Two years ago, I did something that I never thought I’d do. I quit my job, uprooted my life, and moved all the way across the country for love. I love to travel, but leaving Charleston, where I grew up, to move to California was something I’d never expected to do. When I left for California, I had no idea the ways I would change. I had no idea that California would be the place where I discovered my inner strength.
I’ve always wanted to go to California. In fact, I can remember planning out elaborate cross country trips to visit the state with my sister. I always thought I would visit the state, but I never imagined that I would move there. Then again, I never thought I’d fall in love with a military man either and that certainly happened.
Leaving Charleston was hard. My family threw us a great wedding shower and helped us load up the uHaul before we left. It was a great time, but there were definitely tears shed shortly after leaving in that uHaul. As much as I was excited for the adventure ahead, I was also slightly scared of what awaited me in the future. I think it’s only natural to have a mix of emotions when you’re embarking on something as big as leaving home for the first time. (I had lived on my own in Charleston, but I’d always lived in Charleston near family. Charleston will always be home for me.)
This story isn’t about how hard it was to leave Charleston though. This story is about how I found my strength in California. I just felt that you needed to know a little background before I share some of the ways I discovered my inner strength. I’ve always considered myself pretty independent and strong but California showed me that I was destined to be more.
I learned how to make friends as an adult. I wouldn’t say I was popular in Charleston. In fact, I wouldn’t say I’ve ever been “popular.” I did have a steady group of friends that I could rely on at any time. When I moved to California, I had my husband – that was my only reliable friend – and he was on a boat that spent more time away at sea than in port. To make friends as an adult, you have to put yourself out there. It’s not like childhood (or even college) where your next best friend might sit down beside you in class. It’s all about mingling and finding opportunities to meet people. Essentially, you can’t be shy.
I learned how to handle all of the household stuff by myself. Most of the time, there was no one around to help with bills, housework, or other small tasks. I’d been living on my own for three years in Charleston, but there were still small errands and questions that I went to my mom for help with – especially since I tended to work late a lot as a teacher. With my husband gone a lot of the time, I learned how to manage these things while working full time as a teacher. It wasn’t always easy and there was some give and take, but I learned a lot about prioritizing and time management.
I learned how to do my taxes. Obviously, I had been paying taxes since I started working. However, my dad had always helped me or even done them for me because I didn’t understand how they worked. My husband was deployed for the entirety of our first married tax season, so it all fell on me. That year, the Coast Guard offered free tax assistance and I definitely took advantage of it. The next year, he was gone again and there was no assistance offered. I used the H&R Block online service that they recommended and undertook the task myself. I still don’t fully understand taxes, but I was able to complete ours by myself in order to submit them on time.
I bet you’re reading all of these and thinking “Great, she learned how to be an adult.” I’m kind of thinking the same thing as I read back over them. There’s one last tidbit to share though and it’s more related to inner strength than any of the others.
I learned how to be happy by myself. I know it doesn’t seem like much, but picture this – you’re three months into marriage and your husband is boarding a boat to leave for five months. And the cherry on top? You’re in a new state and sort of know a handful of people. At this point, you basically have two choices: let fear and loneliness control you or make the most of it and enjoy the time anyways. I chose the second option and chose to enjoy it. I don’t regret it one bit.
In life, we often have two choices of how we look at things. We can choose to be happy and go with the flow or we can choose to let life get us down and keep us from enjoying what little time we have. Each and every moment shapes our lives. The bad ones make us stronger as individuals, while the good moments give us the hope and happiness to keep moving forward. The next time you’re in a tough situation, I want you to think to yourself “I can make it through this. I just have to embrace it and move forward.”
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We all have inner strength – it’s simply a matter of finding it. Sometimes it’s easy to find and other times, it takes a memorable event to help us find it. Where have you found inner strength lately? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!
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