Let me start this post by clarifying one thing: I do not like Jacksonville.
However, I grew up in Jacksonville, N.C., and aside from the three years I lived in Chapel Hill after I was born and the past three years I’ve been at UNC, it is the only place I’ve ever called home.
Although I don’t leave Chapel Hill unless I’m traveling or have an obligation at home, I feel invested in where my parents live. I have been begging my parents to move back to Chapel Hill or Raleigh ever since I came to school, but they didn’t seem completely sold on the idea. I was beginning to think they didn’t want to move at all, but two weeks ago, my parents informed me that they bought a house in Beaufort, N.C., and they would be moving there permanently within the next two months.
Naturally, I flipped- at first. But then I thought about all of the terrible things I have said about Jacksonville to my parents.
“There are too many marines.”
“The restaurants all suck.”
“I’m going back to Chapel Hill.”
I quickly realized I had no reason to be mad about the move. In fact, it was selfish to even consider complaining about it because I never go home. I decided instead to be happy for my parents because they are moving into a community they will enjoy far more than they’re currently enjoying Jacksonville. My mom has talked nonstop about how in love with the house she is- she and my dad have always wanted to live on the water. Knowing that my parents are excited for the next step in their lives is hard, but it also makes me happy. I’m getting a little excited myself just thinking about calling Beaufort my home town. It’s peaceful and quaint, but also rich in history and culture.
Sometimes saying goodbye to the familiar is hard because we don’t know any different. My house in Jacksonville is where I made my earliest memories, and it’s strange to imagine driving by and not seeing my three dogs running around in the front yard. But change is necessary, and change is good.
“How many likes did your picture get?”
“Almost 250. What about yours?”
“Oh my God mine didn’t even get 200. Should I delete it?”
This is a real conversation I have witnessed (multiple times) between my 13 and 16-year-old cousins. Every time we go somewhere together, I know that my face will be put on some form of social media, and my cousins and their friends will spend approximately 90% of our time together staring at their iPhones. Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter have changed the way teenagers think- if 13 is even considered a teenager.
I think about how different my high school and middle school experiences would have been if these social media outlets were as popular as they are now. Sure, we had Facebook and MySpace, but no one accessed those sites from their cell phones ever three minutes. Before college, if I wanted to get attention from someone, I had to reach out to them. Me and my friends would call each other regularly, or spend time together face to face. If we were together, our phones were the last thing we thought about. Pictures were the last thing we thought about. We lived in the moment- at least more so than teenagers do now.
I worry that social media is changing the way young people validate themselves. It saddens me to watch a 13-year-old girl, gorgeous inside and out, spend over 20 minutes picking the most flattering filter on Instagram and checking her phone every minute to see who has liked her photo. Why is this a constant thought that goes through their heads? The destruction these self-focused social media outlets are doing to the mentality of teens is real. I hope they will grow out of their concerns about social media presence and learn the importance of social presence, but unfortunately having access to social media at such a young age might make this impossible.
Wake up. Go to Pure Barre with my best friend Maddie. Get Starbucks. Go to work. Grab Med Deli for dinner. Walk home. Go to bed before 10 p.m. Repeat.
This was my summer. In April, I decided to pass up a summer in London for a summer in Chapel Hill because I wanted to earn money instead of spending it (for once). In doing this, I thought I was giving up an experience that would change my life. My days and thoughts had become repetitive in Chapel Hill and I believed a summer in London would tear me from the rut I was in.
As it turns out, staying in Chapel Hill was just what I needed to rediscover the things that make me excited about life. I know this is a broad statement- but I mean it as it is. One of my favorite things to do for most of my life was to run. About a year ago, I started to have problems with my knee and I haven’t been able to run at all since last September. I started going to the local Pure Barre studio as a way of getting a full body workout without bone impact. But it wasn’t until this summer when I went every day, not as a student, but as a member of the Chapel Hill community, that I started to make friends at the studio who weren’t in my sorority or history class, and this felt great.
My best friend Maddie started coming with me to Pure Barre. As we made more friends at the studio, we began going to more community health events. We went to an outdoor yoga class in Durham one night and we did hot yoga with a group of yogis one morning. I began eating healthier- not because I was trying to lose weight, but because hanging out with healthy people changed my perspective on how I should treat my body. Where most college kids who stayed in Chapel Hill for summer school frequented the bars and fast food, Maddie and I frequented the Barre and Whole Foods.
By staying in Chapel Hill this summer instead of going to London as an escape, I got a glimpse into what my life will be like if I keep doing things that make me happy and healthy. I love to travel and am not saying I will never study abroad. Sometimes, though, leaving your community isn’t the way to find meaning in your life. It’s often as simple as remembering what makes you feel happy and doing just that.