Do the thing that scares you: Why I moved from the Midwest to San Francisco to start my career

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I have this theory…

That the decision that scares the crap out of you is usually the best decision.

The drive from Columbia, Missouri to San Diego is about 23 hours long.

That’s roughly how much time I had to sit and think about what I had done, and it finally sank in: No more Missouri. No more college. No more 75-cent drinks, no more sorority house, no more wearing Nike shorts and oversized T-shirts to class every day. No more hot summer nights at the lake, fall football game days, or snow days in the winter. It was time to be a Real Person now with a Real Job, and I was moving out of the Midwest to do it.

For someone who was on her way to start an exciting new job in an exciting new city, I was feeling pretty…unexcited. Unexcited is the less embarrassing word for what I was really feeling: Nervous. No, not nervous. Scared. I was scared out of my wits.

But this is my first blog post so I should back up and start from the beginning.

I had chosen the University of Missouri for two reasons: The world-famous journalism school, and the phenomenal Midwest college experience. It was phenomenal indeed. So phenomenal that I stuck around for five years, one extra year to grab my master’s degree while I was at it.

As amazing as the Midwest was, though, I knew it wasn’t going to be the best place to start my career. Something told me I needed a challenge. Something was pulling me back in the other direction, and it wasn’t just the better weather.

(Side note: It may have partly been the weather. I think my final decision was made on one fateful day when I walked outside wearing my backpack, on my way to class, and I stepped on black ice, slipped, failed to recover my balance– I blame the backpack– and fell flat on my face, sprawling on the sidewalk still wearing my backpack. That was the last straw.)

So I decided to move back to California. But not back back. After growing up in San Diego, I still wanted to try something different, so I went with northern California. In my mind, San Francisco was the place to be. It checked all the boxes on my imaginary dream city list:

  • Good Chinese takeout and decent Mexican restaurants
  • Ocean views
  • Outdoor activities
  • NO ICE
  • Smart, open-minded, ambitious people
  • Job opportunities in tech PR
  • At least one In-N-Out location
  • Walkable (as in, I can walk to work AND to In-N-Out. Told you this was a dream city)
  • Affordable (Note that I said AFFORDable, key word being afford. I did not say “inexpensive” or “reasonable.” However, I can afford it so therefore it is affordable. Fight me.)

So I really had no excuse to feel sorry for myself when college was over, because I was damn lucky to be starting a job at an amazing company in the exact career path I wanted in the exact industry I wanted in the exact city I wanted. I was set.

Set, yes, and also scared. More than I want to admit, but I’ll admit it: I was scared shitless. And it’s hard not to be when everyone else seems scared for you: “Isn’t it expensive? Aren’t you worried about learning the tech industry? Are you SURE about this?” No, I’m not sure. I am 22.

Which brings us to the moment in the car on the drive away from Missouri. I was questioning everything. Why had I even made the choice to leave? Why was I going to a city where I didn’t know anyone or have friends? How did I think I could afford an apartment or find roommates? What did I think I was doing, entering the tech industry, when I barely knew anything about tech? Was this the right decision?

Looking back now, a month later in my new city, I know the answer: It was absolutely right, because it was the decision that was absolutely terrifying. And you only grow by doing things that scare you. When you feel pulled in a direction that scares you, run like hell…in that direction.

Do the hard thing, the scary thing. Take the risk and you’ll get the reward.

You’ll thank yourself one day when you’re walking distance from In-N-Out.


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