On Living in Las Vegas

What a year. Seriously, what a year.

Living in Las Vegas has been an experience, to say the least. I’ve learned more than I ever imagined I would — mostly about myself — and I’ve grown as a person from the second I moved here.

Come next week, however, everything changes for me once again when I embark on a new adventure to Chicago, Ill. I’m pursuing a master’s degree at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism — a longtime dream of mine — and I’m ecstatic for the opportunity.

My best friend Michelle — who bought me my first Northwestern shirt — and me at the Encore

My best friend Michelle — who bought me my first Northwestern shirt — and me at the Encore

While packing my belongings, I’ve started to reflect on how crazy my life has been since I graduated in May 2011. As of next week, I will have lived in four cities in 16 months — San Marcos, New York City, Las Vegas and Chicago — each very different from one another and all providing me with a new perspective on life.

About a year ago, I read this blog post titled “On Moving to New York.” Every single word resonated with me, as it perfectly described what it feels like when you first move to that city. Rereading the post now, it inspired me to write something similar about living in Vegas. So, here it is:

On moving to Las Vegas, you’ll be excited. The thought of moving here without knowing a soul doesn’t even cross your mind because all you can think about is finally getting back to doing what you love every day: Reporting and writing and telling people’s stories. You’ll be thrilled when your stepmom offers to take the road trip with you, and you’ll convince yourself you’re ready for another big life change.

On moving to Las Vegas, you’ll love every second of that road trip with your stepmom because you spend the entire 18 hours talking about life, your career, guys and things you’ve never discussed before. You’ll wish you’d had more of these moments. When you drive into the desert and you see the Strip in the distance, your excitement builds and continues to do so as you both go out and celebrate.

Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada

Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada

On living in Las Vegas, the second you come home from dropping your stepmom off at the airport, reality hits you like a ton of bricks. You lie on your bed — the only piece of furniture you’ll have for a week — in your small one-bedroom apartment, and in that moment, you feel more alone than you’ve ever felt in your life. It isn’t until that moment when you realize you don’t know anybody in this town, and your closest friends are five hours away. You’ll cry, question your decision to move here and then quickly snap out of it for the moment.

On living in Las Vegas, during your first day of work, you’ll be nervous, but you’ll jump right in and start reporting that day. You’ll be thankful for the incredible internships you had in the past that prepared you for that first day. You’ll get lost driving dozens of times and become frustrated as a result, but you’ll turn these times into adventures. You’ll quickly throw yourself into work and make it your prime focus, mostly because it’s all you have with the exception of football on the weekends. You’ll love your job, your beat and what you learn from the people you interview on a daily basis, which is exactly what you hoped for when you moved here.

View from the Stratosphere observation deck

View from the Stratosphere observation deck

On living in Las Vegas, you’ll dread the weekends. You’ll realize loneliness is underrated, and you try to balance staying sane while still figuring out the city. You’ll spend so much time with just yourself, however, that you do go insane, and you’ll develop hatred for things you’ve never despised before. At that point, you try occupying your time by watching an unhealthy amount of football and catching up with friends back home when they can, as they now live different and very busy lifestyles.

On living in Las Vegas, you’ll eventually realize that all of this alone time does have one advantage. You get to spend a lot of hours — more than you’d prefer — on some soul searching. You’ll start to figure out who you truly are, mostly because you don’t have influence from others for the first time in your life. Because no one you personally know can relate, you begin to build your own path and feel empowered as a result.

On living in Las Vegas, you’ll be thrilled when your parents visit just before Thanksgiving. You’ll realize that even though you’re an adult and on your own now, you still need your parents’ moral support and their love. You won’t admit it to them, but part of you will wish you’d stayed in Texas where you can see your family as often as you’d like.

On living in Las Vegas, that feeling does start to go away temporarily when you talk to a couple of coworkers. Your colleagues will give you weekend plans, a place to spend Thanksgiving other than on your couch, company at UNLV basketball games, lunch and coffee dates and just good conversation. You may not have much in common with some of them, but a few become your saving graces, and you learn a lot from each other. You’ll realize human contact is underrated when you get your first hug from someone in three months, and you finally start to be yourself again.

UNLV vs. TCU basketball game

UNLV vs. TCU basketball game

On living in Las Vegas, you’ll meet men through these friends and go on several dates. But they’re all horrible, and they’ll make you appreciate the truly good guys you dated in college. At one point, however, you’ll meet someone incredible and different from anyone you’ve dated in the past. You promise yourself you won’t fall for him, but you do, and it turns out to be the greatest thing to happen during your time here. You learn something from every moment you spend with this person, and he’ll be there when you’re at your worst (which happens more often than it should). Don’t let go of this person, and let your guard down from the beginning (because I didn’t).

On living in Las Vegas, you’ll make a trip to Los Angeles to visit your favorite Texans in California. You’ll also go home for Christmas, a good friend’s wedding and a surprise visit for Father’s Day, all for a couple of days each visit. Spending time with these people you love make you thankful for a strong support system even though they’re miles away. When you return from these trips, you’ll revert to that lonely feeling, but you’ll remember that you chose this lifestyle.

My sister and I at Fremont East

My sister and I at Fremont East

On living in Las Vegas, you’ll spend New Year’s Eve on the Strip, and it will be incredible. Your best friend in college will come in town for your birthday, and you’ll have a fantastic weekend because of it. Several friends from home will visit within three months, and although the touristy stuff is exhausting, you never get tired of hiking, trying new things and spending time with these friends who just get you. Cherish these moments, because these are the friends who will be around forever, no matter where you are in this world.

On living in Las Vegas, you’ll fall out of friendship with people here and back home. It will be unexpected and a bit disappointing, but you learn from it. You’ll move on, and you’ll be thankful for the time you’ve spent with them. It’s part of growing up. And just before that craziness ensues, you’ll grow closer to a couple of other coworkers who turn out to be two of the greatest people you’ve met in Vegas. You’ll have crazy adventures bowling, going to live shows, baseball games and just being ridiculous with one of them. She’ll put a smile on your face no matter what, and she’ll connect with you like no one else could. The other will make you laugh nonstop, and he’ll be a great person to talk to about anything, including parts of your life story as you attempt the climb up Angels Landing at Zion National Park (and in the car rides to and from Utah).

Victoria and I before heading to the House of Blues Las Vegas

Victoria and I before heading to the House of Blues Las Vegas

On living in Las Vegas, you’ll make that final decision to go to graduate school, one you’ve been thinking about for months. It will break your heart to tell a couple of people you’re leaving, but you know the few (and amazing) friends you have here understand. You’ll start to get excited, and you’ll convince yourself that you’ve made the right choice.  You realize who you are now is going to change in every aspect within the next few months, and that possibility makes you very optimistic.

On living in Las Vegas, you’ll recognize that although this year was one filled with loneliness, frustration and depression, among other things, it was also filled with growth, maturation and endless learning experiences. You’ll be proud for getting through the toughest times on your own, but you’ll be even prouder that you paved the way for those who are willing to take the same risks you did. You’re stronger than you initially realized, and you’re braver than anyone you’ve known. Most people don’t have the guts to do what you did, and you’ll be satisfied knowing that you not only survived, but you seized every opportunity available. You’ll leave behind very little, but you’ll take the experiences with you into a new one that is sure to be life-changing.

On leaving Las Vegas, you’ll be glad you took the risk. You’ll miss Fremont East, Runnin’ Rebels basketball games and your few close friends, but you won’t miss the person you were. Vegas may almost destroy you, but at the same time, it will make you better.

Drive carefully, come back soon? Will do, Vegas.

Drive carefully, come back soon? Will do, Vegas.

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