Outgrowing your Hometown Friends…Why you Don’t Need to feel So Damn Guilty
I have a very, very complicated relationship with my hometown. It’s always been love/hate, but in high school it became 10x more raging hate than love because I went through the hardest year of my life at 16 there. Every bad thing that happened to me that year reminded me why I was so excited to leave town. And for some reason I really thought bad things would stop happening to me once I got out and got away from the people who made my life a living hell.
I wish it was that simple. I wish my bad luck streak ended when I moved away for college. I wish I could write that things magically got better when I graduated high school and went away for college. But my freshman year was like a punch to the gut because everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong.
My friend’s ex was stalking her in our dorm- we lived right next to each other and were both scared for our lives. Two of my friends attempted suicide and I felt like a failure for not being able to save them. I got in a terrible car accident that left me with PTSD. I was so unhealthy I dropped 10 pounds (a lot for me). My best friend and I had a falling out. My college got rid of my major so I had to transfer the next year. I was chronically fatigued and dealing with so much family drama I couldn’t think straight. I was working WAY too much for a full-time college student but I was in charge of every. single. bill. and finance. on my own! Private school tuition was not paying itself!
For some reason though, when I transferred colleges next year to go five hours away from home this time, I thought more distance between me & my hometown = less bad things happening to me.
Again, I wish the world worked like that! I was the furthest away from home that I had ever been but things didn’t go much different. I was still dealing with a mountain of family drama. My health kept plummeting because I was taking out the stress on my body. I felt like a failure more days than not, and I constantly wanted to cry.
My escape from my crazy world at college was going home on the weekends. That love/hate relationship with back home flipped around. I loved getting to go see my friends and family. I loved the life I lived at home on the weekends. Everything felt lighter and more fun back with the people who knew the real me. I hadn’t made my best friends in college yet, so I felt like an outsider looking in most days. Going back home reminded me that there were people who loved me unconditionally, and that feeling kept me going.
The ebb and flow towards my hometown changed again my junior year of college when I lived 40 minutes away from home because of COVID. I was taking college classes virtually for the first time ever. Going home suddenly didn’t fill my cup the way it used to. I was getting more and more annoyed with the people in my life back home because it felt like they were all stuck living the same old lives, and complaining about the same old things.
I wasn’t where I wanted to be at in my life either, but that was because of COVID. And even still, I spent every day working towards my dreams. When I’d hang out with my friends from high school, who all stayed in my hometown and worked jobs they didn’t like, and dated people they weren’t crazy about- it felt like they had settled for an easier life where they didn’t have to fight tooth and nail to go after what they wanted.
Meanwhile I was barely staying afloat from all the extra stress and hard work of trying to make my dreams happen. I was breaking my back every single day to graduate college despite my college experience being 2x harder because of the pandemic. I was battling so many personal problems on top of school stress that I wanted to scream everyday. I was SO busy doing anything I could to get journalism experience that I had almost no free time for myself. So when I had a little bit of free time, and chose to spend it at home with my friends who were doing nothing with their lives but complaining about it, I felt really confused. I no longer felt like I could relate to them. I was pushing myself so hard it was probably unhealthy, and everyone back home was staying stagnant.
I then took a gap year because I burned myself out doing the most, and even on my year “break” from grinding, I still felt like I was living a completely different life from my friends. I couldn’t talk to them about the exciting things I was working hard towards in my life, because they made me feel like I was bragging. But I wasn’t bragging- it was just two completely different lives we were living. I remember one friend didn’t congratulate me when I told her about the good news I got with an internship I had wanted for years because she didn’t understand why it was such a big deal that we had to talk about that instead of her boy troubles. Our conversations kept circling around the same, small ideas and things that I had grown bored with and left behind a long time ago. I didn’t want to hear my friends constantly complain about their shitty boyfriends, or their jobs they hated, or how much living at home sucks, or how they wanted to do something exciting with their lives but never would because they just “didn’t know”.
It was the same old, same old, and I realized that year I had outgrown every single person I used to spend all my time with back home. It felt like I had spent the past four years pushing my comfort zone wider and wider by doing things that scared me. I wanted a better life than the one I was born into and damn it, I was going to make it happen if it killed me. When my friends couldn’t relate to me anymore and I couldn’t relate to them, I felt like I was wasting my own time by going out of my way to see them. And that’s because I could have spent that time making new friends and spending time in new places that made me happier. So I did.
It took me a minute, but through work and the things I was involved with that year I met and made new friends who encouraged me to grow and pushed me to be better. I found people that didn’t just complain about their life, and settle for mediocracy. And those friendships honestly did more for me and my happiness in one year than my friends back home did for me in three years.
It’s not anybody’s job to make you happy- because happiness is homemade. But when the people in your corner are not inspiring you and filling your cup, it’s okay to move on and find people who will. People grow at different rates and you can’t make someone do things they’re not ready for, no matter how much you think they are.
I’ll always be soooo thankful for the people in high school that became my best friends in those four years. But sometimes friends come into your life for just a season, and sometimes people aren’t compatible anymore after a change and growth. I will always love my friends back home, but I don’t consider any of them my best friends anymore. It took me a while to realize that’s okay and I don’t need to feel guilty about it. If you could relate at all, I hope you find that same grace for yourself that I did.