A True Story of Home Is Where the Heart Is

365 Days After Graduation: Samantha Dorman


Everyone has a story to tell. What matters is whether or not they get the chance to share it. Here, real people recount their 365 days that follow college graduation. For those of you between the many options life gives you, we hope this helps you find your route.

What do you do when you’re ready to follow your heart all the way across the country, but your biggest supporters aren’t ready to let you go?

After college, the next phase of your life is shaped by where you’ll live, what you’ll be doing, and with whom you want to do it. Sometimes, it’s not a straight shot decision. This was especially relevant for Sam, whose decision factored more than herself; it also affected her significant other and her family. Sam and Jesse are high school sweethearts who have been together for six and a half years now. Through her four years of college, her friends have known her to be the kind of person who believes “it doesn’t matter where I go, it just matters who I’m with.” This is a story of how true this statement became within the last year following graduation.

It was around 8 p.m. PST, making it 11 p.m. on the east coast for her and Jesse. Jesse had another hour until he finished his online tutoring shift and, being the kind and considerate girlfriend she is, Sam stayed up to wait for him and took this time to have a video interview with me.

Once her video appeared, you see Sam lounging in her Albany apartment living room. You can faintly hear Jesse in the background. Sam looks comfortable; she looks at home. After exactly nine months in Albany and a full year post graduation, she’s made a life for herself on the complete other side of the country.

It wasn't always like this. Sam's plan to move with Jesse was rocky at first, but you'll find that the life that the two have made for themselves is the sum of strong self-motivation and trust.


How it Started: To Move or Not to Move After College

We started talking about how she’s adjusted and then took a look at what her life was like 12 months prior to this day, May of 2016. It all began when Jesse had been admitted to University at Albany’s masters program and he had decided this was where he’d be for the next few years. She and Jesse had been talking about moving to Albany for a few months prior, but it wasn’t until she officially graduated and moved back home with her family that it became real.

Sam explains that originally, it was exciting and nerve-wracking looking forward to what would come next. Then, when she was finally able to see how her parents truly felt about this decision, she lost all of that excitement. The feeling of not having their support made her think over the situation over and over again.

“I was on my own,” Sam said when describing her feelings after she came back home for the summer. “I was nervous. I didn’t have a job. I didn’t know what to do.”

Now, let’s look at this as a whole. This is a big step in more ways than one. Sam was figuring out what she would be doing work-wise after college. She was choosing whether or not she’d be moving in with her boyfriend of five and half years at the time. She was deciding if it was a good idea to move across the country, thousands of miles away from her family, after living in California all her life.

There was fear there, but when it came to Jesse, she knew that being apart for the four years through college had been difficult. Being away from him was heavy on their relationship and moving to Albany with him would be the option “where that wouldn’t happen anymore.” Of course, taking this step meant thinking over not only the good, but the consequences of growing pains in the relationship as well.

Through the three months toward moving day, Sam was distraught. For the most part she had decided on going. After ruminating on the two choices she had and with just a week left until the planned moving day, Sam told Jesse that she wasn’t going through with it anymore. She had decided that she wouldn't be able to move to Albany with him. After four years of just wanting to be together, the lack of support overwhelmed her and completely changed her decision.

“I told him, ‘I’m not going’ that week before we left. It was fear. It was, ’I don’t know what’s happening, and I don’t know if I’m going to go through with it anymore.”

Now, we all have these moments of doubt where we just step back and say, ”I can’t do this.” In this moment, the doubt surrounding Sam made her stray from away from her usual confidence in her decisions. But saying you can't do something in one moment doesn't solidify that you can't do it. For Sam, this wasn't her solidifying moment.


The Decision-Making Factor

“I was sitting on the floor in my mom’s room I was just crying for a week straight, so I told her, ‘Come in the other room.’”

That day, her mom told her that she had to decide for herself whether she was going to Albany or not. What it took for Sam was looking deeper and comparing both situations. Sam knew how much she hurt Jesse when she said she wasn’t going anymore. In turn, she felt like it hurt her more telling Jesse “Good bye” than it was telling her parents the same thing.

“I had to figure this out. I had to see if it was going to work. I just told myself not to change my mind. It would be okay and it would have to happen eventually. So, I left [to Albany].”

For Sam, when it comes to any statement, she knows how to stick with it. Day in and day out, she exerts confidence in every step she takes and every sentence she speaks. For a while, she was between choices until she was able to regain the confidence in herself and her decisions she’s always had.

“It was rough.”

When you’re not getting the support that you expect from the ones you rely on most, it’s hard to go with that decision. Sam recalls the countless times in her life where it mattered more that she was able to find motivation in herself. She was moving 2,820 miles away from home, and it was a scary thing to think about. Her response?

“In my experience, you just have to do it. I wish I had that support from my family and from the people I was leaving, but you kind of just have to motivate yourself to do things because that’s what it’s going to be like. You don’t have people to fall back on. If you can’t motivate yourself to go there, you won’t be able to motivate yourself while you’re there.”

on July 18, 2016, thanks to Sam’s persistence to pursue what she wanted most, Jesse and Sam made their way to the east coast. In Albany, Sam had no job lined up and an apartment that neither of them had ever seen. A week later, they arrived in New York with their own blank canvas in a brand new city that they’ve been adding to ever since they moved in.

How did you learn how to be completely independent so quickly?

“It was scary, especially coming here and knowing that I don’t have a job—knowing that this is not a dance location when that’s what I got my degree in. But since I had taken that [hospitality tourism management] class, I was interested in hospitality. So, I looked online—mostly Indeed and other different job sites—and I applied to a bunch of hotels.”

After just nine months of living in Albany, Sam has enabled herself to be promoted from a front desk agent to a sales coordinator at Hilton Garden Inn. All of this success stemmed from being flexible in seeking out the right job that would put her foot in the industry door. She’s given many people this same advice, reiterating that if she could get this far in hospitality just by starting from the bottom, anyone else can do the same.

“Like I said, you have to motivate yourself. Not that you can’t depend on anyone else,” she reminds us. “How is somebody else motivating you going to get you to do something?”

It's true, you can't always depend on other people to make your decisions for you. Especially in these moments where you're truly defining your life, the best person to listen to is yourself. For Sam, her confidence in her own decision brought her across the country to live happily ever after with her high school sweetheart. Since the two left, they've designed their space to match their lifestyle, they've explored different parts of the East Coast together, visited home a few times and have learned how to successfully make a life for themselves together.

As Sam taught us, it's scary not knowing what to expect, but it's equally as exciting looking forward to your future with whomever you may be planning it with. Now, take it from her. If she can start from scratch in a brand new city to follow her heart, so can you!

Now that you've heard her story, where do you see your road taking you in the next year of your life?