Moving frequently helps Johnson grow as a person

Abby Siu, Staff Writer

Settle in, move, repeat. Her whole  life, Hayley Johnson (9) has had to adapt to a lifestyle of moving to different states and countries every few years due to her dad’s job in the military.

The first day of school is always nerve wracking for Johnson, standing in front of a class of completely new people, introducing herself and trying to fit in with a group of students who’ve known each other for years, versus her not knowing anybody.

Johnson’s first move was in 2008. Since then, she’s had to move five other times to places including Norfolk, Virginia, in 2007 and 2009, Jacksonville, Florida in 2008, Naples, Italy in 2016, and San Diego, California in 2019.

Every time Johnson moves to a new place, not only does she have to get used to living in a new house, but she also has to form new relationships with people, and experience growing more distant with people from past ones.

“I think it’s really hard to keep and maintain really close friendships when you can’t interact in person, especially now [that] I’m older and [people] have better and stronger bonds with people,” Johnson said.

Specifically, Johnson said that when she moved to San Diego before seventh grade, middle school was especially challenging without any established friendships. “I think it was AVID or ASB that invited me to sit with them for my first year, but after that, I sat alone until I met [another] girl I could talk to during lunch,”  Johnson said. “I don’t want to say I was depressed, but I think I was really sad all the time because I didn’t have any friends, and it was just kind of embarrassing for me.”

Johnson also said moving around so often has shaped her personality.

“You have to settle in and get comfortable around people before your true personality shows, and then you can start developing yourself,” Johnson said. “It gets really difficult to get comfortable and talk to people [when] you’re still in your shell and uncomfortable around them.”

Even though moving has affected Johnson’s relationships and personality, she said that she’s also learned resilience from having to adapt to new environments and circumstances.

“I think it’s kind of painful to be moving around so much, but I know I’ll always bounce back and make new friends and settle in,” Johnson said. “I’m always super upset when we have to move, but then I get excited because I get to see a new place.”

Despite the challenges, Johnson said that she enjoys moving since she gets to learn and experience different cultures.

“It was really fun to be immersed in Italian culture and stuff before moving [to San Diego],” Johnson said. “I think it’s really interesting that you get to see new stuff. If you live in Europe you can travel all around there, and I think it’s just nice to just be able to move around and see what you can do.”

This summer, Johnson is preparing to move back to Norfolk, Virginia, saying goodbye to all of her friends at Westview.

“It’s bittersweet because I’m excited to go back to where I was born and see how everything is going and meet new people again,” Johnson said. “But at the same time, I’m really upset because I like this school and all the people here, and moving is like being pulled away from it, which is always kind of painful.”

Though Johnson was saddened about having to move yet again, she said that even if she could, she wouldn’t change the fact that her dad is in the military.

“I’ve grown used to it, and I think it’s fun to move around, and I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t,” Johnson said. “I wouldn’t be the same person I am today if we hadn’t.”