What it Feels Like to Leave Your Community
By Anonymous// As Told to Lila Heilig
October 23, 2019
For me, a community is a place where you feel welcomed and supported.
I’ve lived in Antioch for my entire life. My parents didn’t grow up here like many residents of Antioch, but they still chose this town to build a house and start a family in. I have childhood memories of playing with friends at my neighborhood park and going to neighborhood concerts on Sundays. I always felt like I belonged in the town and I was where I was meant to be. As Antioch evolved into the town it is today, I changed along with it. As I grew older, I slowly drifted apart from the community that I had once felt connected to.
It started in middle school. I’ve always been outspoken and unafraid to share my beliefs. The more I spoke out, the faster I began to realize that my views on things were different than my peers. I was so opinionated that those who disagreed with me became aggressive. People started to enjoy making me mad because it was so easy for me to get fired up. Eventually, I realized that getting angry and arguing with people wasn’t worth my time, and I decided to move on. I changed my perspective and became more understanding of other opinions, but those who tormented me didn’t change their ways. To this day, those people still don’t like me. I feel that there is still a stigma surrounding me.
I felt like I had a fresh start once I entered high school. Being in theatre introduced me to new people who had similar interests and beliefs as me. My friends in the program quickly became my family. Theatre, through friendships and kindness, has helped me reconnect with the community that I had once lost. I finally started to feel like I truly belonged here; I made plans for my future, I had close friends, and everything felt like it was perfect.
But then, one month ago, all of that was ripped away from me. I learned that my entire life was being picked up and moved a couple of days before Halloween.
Initially, I was upset and angry. I didn’t want to leave my friends, theatre, teachers and my community. It seemed like my efforts to love my community and find a sense of belonging were being thrown out the window.
I was in a state of denial. My parents have talked about moving for years but they’ve never gone through with it. I thought this was another one of those times, but I soon realized that they were seriously considering it. Then came the anger. I was so tired of my parents not knowing for sure if we were moving that I pressured them into coming up with a decision. When they decided that we are moving, I became angrier at them. The anger quickly turned to sadness, and all I wanted to do was cry. I had finally become reconnected to Antioch after feeling isolated for so long, and the thought of leaving my home was devastating.
After feeling sad and angry I slowly grew to accept my situation. Was I happy with it? No. But I want my parents to be happy, and this is what’s best for them. I’ve gotten to the point where not having an opinion on the situation is easier. It shields me from the pain and I’m satisfied with being numb.
Even though I’ve accepted it, I still find myself thinking about it all of the time. Moving is something that is constantly on my mind. Instead of paying attention in class, I’ll spend hours thinking about my new community: What will it be like? Will the teachers be good? How different will the classes be? And, most importantly, will people like me?
Being likable has become my crutch. I was disliked for a long time and now I find myself desperately wanting others’ approval. One reason why I am actually excited to go to my new school is that it’s a fresh start for me; no one will know who I am and I can avoid negativity altogether. Negativity is one thing that I have experienced often in Antioch.
There’s a group of people who don’t like me. They don’t say it to my face, but others who hang out with them tell me about the things they say. One of them specifically objectifies and makes gross comments about my body. The entire situation is something that I want to fix, but I feel like I can’t. I try to avoid them and be polite when I have to interact with them, but they continue to make hurtful comments; I don’t understand why. This type of thing happens to everyone at some point, but I feel like it’s been happening for my entire life. Even though I’m in theatre, I absolutely hate drama, and being in a new environment will hopefully reduce it.
Throughout the past few weeks, I’ve begun to realize how many things I dislike about Antioch. Once you’re given an opportunity to go to a new place, you realize how much you dislike where you currently are. Even though I consider Antioch my home, it isn’t my favorite place in the world. I get bored here. There really isn’t anything to do and I always find myself wanting to live someplace like Chicago, where there are more things to do and people to meet. I’m always surrounded by the same people and places, and moving to a new place will introduce me to new experiences that I can’t have in Antioch.
Although there are many negatives about living here, there are also many things that I will miss. I’ll definitely miss the little coffee shops where I would meet up with friends to do homework. I’m scared of losing my best friends, and falling out of touch with my theater family. There are so many things that I won’t have in my new community that I’m scared to lose; even though I am starting to become excited to move I know that my new community won’t be able to replace Antioch.
Leaving my community is the scariest thing that I’ve ever gone through. I’m constantly anticipating the move and I don’t know what the result will be. Will I like my new community, or will I end up hating it more than Antioch? Will this new place be my home, or will I never fully settle in? I’m constantly asking questions, and I’m searching desperately for answers. Deep down, I know that I will never have the answers I need. I won’t know my future until I’m living it and that’s the hardest part of the entire experience.