Dear Missouri,

When we first moved, my mom tried to comfort me by saying that home was wherever we were together. And while that might be true, it didn't make leaving any easier. I've seen pictures of my birthplace, and I have fleeting memories of a home that wasn't you, but let's be honest: you are the only home I truly consider to be home. So many of my happiest memories were made with friends and family in St. Louis. In high school, I reflected upon my freshman year as the happiest year of my life. I refused to believe that life could ever be as good as it was in this home.

The majority of my life was spent in Missouri. When my family moved, I clung to that. Desperately missing my friends and my school, I reasoned that Ohio could never be home because I had grown up in and spent so much time in a different state. Even a year or two into life in Ohio, I still refused to accept it as home. I was stubborn and unhappy. And even though Ohio is severely lacking in Ted Drew's and t-ravs (toasted ravioli, some of the greatest food known to man), I will admit I don't hate it as much as I used to. I've romanticized my hometown so much that I doubt anywhere else could compare, but Ohio continues to try to prove itself worthy. I've had some great experiences here. I made great friends in high school, ones that I still see. I got to spend whole days at the beach digging my toes in the sand, which was a marvel for someone from right in the middle of the Midwest where the largest body of water is a flooded basement. I found a boy who loves me endlessly and who makes every "what if I'd stayed" scenario I've ever considered meaningless. And I finished my first year of college here.

College. That's another thing. For the past five years, I thought that no location could ever compare to the Gateway to the West. I thought St. Louis would forever be my home. Going to college changed that. In my first year, I found passions I never knew I had, I found the courage to turn childhood dreams into a reality, I found friends that I want to keep for the rest of my life. I found a new home. And this new home makes me happier than I ever thought possible. I'm beyond excited to stay here for the next three years, and I can't wait to see where I go after that. One thing I've learned about myself since leaving my hometown is that I'm not good at staying in one place for too long. I long to travel and go wherever I can, but it's nice to have a place I can call home. Despite my mother's definition of home, I still consider St. Louis as home for the silly reason that it's where I grew up and spent most of my life. I think that when my time outside of St. Louis will exceed the decade or so that I lived there, it'll be a bit of a "mind blown" moment for me. Perhaps when that happens, I'll have to find a new place to call home.

Or maybe my next home won't be a place at all. The more I think about it, the more I realize I should agree with my mother's idea of home. I was heartbroken when I moved 500 miles away from home; she moved to a different country. So maybe home isn't a place or a city; maybe it's not always the friends you made or a family far away. If home is where the heart is, my home is constantly changing. My heart jumps from place to place, it stays and leaves wherever it wants. My home is...everywhere. There's a piece of my heart in St. Louis, another one at Miami, another one wherever my boyfriend is, and one here in Cleveland, at home.

So while I miss you terribly, St. Louis, Missouri, you aren't my only home. You are simply the first of many, and I am so grateful to you for that. You will always have a piece of my heart, St. Louis, whether I'm back for a visit or over 500 miles away. Thank you.