Free to Roam Miles Away from Home

Earlier this morning, I was running through Oak Cliff, the predominantly Mexican neighborhood where I live in Dallas. Piñata shops, taquerias and dozens of auto repair shops line the side of the road in Oak Cliff. In many senses, I’m a minority in this community, a community where blonde hair and blue eyes almost always makes heads turn. But I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Since coming to Dallas, I’ve done a lot of things I wouldn’t normally do in the Northeast where I grew up and went to college, or in Florida, where I’ve lived for the past year. Stepping outside of my comfort zone — by trying new foods, taking Tejano dance lessons, and going to a Nine Inch Nails concert, for instance — has helped distract me from the friends and family I dearly miss. I wouldn’t say these new experiences have cured my homesickness, but they’ve helped my time here go by faster, they’ve made me like Dallas more, and they’ve helped me grow.

Too often, I think we get stuck in the same routine. We shop at the same stores, eat at the same restaurants, drive to work the same way we always have. Change means having to make adjustments, having to step away from what we know and, sometimes, having to say goodbye. Goodbyes can spark feelings of loss, which can be difficult when what we’ve gained is so good and when what we’ve lost in the past still hurts. There’s comfort, though, in knowing that a temporary goodbye is more so a “see you later” or “so long for now.”

I’m thinking about all this while sitting at a Starbucks in Uptown, one of the ritzier areas of Dallas. It’s only a few miles from Oak Cliff, but culturally and socio-economically, it’s worlds away. Most of the customers here are white, and they’re wearing fancy clothes and carrying Crate & Barrell and Pottery Barn bags. There’s nothing wrong with this, but it reminds me a lot of what I experienced while growing up in a small Boston suburb. And it’s part of the reason why I knew I couldn’t go back there after I graduated from college. I needed to step away from what I’d always known and diversify my life experiences. I needed to prove to myself that I could be on my own and be OK.

Even though the transitions from place to place are tough, they help shape who we are and help us to realize what we like and don’t like, what we’ve been missing out on and, often, how lucky we are. I can’t wait to go back to Florida at the end of October, but rather than waste time longing for the familiarity of a place I’ve come to love, I’m braving unfamiliar territory and embracing change.

What suggestions do you have for helping yourself adjust to a new place?

Published by Mallary Tenore Tarpley

Mallary is a mom of two young kiddos -- Madelyn and Tucker. Mallary absolutely loves being a mom and often writes about the need to find harmony when juggling motherhood and work. Mallary is the Assistant Director of the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at the University of Texas at Austin, where she manages the Center's various programs related to distance learning, freedom of expression, and digital journalism. Previously, she was Executive Director of Images & Voices of Hope and Managing Editor of The Poynter Institute’s media news site, Mallary grew up outside of Boston and graduated from Providence College in Rhode Island. In 2015, she received a certificate in nonprofit management from Duke University. She now lives in beautiful Austin, Texas, with her kids, husband Troy and cat Clara. She's working on a memoir, slowly but surely. You can reach her at

5 thoughts on “Free to Roam Miles Away from Home

  1. Hey Mal!

    I love reading your blog by the way. When I came to Des Moines, I had to adjust. I think I am still adjusting. I will never like being 1000 miles away from my family. I love and miss them so much and it’s hard not being able to jump in the car and go see them. But I’m like you, I couldn’t go back when I graduated college. I wanted to experience other things and other places. Aside from it being “pop” and not “soda,” and “sacs” instead of “bags” at Wal-mart, I miss the mountains and the grocery store Wegmans. But there are so many great things about Des Moines. They are constantly building new things and it’s growing so fast. We just bought a home and pretty soon, will get to watch it being built. I’ve been here for almost a year, and there are so many parts of Des Moines that I have not yet seen.

    I’m glad you are doing so well. Take care!!


  2. Hi Ash,

    Thanks for your comment. It’s so nice to know people actually read my blog. 🙂 It sounds like you’re enjoying Des Moines, even despite being far away from friends and family. I’m glad that in some senses you can call Des Moines “home” now. Congrats on the new house!


  3. I liked this post. While I grew up in this area and plan to spend forever and ever here (for better or worse), it’s a must in life to LEAVE. Even if only for a while. You can always go back, if you want. Leaving shocks your senses, jostles your perspective. Sounds like Dallas is doing that for you, which is great. I’d like to see a post that compares/contrasts Dallas with where you’re from in the NE. The good AND the bad. I love hearing from people-not-from-here what’s different about Dallas to them. P.S. I just moved to N. Oak Cliff, too. I love it.

  4. I didn’t know we were practically neighbors! I like your idea about comparing New England to Dallas. I’ll write about it at some point before I leave.

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