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The end of a good Disney movie normally has some sort of reunion. Mulan got to go home, Ariel got to live on land with the prince, and Rapunzel met her real parents. We all go through times where we are surrounded by our loved ones, and times where we feel like we are traveling alone. How do we manage to continue growing as people, even when our role models, family, or friends aren’t with us?

I ran into this when I left for college. I wanted to be on my own, independent, and I was ready to conquer the world. My roommate is also my cousin and one of my best friends, so I had someone to lean on. I quickly settled and adjusted to my new life, rather successfully too. I loved every second of being able to use the adult mentality and responsibility I had acquired at a young age for the “real world”. 

Although I still loved college, I started to feel like I was missing something. Putting my finger on it, I was in a new place with 26,000 students, and yet, I hadn’t made any friends. I went from living at home with six other people, working every day with the five other officers, and hanging out with friends, to living in an unfamiliar place, full of unfamiliar faces. I went from being the oldest sibling that handed out snacks, to only having to do my laundry once a week. 

My closest friends were four hours away and I realized for the first time in my life, I was alone. 

I thought I would be homesick for a place, but I soon learned I was homesick for people.

So how do we fix feeling stuck, alone, or homesick? It’s not like we can just give up on the homework assignment from last week, or decide to not feed the cows to hang out with friends. So what is the secret to balancing yourself?

I have pondered this question many times, sometimes ending in tears and phone calls to those I missed. How was I going to survive four hours from everyone I held near and dear to my heart? The answer was I needed to grow where I was planted. I needed to work on myself so that I could be better for myself and everyone around me, or, as a past state officer once told me, “you cannot pour from an empty cup”. So how did I fill mine back up? Truthfully the thought of purposefully only filling my cup felt wrong. I felt selfish and even more alone. Never the less I spent time studying, working, and even finding new friends at Missouri State (and I am still working on these skills). Soon life got better, happier, and more fulfilling.

My cup was full!

Is that really the whole trick? Just fill your cup when you feel stuck? Well no, it isn’t always that easy, but when you decide to focus on yourself, you start a new chapter of growth. That new growth can lead to new opportunities and even sweeter reunions.

In the time of my “personal growth journey” I learned something about being homesick. I had made the mistake of taking my officer team for granted. I got out of my truck in Manhattan, Kansas to the best hugs, laughs, and joy I had felt in a while. I missed them while I was gone, but I never realized just how much I cared for every single one of my teammates and their quirky talents, sayings, and gestures. I got my Disney reunion, and now I understand why they make the perfect end to a movie. That moment I was home, and I was not alone. However, unlike Disney, my reunion did not come at the end of my journey. Throughout the rest of our car ride to Indianapolis and now finishing this blog from our hotel, I cannot believe just how lucky I am to have these five by my side.

Without my trip through homesickness, new places, and facing life alone, I may have missed the chance to realize how much I need my team. 

Sometimes, we may feel alone even when there are people right next to us. It is so easy to get overwhelmed with school work, SAEs, or even just trying to keep up with what is going on around us we skip over those we care about. The people we care about aren’t always too far away, but we still miss little moments because we focus on the “must-dos” in life. However it is critical to take time to step away, journey ourselves, maybe even gain a new perspective and fill our cups, so we can pour into and appreciate those we have.

What areas in your life do you feel like you need a “personal growth journey”? How are you going to fill your cup this week and embrace those around you?

Jocelyn Dvorak, State Treasurer