After You Move: Steps to Loving Your New Location
For some people, moving is as a normal as trading in a car after a couple years of use. For the rest of us, though, it can seem like a life-altering event... and in many ways it is. In the beginning it alters your routine. Suddenly you're dealing with a new space to turn into a home, you're familiarizing yourself with amenities nearby, you're learning how your new grocery store is laid out and what they have or don't have. Maybe you even have to follow your phone's GPS for several weeks to get yourself anywhere (I still do!). Nevertheless, it's a huge transition and one that doesn't really come with a manual for acclimating yourself.
We moved to Georgia, just over a year ago from Wisconsin. I wish I could say it had been a cinch, but my first several months here were met with situational depression (sometimes called adjustment disorder). I missed my friends, family, familiarity, the culture of Wisconsin, road systems (haha), and my old sense of adventure that seemed to blossom in the less populated Midwest. Majority of those first months were spent in tears that often times had nothing to even trigger them besides "not feeling like myself." Thankfully, I have a kind and caring husband who handled my emotions with grace, and it was very meaningful to be able to talk to my mom and sisters so frequently on the phone. In fact, it was whilst talking to my oldest sister, one day, that I finally had the breakdown my mind and body needed. I bawled on the phone after she asked casually how I had been. It was the kind of cry a child has when they're literally blubbering and you can't understand a single word in between those 'cry-breaths.' I don't know how to better describe it, unfortunately, but it was rather pathetic and I think I made my sister miss a portion of a class she was taking! After that, though, things seemed to get better with each day. Now, I feel more at home, and still each day, I'm growing to love Georgia bit by bit... especially its weather!
The thing is, I know my scenario probably isn't unusual, and I think it would do some good to open up about the struggles related to this. Moving is very hard for some people, and finding the right support can be difficult. Like my post on relating to others, it's easy to forget how hard something like a move can be. In two years, I'll look back on my move with glazed eyes, and tell the newcomer to our hometown how they'll get used to it. How does that help them? When people told me that, it only made me more alone. It made me feel like I just needed to tough it out and forget I was struggling with it.... and it just didn't help.
Today, if you're struggling from the changes of a new move let me help you. Let me be honest and tell you that it's not very easy, sometimes. That it's lonely and foreign and misunderstood. Let me also tell you, that it will get better... but in the meantime, it's okay to cry. Let me help you, by giving you some ideas I wish I had tried a little sooner. Remember that it's an adventure and good things will come in time!
1. Acclimate to a nearby grocery store.
It sounds silly, but once I felt comfortable knowing my way around the nearest grocery store, I felt more at home. When you don't feel like you're making laps and always missing the item you're looking for, you'll know you're a little more established. When I actually started to get to know the employee's names and faces over the course of a few weeks, I had a familiar place to go during those times I felt lonely.
2. Learn to love the area culture.
This is one I should have thought of the minute we moved here! When I moved to Wisconsin for school, I fought the "Wisconsin pride" culture until my graduating year. When I finally let myself love it and stop seeing myself as a foreigner (a native Iowan), I finally fell in love with it! The beer, cheese, custard, cold weather activities, seasonal festivals, foodie culture, and coffee roasteries became my happy place and a source of camaraderie amongst the people around me. Upon moving to Georgia, I just kept focusing on how much it wasn't Wisconsin and I hated it (I'm still learning the culture in Georgia). Once you appreciate it for what it is, you can love it. Just as my mom says: once you learn to love someone for exactly who they are, instead of wishing they were different, you'll learn they're more easy to be around and you'll enjoy their company.
3. Instigate social activities.
This one was hard for me. I felt insecure and worried that people wouldn't want to hang out with me and often just waited for people to invite me. I still struggle with this a little, but it's important to put yourself out there to meet new people. Whether it's inviting a co-worker out for a drink, or having some friends over for dinner, the social interaction is important. Say yes to as many social engagements in the beginning as you're able. Working from home made this especially hard for me. Thankfully, though, I now have people nearby that I can text on a moment's notice and meet up with for coffee or lunch.
4. Create a support group.
For me, it was just my sisters, mom, and friends through phone calls (and Tom, but I hated that he always had to get the brunt of my tears). I would suggest finding (at least) one person you can visit with in real life. It took time, but now I can say there's a few souls in the area that I can be real with and go to for a little venting session.
Like the grocery store stability idea, also find some "favorites" early on. A go-to for Chinese take-out. Your favorite place to grab a beer and watch the game. Best place for a casual date night. Best place to browse when you're bored (for us it's an outdoor mall). Find a new favorite coffee shop to visit occasionally. Where's the best BBQ? Slowly become an expert on your area, and keep learning about all the fun, hole-in-the-wall spots!
6. Find a church home.
This was an obvious one for us, as it's very important in our life. Once we found a stable, comfortable, familiar place to worship, other pieces fell into place. We had a place besides our actual house that felt like home. People we could count on seeing every week, people who's lives we knew about and who knew about ours. All with the same basis of faith and community. We are always so thankful that it was one of the very first positive things we found upon moving!
7. Invite friends and family to visit.
This was easier than we imagined. People WANTED to visit because of the weather and we had about one or two visitors every month for nearly a year! This gave us something to look forward to, especially on the days when we felt especially lonely. Seriously... knowing that people were going to come see me, kept me sane.
8. Plan trips!
This one has been a lifesaver! In learning to love a new area, it's also important to learn what kinds of things are a short drive away. It familiarizes you even further and helps you realize that you live somewhere pretty darn cool! We've driven to the ocean, to the mountains, to Nashville, and are planning some flights in the near future for family visits as well as leisure and work. Getting away is very important in learning to love where you live - it goes along with becoming an expert :)
9. Remember the positives.
For a while, it was easy to focus on the negatives.
No one here 'gets' me... their beer isn't as good... the traffic is horrible... why is it so expensive?... I miss my friends...
When those thoughts creep in, overrule them with positivity.
I have friends worth missing... their sweet tea is so much better... the weather here is incredible... I love that people want to visit... we got a house here!
Just the act of being positive about it will enhance your overall mood.
10. Find a routine.
Personally, I need a stable routine. Too many interruptions in my day-to-day and I feel stressed. I try to keep an even balance between time with Tom, time for work, social activities, and personal growth. It's hard to say no (more on that later!) but managing your schedule and what works best for you will not only help you, but your relationships with others as well. For example, leaving room for spontaneity is very important to me, so sometimes I say no, so I can say yes to something crazy!
I'm so glad to mostly be on the other side of the transition of our move. It was a struggle that I felt alone in, and it caused me to close off to the few people I had met. I'm learning more and more to go to others when I'm in need of some love and prayers, but also to buck up and have confidence in who I am. I feel more like the "old me" every day and my independence is finally starting to peek through. The fragility of my emotions seems to be something of the past, now, and I'm so glad to say it. Tom has been such an encouragement and I'm always blessed to have my Savior to lean on in all my troubles (and joys!).
Is this struggle something you know all too well? What has helped you? I won't tell you it's easy, because it wasn't, but I will tell you it gets better. In the meantime, I hope these ideas can help.