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Spread Your Wings

Striking out on your own can be one of the scariest things you'll ever do. Forging your own path in life is terrifying and scary, but it's also indescribably good.

As a young girl, I was terrified of pretty much everything. Leaving the house, leaving my family, and leaving in general all made me so scared. I couldn't even spend the night at other people's houses. (Even now, I rarely leave my house.) So, last year when I decided to take off to Oregon for a week, everyone, including me, had some concerns on how I'd do.

At first, it was terrifying. It was my first plane ride, my first trip alone, my first everything. On the second day, I locked myself in a hotel bathroom sobbing with homesickness. I was over a thousand miles from home, and despite the fact that I was on my phone with my family, I felt so disconnected. I thought I wouldn't be okay. Some irrational part of me worried I'd never see my family again. And I felt bad, like I'd betrayed my family by leaving them behind. Even a phrase as simple as my family saying "I miss you" brought me to tears. Even though I had just seen the ocean and was having a fantastic time, being away from home was one of the hardest things I'd ever done.

Things slowly got better. On my third day away from home, after I locked myself in the bathroom crying, we went down to the pier in Newport, Oregon, and I met a cat.

He lived in one of the shops on the pier, and his fur was warm from the sun. He rubbed up against my ankles and flat out sat down on my feet. It was hard for me to drag myself away from him. He reminded me so much of my own cat at home. I realized that you can always find someone (or some animal) to comfort you, no matter where you are, and this cat was one of them. (I still miss him.)

Over the next week, being away got easier. I won't say I didn't miss my family because I did... a lot. But I learned that I can survive on my own. I can handle myself. And there's something really fascinating about being away from your family and your roots. It brings out this part of you, a different self, who is an individual. I made choices only for myself; I acted like a real, honest-to-goodness adult. Having that kind of freedom is tantalizingly exciting.

I'm back home now, and it's been a little over a year since I first spread my wings. I have plans to do so again in the near future, and I wonder how I'll do this time. I wonder what I'll learn, what I'll experience, what I'll see, what I'll feel. I'll probably never get over homesickness, and I'll probably always have a hard time leaving my family. But because of my trip last fall, I know that I'll make it on my own--that I won't actually ever be alone. There are friends and places just waiting to be met and explored. And though I may get homesick, I'll count that as a good sign because, even though it's such a negative feeling, it means that I have roots and people I love.

I miss Oregon, too, and it's one of those interesting things to have your heart torn between two different places. But that's the thing about life, I guess--as cheesy as it sounds, home is where you make it. I found pieces of home in Oregon, and I can't wait to go back.

I know it's so, so scary to leave where you are for someplace new. But I promise you, it's going to be okay. I want to challenge you to embrace independence with open arms. Spread your wings--try something new, go somewhere different, and remember that you are never, never alone. I'm cheering you on. So go on, be free. You're going to be just fine.

I'll spread my wings and I'll learn how to fly
I'll do what it takes 'til I touch the sky
And I'll make a wish
Take a chance
Make a change
And breakaway
Out of the darkness and into the sun
But I won't forget all the ones that I love
I'll take a risk
Take a chance
Make a change
And breakaway

- "Breakaway," Kelly Clarkson

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