By Jessika Harkay |

Coming from a Colorado small town, you grow up with the same 200 kids from the day you step into kindergarten all the way up until the day you graduate. This means that you always know who’s dating who, whose mom makes the best cookies and a little bit of everything in between.

There’s a special sense of comfort that exists when you know everyone and their life stories. Your group of friends become your people for life. Those kids from your high school will become the PTA parents in twenty years, and the cycle continues for generations.

The thing about comfort is that it’s so easy to stay in it.

None of us knew about change; we didn’t even know the word itself. Change to us was a new teacher, a new student every year or two or maybe a new relationship starting up.

Real change is scary. Uncomfortable. Isolating.

Having to find yourself again. Reestablishing a friend group where no one knows anyone or their backstory. Finding your way around a different environment.

I left to search for answers, to search for a greater world and a greater purpose. I left to live a new experience with new people, to discover a new change of scenery and to genuinely find a new me.

My roommate, who graduated in a class of 60, described graduating as a whirlpool. When you graduate you are at the top and you have the chance to hop out, but if you don’t jump at that opportunity, you slowly get sucked back in.

I’ve seen it with my own eyes. Twenty-five year olds who still go to bonfires with high school juniors, those who have been in their one-year gap year for four years and those who end up leaving college because they would rather resort to what they’re used to back home.

The reason I left what I was used to and was comfortable with is because I wanted to spread my wings and grow. I wanted to throw myself someplace where no one could hold my hand or guide me besides God.

This mindset lasted until three weeks into college when I realized I was still lost. It hit me a few times how scary this college thing really was. I had no one to just call and ask to get IHOP with at 3 a.m. Any of my best friends back home would have been down in a heartbeat.  Most kids looked as if they had found their new crew, and everyone at home was still happy and carefree.

This realization made me consider whether I made the right decision leaving home. I kept repeating that this wasn’t what I had signed up for. I was supposed to have my “best friend” group settled. I was supposed to know that this was the place for me.

The thing is, this IS what I signed up for. It took a couple of weeks to remember that I wanted this vulnerability, change and growth, and that I truly got it.

I realized that I was learning to handle situations on my own and finding what deserves my energy and what doesn’t. I realized that once the social phase wears off after the beginning of the semester, you begin to see how many friends you’ve really made, and more importantly, how many you haven’t. However, we’re all in it together and that’s truly one of the best ways to bond with someone.

Don’t get me wrong— since leaving for a college over a thousand miles from home, I’ve lost friendships with people I loved. I’ve had people tell me that I lost my roots and changed; yet, I realized whose love is genuine and whose friendship is greater than comfortability. I began to understand the person I want to become and those who I want to surround myself with.

That’s something I would have never gotten by staying home.