Notes on leaving & delayed withdrawal

I was sitting on a plane on November 13, 2014, on my way to Denver for the first time. I was visiting my cousin for the weekend, and was thinking of moving to Colorado myself. This was my trip to test it out – see what it was all about. A businessman in his 60s sat next to me on the flight, chatting my ear off, telling me about his sprawling home near Colorado Springs as he generously ordered us glass after glass of airplane Chardonnay. The land he lived on had acres of privacy, and a clear view of Pikes Peak from his back patio. He fell in love with Colorado immediately, he said.

“I moved to Colorado in 1993 after growing up in Ohio, then living in San Francisco, Dallas, Chicago, and a few other places across the country. I’ve been here since ‘93 and I’ve never left. It’d take a legal court order to get me to leave Colorado.”

Fast forward to today – December 22nd, 2015. Just over two months ago, I left Colorado after living there for just about a year. I packed up my stuff, drove all day through Kansas and Oklahoma until I hit the suburbs of Dallas, Texas, where I now find myself living with relatives.

Now, after a year in Colorado, two months in Texas, and being back in Philly for the holidays, Colorado is finally starting to feel like home. What???

When I first left at the end of October, my restless soul was excited to experience a new place. My social butterfly side was excited to give loneliness the boot. I woke up early that day, hit the road, and never looked back at the Centennial State. Now, though, I think I’m having delayed Colorado withdrawal.

I really like Colorado. I like Boulder, where I worked and played. I like Denver enough, which never really felt like a real city to me, but it was clean and safe and quiet. I like the mountains and all of the majesty and therapy and renewal that comes along with them. I like the order and matter-of-factness of the suburbs. I liked that mountain views and pick-up trucks and wild sunflowers were part of my daily commute.

I like the people — when I first moved to Colorado, the east coast in me was suspicious of everyone’s niceness.

I experienced more in Colorado than I ever thought I could in one year. I drove 8 hours to the opposite corner of the state just to take in the changing colors of the aspens. I slept alone in my car next to a peaceful little lake in Telluride and watched the super moon make it’s way across a black, star lit sky. My sister and I hiked to Hanging Lake and through Aspen and accidentally drove to Independence Pass at the Continental Divide. I spent countless hours exploring the trails of Rocky Mountain National Park.

kristen RMNP

Rocky Mountain National Park in Estes Park, Colorado

Coming from the east coast, it’s hard to really comprehend how immense the west is and how vastly different it can be from one region to the next. I didn’t realize until coming to the west that in Colorado you can see the mountains, the plains and the desert all in one day. There are evergreens and aspens, but there are also cacti and badlands and deep red rock canyons. I realized that the Black Hills of South Dakota are gorgeous, and Nebraska was surprisingly beautiful, and being in Utah was seriously hard to wrap my head around – it was like being on another planet entirely.


Colorado National Monument in Fruita, Colorado

friends arches

Arches National Park in Moab, Utah

I made new friendships with people at work (and outside of work) – some of the funniest and good-hearted people I’ve ever met – at the best job I’ve ever had. I left Colorado with a good taste in my mouth.

Colorado was the first place I’ve ever lived without an expiration date – and though I appreciated it as fully as possible while I was there, I always thought this just isn’t my home, this isn’t where I really belong. In hindsight, was it Colorado that wasn’t my home, or what is just bad timing – or the loneliness? Would it have felt more like home if I had moved there with a significant other or a best friend or a sturdy group to surround and encourage me?

I’m back in Philly for Christmas and New Years, and then I’ll head back to Dallas for a while – probably just a few more months. Some people have told me that I need to focus more on the “now” and to appreciate where I am presently, rather than to always be looking back or ahead at wherever happens to be next – but I disagree.

If anything, the greatest way that my stay in Colorado has affected me is that I’m now even more aware of where I am at all times. I’m always hearing nuances in the way people speak (not just accents or inflections, but their mannerisms or demeanor when communicating with others, too), or noticing the changing plants in different parts of the country, or picking up on the things that people seem to be prideful of depending where you go.

My home always will be Philadelphia – it’s unshakable, that’s my constant variable, that is where, in my mind, everything else in the world seems to orbit around. But uprooting myself from that place has forced me to interact with people every single day who have different constant variables, whose core perspective on the world are immeasurably different than mine. That forces you to view places – old and new – in ways you could never understand until you’re in a place where no one around you has the same home as you. It’s an isolating and liberating new-constant feeling. 

Moving to Colorado, and then leaving Colorado, has taught me that while I still have a way to go in certain aspects of my life, I can be very resilient. I can be weak and have meltdowns and there are certain things that I know I need extra help with to figure out, but they can never shake me from my typically-somewhat-naively-optimistic self. And I think everyone has that resiliency in them too, if only they give themselves the opportunity to be a little scared.

As my favorite character of my favorite movie once said, “We are intrepid, we carry on.”

I’m still unsure of where I’m supposed to go next – do I want to keep being a crazy person and hopping from place to place? Or do I want to chillllll outtttt and try to make a place a more permanent home? Should I just give up the jig and go back to Philly now? What about when I get restless in another 6 months? WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME!

Whatever happens next, I’m happy to have spent my 24th year of life on this earth in Colorado – the place I’ve had the most unique relationship with – and I’m humbled to have the privilege of calling it one of my homes.

Have you had any similar experiences in any places you’ve lived?

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  • Reply Barb Powers

    I love reading about your adventures! It’s wonderful to venture out and see the world with fresh eyes, and it’s always good to come home, especially for the holidays! Your parents gave you roots and wings…and you discovered your grit and resilience – what a year! Yay you! Hope to see you while you’re in town! xo Mrs. Powers/Barb 🙂

    December 22, 2015 at 8:06 am
    • Reply Kristen

      I agree! It was great to see you!

      December 27, 2015 at 8:53 pm
  • Reply Margaret

    Kristen, I’ve enjoyed following your adventures since you made a quick stop in my hometown, Nashville, on your way West. I wanted to respond to your question about similar experiences, because although Nashville is my Philly, I consider the mountains of Virginia my spiritual home. We lived there for several years, until careers took us elsewhere. But I could never shake the feeling that I was meant to live near the Blue Ridge Parkway. About 10 years ago, we scraped together enough to buy some rural land on Pilot Mountain – and about 3 years ago we put a small house on that land. I’ll admit that living in Nashville is grand and exciting (and practical, since family, job, etc. are here). One day, we’ll pack up here and head for our mountain to stay. It has become my “something worth working for!” Good luck to you in 2016!

    December 22, 2015 at 8:47 am
    • Reply Kristen

      Thanks for following along & sharing your stories with me, Margaret. I’m sure the day you move to your mountain home will be an emotional day! Thanks for the well wishes!

      December 27, 2015 at 8:55 pm
  • Reply The Joyce Half of Poppies and Popcorn

    Colorado has that effect on many of us. Many states have their charms, vistas, and “pulls,” but there’s something quite magical about Colorado. I’ve been here since 1993 and, like your fellow airplane traveler, it’d take a court order for me to leave!

    December 22, 2015 at 9:23 am
    • Reply Kristen

      Colorado is definitely a special place. Enjoy it!

      December 27, 2015 at 8:55 pm
  • Reply Hannah Myer

    “And I think everyone has that resiliency in them too, if only they give themselves the opportunity to be a little scared.”

    One of my favorite things you’ve ever written. So true, girlfriend. I’m so excited to see what this next year looks like for you, and you can rest assured, I’ll come visit wherever you end up. 😉

    December 22, 2015 at 11:14 am
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  • Reply Bumba

    Thanks for these photos of Colorado. I hope to visit someday soon.

    January 7, 2016 at 7:36 pm
    • Reply Kristen

      I hope you visit too 🙂

      January 11, 2016 at 10:21 am
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