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I hated Arizona, so I moved away. Then I moved right back

After moving over 1,600 miles away for college, I realized I misjudged the state


"The only thing getting me through high school was the thought that someday I would be able to move far away from Arizona." Illustration published on Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019.

“I feel I’ve wasted my whole life staying in the same places,” a jaded, 16-year-old self scribbled down in a torn-up notebook full of song lyrics that would never make it into songs. 

The only thing getting me through high school was the thought that someday I would be able to move far away from Arizona. 

The sunny state had always been home. The farthest my family of three ever moved was roughly 30 minutes away when we left our Phoenix home for the suburbs of North Scottsdale. I was three, so it barely counts. 

In an act of rebellion, my high school self was quite the pessimist and a pretty dramatic one at that. I saw no potential in Arizona. 

“I hate it here, there’s nothing to do.”

“I’m so bored.”

“Phoenix is so small, I want to live in a real city.”

No matter what it was, I had something to complain about daily. Arizona just couldn’t satisfy me. 

Fast forward to my senior year of high school, and I was applying to any college that would get me out of the heat. Several schools in Boston, Chicago, New York, Seattle, Portland and Nashville made the final cut.

I wanted to experience all four seasons. I wanted a complete re-do in life. New friends, new experiences and endless possibilities excited me. Really when it came down to it, the only credential a college needed for me was that it was far away. 

After months of narrowing it all down, getting accepted — and rejected, for that matter — I committed to Belmont University in Nashville. I spent the majority of that summer packing and visiting the small music city that would soon be home. 

When August finally came, I spent three days driving a cramped Scion full to the brim of my belongings across the country to Tennessee.

To my surprise, making Nashville my home proved difficult. I decorated my dorm room just like my room back home, attended student socials and went to local shows to meet new people, but none of it went the way I expected.

Most nights I sat alone in my room watching "Shameless" and feeling sorry for myself. 

Most of my peers were from nearby. Tampa, Chicago and Atlanta were common hometowns. It was when I found myself explaining the desert to people who had never seen it before that I realized I misjudged Arizona. 

To my surprise I found myself missing the place I grew up hating. I missed Harkins movie theater popcorn, falling down at Great Skate, record shopping at Stinkweeds and seeing shows at Crescent Ballroom. Suddenly Phoenix seemed so full of potential. How did I not see that until now?

When I first realized I missed Arizona, I tried to ignore it, but this got harder as the semester was ending. 

Originally I was supposed to stay in Nashville for Thanksgiving break, but by that point, I was desperately yearning to visit what I still considered home. Nashville felt more like one, long vacation than a place to live. I counted down the days until I left. 

When it finally came time to visit home, I spent every day visiting old friends, hanging with family and doing all the things I couldn’t do in Nashville. In-N-Out Burger was a must. 

The four-day trip home sealed the deal. I knew I had to move back. 

As soon as I arrived back in Tennessee, I applied to transfer to ASU. Every day after this was harder. I wished I could move back right then and save myself from enduring two more months of misery. 

I felt embarrassed about moving back home at first. Admitting I transferred after a semester and that I only lived in Nashville for around six months made me feel like I was the girl who couldn’t handle moving away. I felt as though in everyone else’s eyes I had just given up and didn’t even try to make it work. 

Now, I view it differently. 

I am not ashamed of trying and failing. I’m thankful to have been able to live away from home and see how I handled being independent. I’m equally as thankful that I realized Nashville wasn’t working out. 

Instead of viewing it as quitting, I like to think I was being realistic. Waiting around, hoping to someday be happy in a city I felt like a tourist in wasn’t cutting it. I didn’t want to waste time, money and energy to convince myself I was content with Nashville. 

Truthfully, I knew I could never feel entirely happy in Nashville, even if I stayed. But I’m glad I went.

Had I not gone, I’d be just as miserable to be stuck in Arizona. Uprooting to a new city gave me an entirely new outlook, and moving back helped me finally feel settled. 

Reach the reporter at and follow @SaraWindom on Twitter. 

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