When I was growing up, I was a huge pain in the ass. I’m not kidding. I wish I had been a little sweeter when I was bitter, and perhaps a little less tactless in my pursuit of a future.

But I wasn’t.

I was born in the Midwest, and had moved to the West Coast before I turned one so that my parents could continue to work in the sports industry. I had a normal life (perhaps a little more cultured than a lot of my peers) up until the age of seven, when my family decided to relocate back to the Midwest. It was all in the name of being closer to family and was also due to my dad having been offered a more lucrative position for the NFL.

I’ll admit that I didn’t love the idea of leaving my group of friends and all of the perks of a comfortable lifestyle in Northern California to start over in a new place. I spent the next 11 years telling my parents that I was moving back to California as soon as I could. What makes this worse is I have a twin sister who shared the same sentiment.

Yup. That’s right. My poor parents had to deal with two kids who, for over half of their childhood and into their adolescence, wanted nothing more than to leave the state. What a gift we must have been to them. Staying true to our words, at the age of 18, my sister and I headed back West. We went to school in sunny San Diego and all was right with the world until my parents left to go back to the Midwest.

I graduated a year and a half early from college and, partially driven by homesickness, spent a total of nine months back home, during which I just wanted to be anywhere but there. I got my wish and moved to New York City for an unexpected internship in Manhattan. After a month, the internship turned into a full-time job and things took their course. Due to some extenuating circumstances, I found myself back in the Midwest after a year of big city living.

What I discovered from this seemingly backwards move was surprising: a newfound love for my hometown.

In fact, it’s turned into an obsession. I enjoy attending networking events, taking walks in the city, and going on adventures like finding cute coffee spots with friends. I enjoy digging through records to add to my vinyl collection at the record store across the street, and breathing in freshly mowed grass on Midwest lawns during sunset. I love discovering new bands, attending free events, and learning to cook in this city. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

People move to the coasts all the time. They move because they loved how beautiful it was when they visited. They move because the entertainment industry is such a big deal by major bodies of water. They move there because of a crazy promise of some worthwhile American dream waiting for them in a big and glamorous city.

I’ve realized that my happiness in this life is all about circumstance.

Some people can find the perfect dream job at a marketing firm, and really love working 11-hour days and running errands to every corner of the island. But at the end of the day, after a two hour commute home to an outer borough (because one can’t possibly live in Manhattan proper on what people are paid out there) on the F train, when one is exhausted and all that is needed is a good laugh with friends, it can be hard to find them. Schedules don’t match up. People are in adult leagues or at the gym. Transportation and communication become difficult. We get exhausted.

Realizing that I can live out a version of my dream no matter where I’m located was when things got better. My vision became clearer and creativity flowed. Home really is where your heart is, and I now invest my whole heart into the people I care about. When you find a special person that reciprocates that love, and when you find a great atmosphere to really thrive in, that’s when things start to click.

Moving back to your hometown could be a great idea. Do you like to write? You can do that in Wyoming. Want to be a photographer? You don’t have to take a photo of the same sunset off the coast of Malibu that Joe Blow has on his Instagram. You can make your home anywhere. You can live out your wildest dreams wherever you want to live them.

Here’s my advice: List your priorities. Visit places you’ve never considered living. Get a good, solid expectation of your industry. And just do it. Don’t let what I say or what anyone else says get you down. Don’t let people tell you that you can only work in television if you live in Los Angeles or that you will never work for Saks if you don’t live in New York. There are plenty of smaller markets you can rule, and such an amazing array of places to explore.

I’m lucky to call Kansas City my home. I work in marketing here, do some freelance writing, and even have time to run a production company with my twin sister. It took us a while to realize that we don’t need to be in Hollywood to make films or take photos. I’ll admit that I sometimes get a bad case of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), but I love this city. I love the culture and that it’s the heart of America. I love that I can write more freely here, and that my perspective on everything has changed. I am more inspired. I am freer.

Don’t let anyone tell you that you have to be somewhere else to achieve that success. Find your inspiration, and live a life of your own design.

Photo credit: tpsdave / Pixabay