Moving away from home was by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’m not talking about college. My entire college career was nothing in comparison to this. But living in the next state over is nothing like packing everything you own into your car and road tripping across the country.

I wouldn’t go as far as to say that I regret the move, but I recognize now more than ever that I am a Midwesterner through and through. And I now know that there is nothing wrong with that. I used to want nothing more than to move out of the Midwest. I wanted to try something new — experience something bigger.

But then I decided to move to Florida. Here’s what I learned from that experience:

1. If you’re thinking about picking up and moving across the country, make sure you know what you’re getting into. 
It’s often impossible to fully understand what you’re getting yourself into. You can’t predict the mishaps in life that throw things off course. But when you’re making a move like this, there’s generally a larger purpose behind it. You don’t just randomly uproot your life for no reason. So whether it’s a job, a person or a new experience, make sure that you understand the worst case scenario before you make the move. Is this job really what you want to do? What if it doesn’t work out with the person? Can you find that experience anywhere else?

2. You will get to know yourself better.
You will never spend as much time with anyone else as you do with yourself. And you learn that even more when you move across the country by yourself (especially when you work overnights and weekends).

3. You have a blank slate, but be yourself. 
No one knows you here. They don’t know your family or how you wore purple eyeliner all through the 8th grade (true story). So you get a fresh start. But that doesn’t mean you should try to be someone else. Be yourself. After a while, you can’t help it anyway, so why try to put on an act for anyone?

4. You learn to build your own network.
Oh, the joy of making friends. Wasn’t it easier when you were just in the same class/dorm with people? You had built-in friends. As an adult, you have to actively work to build connections and friendships. But it’s worth it.

5. You grow as a person. 
Going through one of the most trying periods in life will definitely help you grow as a person. It challenged me in ways that I never dreamed possible. For example, I have so much respect for the people who commit decades of their lives to working overnights and definitely don’t get enough credit for it. Unless you’ve worked overnights for a prolonged period of time, you really don’t know what it’s like. And I will forever have that extra appreciation for the people still doing it.

6. You learn more about what you want (and what you absolutely don’t want).
It made me think about what was most important in life and most important to me. This experience taught me more about what I want going forward then school ever could. And for that, I am forever grateful I had this experience.

7.  You figure out who is most important to you. 
The people who are there when everything feels like it’s falling apart. The people who actively check in to see how you are doing. And the people who support you — sometimes by encouraging you to push past the bad stuff. Those are the people who matter.

8. You question what your purpose is. 
When you make a long-distance move it pushes you to think about what you are truly called to do. And the weirdest part is that this particular move taught me how much my purpose is back home right now.

So in case, you couldn’t already tell, I made it back home. Safe and sound. I can’t help but think the reason for my move to Florida was to bring me back home. I know it sounds funny, but I think if I had found a job anywhere else, I might have stuck it out, and I would never be where I am now. And I know I ended up where I am meant to be at this moment.

The people I met, the experiences I had, the time I spent in Florida, I truly believe it was meant to be.