The best thing about moving is you get to start over. No one knows you or your history. There’s no long-established notion of who you are.
That’s how I felt at 19 in Bend, Oregon. I was determined to make a fresh start. Growing up in a small town in the Midwest was a little bit like growing up in a fish bowl. It’s not that all 2,000 of us knew each other; it’s more that it just felt that way.
Bend was two thousand miles away, away from my old life, and away from being the poor farm kid. With a staggering population of 15,000 people, for me it felt like a big city, and it was love at first sight.
I was told it would be tough getting a job, so I took any opportunity that came my way. Within a few days I had two jobs, the first as a telemarketer (which lasted precisely one day), and the other as a bus person at Original Joes, a local downtown restaurant. I was grateful to have any job, but I wanted to do something more, I wanted to “move up” in the world.
There were offices above the restaurant, and as luck would have it, my brother Charles worked for a real estate developer who conducted his business there. Charles heard that his boss was looking for office help, and recommended me.
I remember being excited about the idea of working in an office, but I had exactly zero experience. It was always easiest to get a job as a waitress, and as a struggling teenager, tips were the perfect way to have cash in hand. This opportunity seemed bigger, less attainable for someone like me.
So I was a little nervous walking up the steps to that office. I hoped I looked businesslike in my handmade dress. In the back of my mind I was wondering what I was going to do if I did get that job. That dress was the only one to my name.
My fears were they would be able to see past that homemade dress to the poor, already divorced, no experience, scared girl inside. So I took a deep breath, climbed the stairs to the office, and walked in with confidence, at least I hoped it looked that way.
Looking back now I wish I could have told the young me that most people are just like me. They too have fears and life experiences that were hard or sad. I would tell her, not to worry so much and trust that you’ve got this.
As it turned out, I did have it. On the other side of those doors were kind, unassuming people.
Just like the ones back home.