Last week, I spent Thanksgiving away from my family.
Sure, it wasn’t the first time I’d done this. There was the one year that I had the stomach flu and my mom and I missed the big family dinner and watched Disney movies instead. Or there was the year I was in Australia studying abroad.
But this year, I missed it because I no longer live in Indiana anymore. I missed it because I couldn’t afford the plane ticket home. I missed it because I had to choose between going home for Christmas and going home for Thanksgiving and I chose Christmas.
And honestly, missing Thanksgiving? Not a huge deal. I mean people are forced to be away from their loved ones all the time. And hell, I’ll be home in just three weeks anyway. So it really shouldn’t have mattered.
But it did.
I sat staring out at the palm trees in L.A., feeling the 87 degree heat, stomach full of boxed mashed potatoes and deli counter turkey slices thinking about my family. I was thinking about how much I missed them. I was thinking about how I’d miss the awkward politics talk and how I’d miss my cousins making fun of me for an Instagram picture or a Tweet. I was thinking about how I missed waking up on Thanksgiving morning to the smell of breakfast and the sound of my dad coming home from checking the cows. And then I was thinking about how it isn’t just this Thanksgiving. I was thinking about how this homesickness is every holiday. It’s every birthday. It’s every Sunday that isn’t spent watching football with my dad, and every random Wednesday that isn’t spent meeting my mom for a Target trip with dinner at Panera afterwards. It’s every Saturday that I don’t spend seeing my best friends and it’s every time I want to hug my grandpa and cannot do so. The fact is, living in Los Angeles is hard. It’s hard for a lot of reasons.
It’s hard because it’s the unknown. It’s hard because I don’t know many people here. It’s hard because it’s crowded, it’s busy, and it can be unforgiving. It’s hard because it’s fast-paced, and it’s not filled with people I’ve known for years.
But most of all, it’s hard because it isn’t home.
For many years, I chose my life paths based on convenience. I chose to go to school in Indianapolis because it was close enough to home that I could visit basically whenever I wanted to. I chose to stay in Indianapolis after graduating college because it was easy. I knew people in Indianapolis. I knew companies. I could network. But I never chose to stay in Indianapolis because I wanted to.
It didn’t take too long for me to figure out that I wasn’t happy living in the same city that I had known for the past 22 years of my life. I had dreams, and those dreams weren’t in Indianapolis.
So, I left. I decided in about ten days that I was going to move to Los Angeles and didn’t think of much else after that. I didn’t think about what it would be like on the weekends when I didn’t have work to distract me and hadn’t made any friends. I didn’t think about what it would be like to spend my birthday away from my friends and family and I never thought much about what it would be like to rely on phone calls and facetimes to see those I care about.
I didn’t think about any of this because I was following my dreams. I had grabbed those damn dreams by the horn and hopped on the bull. Or whatever it is the kids say these days.
I followed my dreams all the way to California. I got my dream job and then realized I had no idea what I was doing.
That’s the thing about following your dreams, no one tells you how hard it’s going to be.
People may look at my life on Instagram and Facebook and think it’s just that easy.
But I’m here to tell you that it isn’t.
Sure, I have a freaking great job. I mean, look, I get EXCITED to go to work. And I mean, I live in Los Angeles, and the coldest it’s ever been while I’ve been here is 55 degrees.
But I don’t have my family. And I don’t have my friends.
And no matter how much I love my job, it will never replace the feeling I get when I see my parents.
Following your dreams may be a lot of things, but it is certainly not easy.
It’s hard. It’s really freaking hard. You have to push yourself, every single day. And when it gets tough? You can’t go home to your family to make you feel better. You just have to stick it out and know that in the end it will be worth it.
Because that’s the most important thing to remember, isn’t it? Following your dreams is hard…but it’s worth it. It’s so worth it.
At some point, we all realize that we want to do more than just exist. And when you realize that… don’t choose the easy path. Choose the hard one. Choose the path that will challenge you every single day. Choose the path that makes you come alive. And choose the path that scares you the most.
Choose your path, and follow it.
Every day you have a choice — you can continue to only see your dreams when you sleep, or you can wake up and make your dreams a reality.
What are you waiting for?