In the most ordinary of circumstances, moving is stressful. My moving patterns probably look chaotic to most people.
Most people don’t go from Wisconsin to Arizona to Denver to Fort Collins to Wyoming. Most people don’t pick a city (Denver, in my case) that they’ve never been to — let alone visited the state — where they don’t know anyone and move there. In exactly a year, I moved to not one but two cities where I knew no one.
Safe to say, I am living proof that you can start over in a new place. As such, this is my advice for anyone about to embark on a journey and start somewhere new.
Don’t be afraid!
I’ve had tons of people tell me they admire my bravery or adventurous spirit or that they “could never do what [I’ve] done.” No one has ever told me they think I’m crazy, but I’m sure they’ve thought it — I wouldn’t blame them!
But to all those former comments, everyone is capable of moving somewhere new or trying something different. In fact, I think everyone should. My first year in Colorado was the toughest year I’ve yet experienced, but it was the year I grew the most. Just because something is difficult doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
If you’ve thought about uprooting yourself and trying something new but keep thinking “I can’t do this,” know that you can. However, this doesn’t mean you should cast all responsibilities to the wayside (e.g. my decisions would have looked drastically different had I been in a committed relationship or had kids).
But if your biggest and only thing holding you back is fear of the unknown, I say go for it. You will undoubtedly gain something out of that experience.
Real quick, making friends is hard. It takes a lot of time. You will feel lonely if you’re in a place where you don’t know anyone. But you know what? You can be lonely in a room full of crowded people and even in your own home with your family. It’s not a limited feeling.
The dating pool in Arizona was about as dry as the desert itself, at least in my experience. By the time I got to Denver, I was so optimistic (and wildly naive) about love. I figured I’d be in a city where people liked the same things as me — hiking, being active, trying new things, etc. — so I would meet the love of my life in Colorado.
I commend myself for the optimism, but my outrageously stressful teaching job and focus on dating meant I spent the first several months not investing in building friendships. When the one guy I became friends with and eventually started dating (if you can even call it that) ended things, I suddenly realized I didn’t know anyone else in the city.
Learn from my mistakes! I didn’t make a true friend in Denver until March, 8-9 months after moving there (shoutout Jess). Needless to say, those 8-9 months would have been a lot easier if I had spent more time trying to make friends than trying to get in a relationship.
Here’s what I did differently when, a year after moving to Denver, I moved to Fort Collins.
- Look for Meetups. I actually did this in Denver for a running group and it was how I met a friend. If you’re in a city big enough for Meetups, take advantage of this awesome resource and find a group you’re interested in.
- Get out and around. Currently I’m in a city with 9,000 people, where the nearest Target is almost 2 hours away. There’s no web base to find stuff out, but just from walking around town, I’ve learned of things going on. Just recently, I started joining a running club!
- Ask people to do things. I’ve been the person that asks people way too soon to do something and they get turned off to the idea. I fully own that sometimes I get so excited about hanging out with someone that I have the awkward energy of a labrador. But I’ve also been the person that asks someone to do something and it pans out. My go-to is still telling someone “I’m going to do xyz thing, do you want to join?” If the answer’s no, then I still get to do something fun, but if the answer’s yes, then I get to do something fun with a potential friend. Shoutout Ginny for getting coffee with me in Fort Collins < 3
- Be patient. Making friends takes a lot of time! Don’t be discouraged, and rest assured that as long as you’re making an effort or at least open to the idea of stepping outside your comfort zone, things will happen.
- Maintain your existing friendships. I would have suffered so much more in Denver if I did not have my incredible friends to talk to. Talk on the phone with your loved ones often to maintain those amazing relationships.
Grow comfortable with yourself.
My entire life, I felt the need to always have plans. I nearly always had plans. Denver was a drastic change of pace, and it was a huge adjustment. I recall bringing a book to a restaurant on my birthday because I wasn’t convinced people were going to show up for it (they did, and I still am thankful).
But I learned to cherish and love my alone time. Learning to be with yourself is one of the greatest accomplishments you can achieve in life. My time in Denver shaped me into being a person who hangs out or does things more authentically now, not for the sake of avoiding being alone.
Do things with yourself frequently. Go for walks, take a book to a park with a blanket, go to a new restaurant, take on a hobby in your apartment — whatever it is, spend quality time with yourself and grow comfortable with being alone.
Most people probably won’t up and move somewhere unknown. Everyone’s journey is their own, but if you’re ever afraid to start over, know that you have what it takes. When you come out the other side, your thoughts on the tumultuous experience will be of so much gratitude and thanks.