So excited to introduce you to the lovely Cara Meredith today. I met Cara the day before she spoke for our MOPS group a few months ago, and from the moment we sat down to share pizza and stories I knew that we’d be friends. Not only is she a brilliant writer and an engaging speaker, she’s also hilarious, honest, and filled with wisdom.
We just celebrated our six-month anniversary in a new city.
It wasn’t just a move down the street, but a move two states away, so these six months have meant new schools and new grocery store and a new neighborhood, too. It’s meant a new church and new friends and an entirely new culture to watch and see and get to know as an outsider who’s desperately trying to find her way as an insider.
It’s meant purposefully not traveling back to the Bay Area, where my husband and I had lived for twenty and fifteen years respectfully, because Oakland, California still feels too much like home.
And, at least for me, I have to learn to let this new place become home, before I set my sights on what was home.
After all, a certain finesse is required in order to move well. As I’ve learned from multiple moves over the last twenty years, sometimes our greatest survival skills to use. In that way, here are ten ways to survive a move:
- Let yourself mourn. The first time I ever made a major move, from one state to another, from a place of deep belonging to a place of not knowing a soul, I got it all wrong. I thought, because I was following what I’d deemed God’s direction, that no negative emotions should be associated with the major life transition – but moving is one of the five greatest stressors a person can experience. So, don’t “should” on yourself with how you think you should act. Instead, mourn. Lament. Feel the sadness of losing a people and a place. And know that it’s okay.
2. Put on your extroverted face. Take this with a grain of salt, as this is coming from a bonafide extrovert: when you move, you have to step up your extroverted game. The experience of moving is oftentimes opposite of what it should be: people should reach out to you, but oftentimes, they don’t.
Unless you’ve moved, you don’t realize what it means to feel off-kilter in a new place with new people and new surroundings. So, when you meet someone new, put on your Big Girl Panties and be the first to extend an invitation.
3. Do your research beforehand. This is a tricky one, but look at it this way: as grown-ups, you know what you like and don’t like, what attracts you and repels you. While some things, like finding the right preschool for your child, might be better scoped out in person, consider doing recon on things like the right fit of a church beforehand. F
or us, I narrowed down places of potential worship based on information from their websites alone: what are their theological beliefs? Is their staff equally comprised of men and women? Do they value people of color, both in positions of leadership and in the church body? By doing your homework ahead of time, you’ll be able to narrow down the best fit for you and not waste so much time discarding the bad fits.
4. Find your one place – then go, again and again and again. Soon after we moved, I polled (my) readers for their best tricks on thriving as the new kid in town. This list of 83 ways to dominate as the new kid in town lit a fire in me, as we stepped into the newness of Seattle.
That being said, one of the things people mentioned again and again was finding your one place. Be it a grocery store, a park, a library or a mom’s group, find that place, and go, again and again. Even if it doesn’t feel quite like home (because it won’t, at least not at first), by committing to your one place, it just might become home.
5. Hunker down. Sure, you have to put yourself out there, over and over again. That’s part of the joy of transitioning, after all. But there’s also a severe need to hunker down. Plan on your life being quiet for a little bit. Accept the fact that your social life may take a back seat for the first year or two.
Then, use the quiet and calm for good: snuggle up with someone you love. Dig into that stack of books you’ve been meaning to read. Binge watch show after show on Netflix. Dirty your kitchen by making all of those recipes you’ve torn out of magazines. And relish in this season of hunkering down.
- Reach out to acquaintances. Once you announce that you’re moving to a new place, you’ll be inundated with connections. “Oh, my cousin lives there!” “My best friend lives a couple minutes away from where you’ll be living.”
Don’t just let potential acquaintances go in one ear and out the other, but follow through and get to know friends of friends. Even if you just end up seeing each other once, connecting with those who are already connected to someone you know might provide a deeper sense of belonging.
- Practice your own year of yes. It’s no joke that Shonda Rhimes’ memoir, Year of Yes has become my mantra since we moved. And there’s a good reason for it: her book dared me out of the rabbit hole I’d been burrowing down into, as a result of the transition.
Dare to treat your move as you would an adventure: there’s so much just waiting to be discovered, if we choose to treat it and see it as such. Look at your move as One Grand Adventure, and see if that small change of perspective transforms your viewpoint.
- Make a list. It happened again yesterday: upon stumbling upon a hidden gem of a beach on a sunny day in the Pacific Northwest, we found ourselves in conversation with new people. “Where else should we go?” we asked them, desirous to find another place just like this, another place only locals know and can pass on to other wannabe-locals.
As the woman rattled off a couple of parks to add to our list, my husband typed them into his cell phone. Now, we each have a running list on our phones that we reference and try to check off as much as we can.
- Don’t be afraid to say, “me, too.” One night, we sat around the table with a new group of friends from church; we wanted to know why everyone had chosen to show up to community group that night. Finally, one guy spoke up and said, “I’m new in town, and I want to find my people. Really, I just want to belong.” Heads nodded and lips murmured, “me too.”
Together we’d found our commonality: at the end of the day, we all just want to belong. We all want to find our people. We all want to whisper, “me, too.” Listen for those sacred words, and when you do hear them or whisper them yourself, consider the moment holy.
- Be realistic. A wise friend once told me that it takes a good two to four years to transition into a new place. Oftentimes, in our technologically-driven society, we forget that not everything in life comes quickly, nor should it come quickly. So, when you’re having a hard time settling in, give yourself a pat on the back and remember that this too takes time – then, rinse and repeat the grand idea of hunkering down (or whatever it is for you), once again.
Remember, you will not only survive your move, but you will ultimately thrive in your move. So, take heart and grab whatever aphorism you need: this too shall pass. You got this. We can do hard things. I believe in you.
What would you add? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Cara Meredith is a writer and speaker from Seattle, Washington. Co-host of the Shalom in the City book club podcast, she is also passionate about issues of race and meals around the table with people she loves. You can connect with her on her website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Also, if you want to read more about her latest move, read her essay in Everbloom (Paraclete Press).