Starting over can be scary, but if you're true to who you are, a fresh start can be a wonderful thing. We partnered with Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt for this post.
I grew up in a one-traffic-light town in rural New Hampshire. Almost everyone in my family was born there, came back there to raise their families, or had never left at all. My childhood consisted of building tree and rock forts in the Summer, ice skating on frozen ponds in the Winter, and apple picking in the Fall. It was idyllic.
When I was almost 9 years old, my parents told my sister and I that we were moving to San Francisco.
The concept of the move was thrilling for me, but the reality wasn't as simple. The thing everybody learns at some point in their life is that reinvention is the most essential tool to survival. What made me unbreakable during this tough time was preserving my identity in an world so foreign to my previous experience.
Looking back, now 20 years since the move, the following three lessons stick out in my mind:
1. Putting Yourself Out There Is Essential
Being the new girl in a small middle school, luckily for me, turned out to be awesome. In fourth grade, everyone is nice to one another and I was welcomed with open arms. It seemed like everyone wanted to have the new girl be their friend. I learned to lean into the attention. It encouraged me to be outgoing, outspoken, and gregarious. Being so welcomed and accepted immediately, when I expected just the opposite, groomed me to be confident when entering new environments as a young adult.
2. Remember to Stay True to Yourself Above All Else
When I first moved to California, I looked different than the rest of the kids. Every day I wore denim overall shorts, a white t-shirt underneath, a checkered flannel wrapped around my waist, Birkenstock sandals, and a backwards hat. I thought I was Alex Mack. This was how I dressed and I wasn't about to change it — it never even dawned on me. That is, until one day someone teased me about the hat. Afterwards, I went months without wearing hats to school and saved them for the weekend. I remember my mom being concerned and asking me repeatedly, "Cait, you've always been a hat person, why aren't you wearing them anymore?" to which I assured her I was just over them. They weren't cool, Mom, geez. The truth is, I wanted to fit in physically as much as socially. Now, I love getting dressed and honestly couldn't care less about what people think. Plus, things I was inherently drawn to as a child are coming back — Birkenstocks, anyone?
3. Remember Where You Came From
In New Hampshire, most people I knew had yards that merged into extensive forests. When the weather was warm, we would go to the local lake or pond or head to the community pool. In California, the backyards had their own private pools and the kids had gazebos they used as clubhouses. Everyone I met in California seemed a little bit more experienced. They all seemed to know some secret, to understand a truth about the world I hadn't yet learned. I felt naive, like an outsider. Now, 20 years older, what used to feel like something to be embarrassed about is something I am most proud of. The things that made me different are what made me and my childhood so unique. I wouldn't change my years in New Hampshire for anything nor would I take back the move to California. Life is a series of subtle and sometimes sudden changes. Being able to adapt to a new reality is important, but it is more important to value where you came from.
More From Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
She's making the world a #hashbrown Kimmier place. Watch Season 2, now streaming on Netflix.