I feel nothing changes you like a new city and new people. I remember when I got the news that my family and I would be moving. I had come home from school and was tired and pissed off as I often was, being an angsty seventh grader. When my parents told me our house would be going on the market, I didn’t believe them. The thought of leaving felt unfathomable. It didn’t feel real until there was a sign outside my house, standing next to our mailbox.
I went straight to my bedroom, and I tried to notice as many details of my home as I could on the way down to my hobbit hole room in the basement. Every screw, every lightbulb. This was where I grew up. I learned my times tables in this living room on flash cards; I burned my arm cooking in this kitchen; I had been the captain of my very own pirate ship in this basement. I was already trying to memorize streets to be prepared for the day I started driving. I thought I would graduate from high school here. This was my home, about to become someone else’s.
When my house was still up for sale after a month, I started to regain hope. Maybe I wouldn’t have to leave; maybe this would feel like a bad dream. The hope was short lived—our house sold one week later. Panic set in. it was actually happening—my life was being torn up like a tree from the ground. My roots, my very foundation, ripped from its safe place in the dirt.
That summer was one of the most terrifying emotional rollercoasters of my life. The flight to my new home in Austin, Texas, was short compared to what I’d flown before. The airline didn’t even give us pretzels to snack on. My dad directed Elly and me to the rental car that would be driving us to our destination, our new “home.”
Of course, once we got to the house, I sped upstairs to make sure I got the largest room. A single box in there alerted me that it was already mine. I hadn’t seen my belongings in months, so it was comforting to see something familiar. I spent hours trying to figure out how I wanted my pictures and posters to look on my walls. I had more space than my previous dungeon of a bedroom, and I had a window, which was nice.
Everything looked like fine on the outside. On the inside it was still a hurricane of emotions.
How was everything going to end up fine? I knew nothing about this strange place and its people.
As the summer drew on, the house grew on me. I learned the ins and outs of living in Austin, except for the truly scary part, school. In August the ginormous beast reared its ugly head. It was hard enough being in a new school, but this one felt absolutely massive. I was used to 300 students; this school had 800. There were two floors and a labyrinth of hallways with no familiar faces. I made acquaintances here and there but never felt solid in a group. I was alone and blindly walking around, hoping things would “get better,” as my mom kept telling me they would.
After eighth grade I got to start over again. High school. It was a new start, and I was determined not to repeat last year. That determination set me in the right direction, but one person helped me branch out. Ty was the most extroverted, outgoing, joy-filled person I had ever met, and he helped me do things out of my comfort zone and get close with his friends, who are all now my friends. He was the key, the one person who saw me and plucked me from the sea of heads-kept-down. I am grateful for that day I met him, for he turned my world upside down.
Over the next two years with new friends at my side, I grew so much. I am now more outgoing, confident, and happy than I’ve ever been. Yes, “things got better,” and although it wasn’t as fast as I wanted, it truly was what I needed.
Nothing changes you like a new city and new people. Most people view a move as something normal, a casual part of life. I view mine as the domino that put into effect my “character development,” as I sometimes refer to it. I wouldn’t be who I am without my move. I now call “my new house” my home, and I love this city and its people. I don’t know who I am without Austin because I became who I was meant to be here.
Libby Johnson is a sixteen-year-old high school junior living in Austin, Texas. She is trying to figure out how she fits into the messy, ever-changing world around her and enjoys singing or drawing as a means of coping with it. Libby is child number four out of five and often looks to her older siblings for guidance in moments of fear and uncertainty when walking through life. As of right now she is moving towards a career in animation or character design at Walt Disney Animation Studios and hopes to spark creativity and joy in the children who’d watch the projects she’d be a part of should she succeed.