Some people are scared of spiders. Some people are scared of the dark. Some people are scared of heights. Some people are scared of storms. Some people, like me, are scared of change. Conveniently, this fear seems to be a constant part of my life. I change my hair, I change my clothes, I change my schedule, and I even change the people in my life. For someone who hates change so much, I’d love to know why my entire life is change. Now that my fear has been introduced, imagine moving. Away from your town, your friends, your daily life, your house, and your life. I got news for you, that happened to me. So convenient.
Looking back on my naive self, I had no idea what was coming my way. It was 6th grade, and that was already freaky as it is. Searching for approval and acceptance from peers around me, while trying to figure out who I was at the same time. Embarrassment follows you like a constant reminder that you need to be like everyone else and keep the spotlight off of you. Emerson Middle School was any ordinary school: blue lockers, T-shaped hallways, and desks lined up in rows. However, I didn’t realize then how important those things would be. At the time, my life felt so put together. I loved my family and all the things we did. I loved my friends and all our crazy memories. I loved my classes and how successful I was in them. I had it all together.
However, one day when my mom and I laid in our hammock in the backyard. Everything changed.
“Your dad’s company has been moved out of Chicago to be based out of Georgia, so we are going to have to move out there.”
It is funny how only one sentence can change so much for you. Change who you are, what you do, where you will be, and what you’ll become. At the moment I wasn’t scared of this future. It felt like nothing. Just a set of words with a much more deeper meaning. I couldn’t really connect the words to the action. It just didn’t feel real.
We left Park Ridge that summer.
I moved on July 15, 2011. It was probably the worst thing that happened to me. Yet, moving away has its perks I suppose. The ability to change who you are, meet new people, do new things, and decorate a new room. That summer was fairly positive. Full of anxiety about the future, but a happy anxiety. However, as my first day creeped forward, the fears grew. My first day would be August 7, 2011.
People who haven’t moved once in their life wouldn’t get it. You start to question everything you are. Will I make friends? Will the classes be harder? Will people think I’m weird or annoying? I was scared of being embarrassed because of who I am. As someone who already struggles with anxiety, this irrational fear ate me alive. I had been so secure back in my old home but now everything was different. I was scared about the simplest things.
Although I put on a strong front, on the inside I was drowning in every scenario my day could go. The day kept creeping forward and I kept dreading it more.
Then it came.
Time won’t ever stop for you, no matter how badly you want it to. And trust me I wanted time to stop so badly. However, it will come creeping towards you like the high tide of an ocean.
Beep Beep Beep
My alarm awoke me to a nightmare. Except I was living it. Why me? Why couldn’t we have just stayed in Park Ridge? Why did my dad’s job have to more? Why was this my life? But I got up out of my comfy, warm bed anyway. I got dressed in what I thought would be acceptable for this new school anyway. I ate a large breakfast even though I wasn’t hungry anyway. I sat in my house waiting for the bus anyway.
Movies always depict a bus scene as the perfect time to prey on the fear of embarrassment. They have a character walk on the bus, and conveniently every seat is full. This character knows no one, and no one knows them. However, in this scene I was that person. Everybody had grown up with each other, but I was just the girl from Illinois trying to fit in but trying to not call attention to myself. Eyes looked up, but I looked down. I never liked attention and I was getting too much for comfort. Luckily, unlike the movies there were open spaces on this bus. I slipped into one and tried to compose myself. I hate to say this now, but my eyes watered and I remember a single tear slipping down my face. I was scared, I wanted to go home, and I felt like no one there cared about me. Obviously I was reading too much into that, but at the time those things were so real to me. I wanted that bus ride to be short but also to be long. Our destination was school and I knew that would be worse. The school was named Riverwatch Middle School. It was a smaller school with a pretty simple layout. One hallway had the electives, one hallway had the classes, and one hallway had a mix of electives and classes. Friends reunited after a long summer away, but I had no one. Getting around was no issue to me. But each class I went to, I felt more and more alone. It wasn’t those students job to speak to me, but the more they didn’t the worse it got for me. My heart started to ache, a lump in my throat arose, and my stomach dropped. I just wanted to break down. I was 12 and I wanted someone to tell me everything was fine. Nothing felt fine.
I was embarrassed how I felt. Kids move all the time, and I felt none of them acted this way. I didn’t want to disappoint my family, I knew how hard this move was anyway without my issues. The first day was a blur, I went to my classes, I went to lunch, and went right back onto that bus to bring me back home.
I cried. A lot.
This continued for awhile if I’m being honest. Felt like a long while. I wish it didn’t, but it did. And no matter how embarrassed I am of it, it was true.
I cut myself off from the world.
I even ended up being diagnosed with depression and anxiety, which led me to going to a therapist. I felt like a mess. This therapist would have me talk about my life and most sessions included tears. I was in a funk of loneliness and despair. Nothing got better and I just wanted everything to go away.
Even writing about my experience makes me teary-eyed. I know how I felt for so long. I know the problems I pushed down to seem “strong”. I know how hard it was on my family and I. I know how badly this experience hurt me.
I moved back to Park Ridge in 2013 after my Grandmother got sicker with her Alzheimer's, and the distance wasn’t giving us time to be there for her. After awhile I realized I couldn’t remember a single thing from my time in a far away state. I had either used some kind of defense mechanism to hide it all or just felt like it wasn’t worth knowing. I worked hard on my anxiety and have been in therapy in Illinois as well, showing you can’t really run away from your problems. Looking back, I realized in Georgia I still had so many positive aspects in my life but I was too blind to see them. Now I live my life different knowing where I was only a few years ago mentally and physically. To me, that is my extravagant improvement.
When people ask me how Georgia was I always say good, and it did get better over time. But no one knows the battles within my head that I dealt with. All the tears I cried, all the times I wished I could just avoid school, how I cut myself off from others. Moving may not seem like a big deal for most people, but it changed me. I may not be depressed anymore, but I struggle with my anxiety still to this day.
For awhile I thought it ruined me. But it didn’t. Just a little change.