I packed my life into a U-Haul and went for an 18 hour drive with my dad. Thankfully he volunteered to be behind the wheel for the duration of our trip halfway across the country to get me settled into my new life as a metallurgical engineer in a steel mill on the southern tip of Lake Michigan. Watching the Colorado Rocky Mountains shrink in the rearview mirror, I couldn’t picture what my life would look like when we pulled up to my apartment in Valparaiso, Indiana and in all the days that came after.
Born and raised in Colorado and having loved every minute of it, I never wanted to be anywhere else. I cherish memories of family camping trips to Utah and spring breaks spent on a sandy Mexico beach but we always came home to Colorado, one of my favorite parts of every vacation. Everywhere I went, there was always family a short 20 minutes away and stony peaks to summit if I ever needed to release any pent up energy. For all of these reasons, I never saw myself leaving.
During my time in Colorado, there was always a plan; a next step to take and more homework to finish in order to one day graduate with marketable skills that would help to land me a job doing something I enjoy. I was so focused on earning the degree and the job offer that I hardly gave a thought to what the rest of my life would look like once I had them. We hit the road and headed East and for the first time in my life, there was no plan beyond the metallurgical position I was due to begin the following week. I had absolutely no idea what was in store for me in the year that followed.
People like to talk about traveling out into the world to find themselves. I never bought into this way of thinking. Everything I ever needed was just a few minutes away. Why would I need to find myself? Moving to Indiana didn’t teach me who I am. I’ve always known that. But I do think the change of scenery was the fresh start that I needed to begin owning it. I’m still singing the same tunes I’ve always sung but the volume has been cranked up to 100 percent.
After a year in Indiana, I am more me today than I’ve ever been. I’m doing things that previously went on the back burner because there were more pressing uses of my time than checking off a few bucket list items. I’m constantly learning new skills and trying new things and I’ve made so many friends in my Indiana home.
One of the best things about growing up in Glenwood Springs was the sense of community present in every interaction. It was a place where everyone knew everyone. You couldn’t go to the grocery store without bumping into a neighbor. Backyard gatherings were full of the smiling, vaguely familiar faces of grown ups holding their hands three feet above the ground in front of them and saying things like ‘I met you when you were this tall.’ Everyone had a story about bottling homemade wine with my grandpa or going to school with my dad.
Although I haven’t been here nearly long enough to develop such long lasting roots, the sense of community those roots imparted has followed me to Valpo. I am once again finding myself caught up in conversations after running into coworkers at the grocery store. Sometimes when I go out for dinner with friends I’ll catch one of the ladies from my shooting league waving an enthusiastic hello from across the restaurant. Bumping into friendly faces reminds me so much of where I came from and everything I’ve achieved since then. It never fails to make my day a little brighter.