Cheers from Des Moines: Celebrating 1 Year

Well, what a year it’s been.

As I approach the one year anniversary of when I up and moved to Des Moines on a “you’re laid off” meeting’s notice, I am overwhelmed at how fast time passes. I’ve officially been living in this new city for a year, and yet at times I still feel like such a newcomer. I even find that I still introduce myself to others as someone who, “just moved here” before realizing that doesn’t really slide anymore. I feel confident that this is where I'm supposed to be, but that doesn't mean my mind doesn't occasionally wander: flirting with daring ideas of new places and coming back to the comforting memories of home.

So much has changed in the past year that I know has made me stronger, but it wasn’t exactly the circumstances I would’ve written up if I could've had a hand in choosing what came next. (Also: am I actually stronger or is that just something someone says when life has gotten hard?)

Jobs, relationships, finances, struggles of the heart...

Will life ever get easier or does each month on the calendar guarantee a new challenge waiting to be accepted?

Don't get me wrong—Des Moines has been really great to me. It's been a tough year, but I've met some truly incredible people and have discovered new things about myself that I don't think I would've found being in my previous place of comfort in Iowa City. Thanks to Des Moines, here's what I've learned this past year:

1. Putting yourself out there always pays off.

One goal I made for myself upon moving to Des Moines was to get more connected in my community. After graduating from Iowa and then living in Iowa City for almost two years, I felt so comfortable in that town—not to mention having Bobby 5 minutes down the road. I'm a pretty private person, and I've never been the type who needs to go out for a drink or meet up with friends to shake a bad day off. To be honest, my biggest form of medicine is a night of snuggling up on the couch with dinner on a TV tray, donning PJ pants and fuzzy socks. After deciding the job I took that got me here really wasn't a good fit, I started to push myself outside of my comfort zone and attend networking events while reaching out to people I didn't know to grab a coffee just because. Looking back at nervous little me—GPS-ing all of the coffee shops and event spaces, walking in feeling so overwhelmed and totally out of my element—and now being able to smile at how far I've come! Spoiler alert: I met my current boss at a lunch event, and I've made several friends out of sending LinkedIn messages to grab a coffee (who knew!).

It was important for my professional growth for sure—to network and meet others in the community, but it's been so beneficial for my personal growth as well. It gave me so much confidence to be able to reach out to strangers to then strike up a conversation with them over a latte. Connecting with people is truly a beautiful thing, and I'm so happy that Des Moines has brought me to so many inspiring people.

2. Embracing who you are is a beautiful thing.

Perhaps the greatest challenge this past year has been living two hours away from my boyfriend. When Bobby and I lived in the same town, I was pretty dependent on him. I didn't have a lot of friends in town to hang out with so I often coordinated my schedule with his and we found ourselves doing a lot of things together. Now, I'm forced to go at things by myself and it's been so hard but so amazing to find myself. When you're in a long-term relationship (Bobby and I will be celebrating our 4 year anniversary next month!), it can get easy to lose yourself amidst trying to define the relationship. I've really been able to embrace who I am this past year, learning all about what makes me happy and how to take care of things completely on my own.

In addition to becoming a little bit more self-sufficient, I've also learned how to celebrate who I am. I've made a big effort to be unapologetic about the things that make me happy, resisting the urge to filter my likes and dislikes solely to please those I'm around. It's okay if my relationship with Bobby looks different than my best friend's relationship with her boyfriend. It's okay if my workout routine looks different than the girl who I look to for all things fitness. It's okay if I've had ice cream every night this week, even though I'll probably regret it. Sometimes you just have to listen to yourself and find comfort in the things that make you, you. It doesn't make you better or cooler or happier than anyone else, but rather—it makes you a better version of yourself because you're staying true to you. What a beautiful thing!

3. A little movement is better than being stagnant.

I’ve learned that life is ongoing… and there’s nothing that states we have to have it all together… at age 24 or 64. I don’t know about you, but every morning is a wrestling match between my expectations and my reality, trying so hard to intertwine the two into a narrative that makes me coasting through an easy life somehow fit into the story of a successful, powerful woman. Do I have to be someone else first before becoming the woman I strive to become? Can I even be the woman I dream of or is it an impossible benchmark that will never be reached?

Am I demented or normal? Am I a crazy dreamer destined for greatness, or just seriously disturbed, obsessed with the unknown promises of a future I’ll never have?

But then I look back at how far I've come, things I've learned, people I've met... and I realize that perhaps I'm not moving as fast or as clearly as I'd like, but moving just a little bit is better than staying in the same place. 

I've learned that it's okay to be a work in progress.

So here's to the rest of the works in progress, learning and loving and growing. Thank you, Des Moines for bringing me so much joy in a year that brought so many challenges.