My name is Clare McGowan. My classmate Lily and I both grew up in the same general area: the Southeast coast of the United States. I’m from Chesapeake, Virginia; Lily’s from Charlotte, North Carolina. We’ve had similar moving experiences, though I’ve moved several times and this was Lily’s first time leaving her home state behind. Together, we decided to write an article about moving 3,000 miles beyond our comfort zone and combine our perspectives about what it’s like to live a country away from home.
This summer I moved 3,032 miles away from my home in Chesapeake, Virginia. I drove across the country for 7 days, staying in a different state every night and driving for 9 hours every day. Although it was heartbreaking to leave my friends on the east coast, I have to admit that the drive was absolutely beautiful as well as eye-opening. I began to feel caught in the middle of a whirlwind of change when I reached the center of the United States. First of all, from about May to November the Virginia temperature hovers around 80 to 90 degrees with nothing but sunshine and humidity on the horizon. The cold only begins to creep in with December, January, or even February. I was certainly not prepared for wearing jeans in August in Washington!
There are more differences in Anacortes than the temperature. The people here are very active; they ride their bikes and walk everywhere. There aren’t many big malls or movie theaters. Chesapeake, Virginia was the opposite–a large city that had almost everything under the sun. The beach was 30 minutes away, the mall was 20, and the movie theater was 10. Everybody drove cars everywhere, and my high school had 2,300 students. There were 850 kids in my 8th grade class. There’s also a 3 hour time difference, so now when it’s 3:00 pm for all of my friends in Virginia, it’s only 12:00 pm here. Although it is a huge change, it’s refreshing to get away from the loudness and closeness and come here. It’s so peaceful here; the mountains are gorgeous and the sunsets are even prettier. I have always loved sunsets more than anything. I could watch them every single day and never get bored of their beauty. Though the same sun sets three hours earlier across the country, Anacortes feels like a world away.
Like I said before, moving is rough. Fortunately, this wasn’t my first time leaving all of my friends. I have moved several other times, but only a few hours away. Nothing quite prepared me for this. On my first day, I didn’t know who to sit with at lunch. I stood there awkwardly with my headphones in, and I could feel the color in my cheeks. But as the weeks went on, I made a few more friends and lunch became less torturous. However, there is a certain inescapable loneliness that you feel for a while after moving. All you can do for that is wait. So whether you’re moving 30 minutes away or 3,000 miles, just know that it does get better. It does take time, and it is hard, but you’ll get there. I’m going to spare you all of the heartbreaking details, but every day when I wake up, I have an ache in my chest because I miss Virginia so much. I just tell myself that “today will be better.” And that’s it. I take it day by day, step by step, and watch the sunsets. Sometimes that’s all that you can do.
If you had asked me two years ago to give a speech about life in the Pacific Northwest, it would have been short, general, and inaccurate. It would have also been from the perspective of a person who had been born and raised in the Southeast. Charlotte, North Carolina was my home for the first fifteen years of my life. I’m talking about a city with a population of more than 800,000 people and the home of the NASCAR Hall of Fame. In the late summer of 2017, I moved to Anacortes, Washington, with its population of 17,000 people, one high school, and no NASCAR (or any other Hall of Fame) to speak of. Moving 2,765 miles across the country has been the craziest experience of my life so far. The reasons why are as numerous as the number of hours that it took my family to drive across the country.
The high school that I attended freshman year had over four thousand students. Each one of my classes was in a different building, and I often found myself running from class to class on a daily basis. There are about 170 schools within the Charlotte Mecklenburg School District. When someone mentioned the name of a shopping center or a grocery store, I could think of anywhere from five to ten within fifteen minutes of any location. Charlotte, in recent years, has become the commercial capital of the state. Traffic was a whole different story from even rush hour (if you can call it that) in Anacortes, and it had nothing to do with a ferry schedule. Uptown Charlotte was the Commercial Avenue of North Carolina. Needless to say, I had become well acquainted with life in a big, bustling, and prosperous city.
If the traffic in Anacortes is a whole different story compared to the gridlock in Charlotte, then the cultural differences between Anacortes and Charlotte are books on opposite sides of the library. The Southeast has more of a “preppy” style. It was rare to walk down the street without seeing someone wearing a Vineyard Vines polo shirt, khaki pants, and Sperrys. I’m still not sure why boating shoes were so popular; the nearest body of water was a little over an hour and a half away. I grew up shopping at Belk and dressed in Lilly Pulitzer. Almost all of my friends went to St. Matthew’s on Sunday, which is the largest Catholic church in the country, and almost every family in my neighborhood had children under the age of ten. Nothing about my hometown was casual or small, but that is what I love about Anacortes. I can’t wait to see what these next two years bring in my new home.
No matter where you’re from, the moving process is always difficult, though it’s a different experience for everyone. Regardless of the distance, leaving your home and being pushed out of your comfort zone can be an intimidating experience. Some people have moved so many times that it is a normal experience for them; some have never moved before and have no idea what to expect. Either way, it’s interesting to look back on what you have learned, remember what life was like where you came from, and look forward to a different life where you are now.