. You’ll never have to wonder what could have been
I can’t imagine a more nagging feeling or thought than, “What could have been if I had really done it?” Please, don’t torture yourself. If there is somewhere you want to go, GO, try it. If it doesn’t work out, you can always move back, but at least you will know you tried, and you will never have to wonder what could have been.
And finally, just remember, nothing is ever perfect, but it can always be so much better.
Sonia, Word Share Junkie