Moving to a new city as an adult is, in my opinion, one of the greatest trials of life. While those that have never moved far from home may find this statement a wee bit dramatic, those that have started completely fresh in a new town will know exactly what I mean. Starting completely from scratch feels nearly impossible. When I moved to Oklahoma for graduate school, my mom came out with me to help get my apartment set up. The first few days in my new city I had her by my side, so I didn’t notice how lonely it was. The second I got back from dropping her off at the airport and closed my front door behind me, I realized: I was completely alone.
The loneliness hits you in waves. You get busy with your job, with school, with whatever reason that you moved to the new town. But then, when you’re sitting on the couch and you see a commercial for a new movie coming out you realize: you have no one to go with. Your birthday rolls around and you think about inviting a few friends over and realize: you don’t have any. The worst is when a colleague asks you what you’re doing over the weekend and you don’t have any plans because you don’t have anyone to make plans with. You want to scream “I promise I have lots of friends and I’m really fun I just don’t have any here yet!” I remember distinctly after we moved from Texas to California my mom took us to the elementary school to register us. The forms asked for friends to call if my parents couldn’t be reached and my mother, embarrassed, had to tell the secretary she had no one to write down. I still remember the words she used: “I have many friends, and I hope to have friends here, but I have none here yet.” I was so confused. No friends? We have lots of friends! Miss Melanie! Miss Martha! Miss Mona! But it didn’t matter – they were thousands of miles away. And as such, it was as if they didn’t exist.
Oh, it’s just awful. BUT – and this is critical – I wouldn’t take back my big moves. Ever. I love having the loneliness as part of my history. It taught me so many things. Self-help books and articles that splash the covers of magazines like Glamour and Cosmopolitan always talk about learning to love yourself and be your own best company. It’s corny, but when you have no one to be with but yourself, you really do realize what good company you are. Growing up with two sisters, and then moving straight into the dorm, and then into the sorority house for three years, I had never not had people around. Moving to Oklahoma, it was just me and my 750 square feet of studio apartment. There was a lot of time to think. A lot of time to dance. A lot of time to watch 17 episodes in a row of Grey’s Anatomy alone. And once you realize that there is a difference between being alone and being lonely, you actually find it oddly empowering.
To this day I need alone time. James calls it my “loner tendencies.” There would be times when we first moved in together where I would start getting fidgety and quick to temper. James would playfully ask if my loner tendencies were kicking in, and then, lovingly, get lost. All I needed was to sit on my couch, staring at the wall, for two hours. I relish alone time. I love that I know that I am great company. This is the biggest thing you learn when you have to start over somewhere: You really are your own best company.
That said, I am an incredibly social person, and having no friends is like having a quesadilla without cheese. Fine, but missing the very best part. So if you are in the throws of this loneliness, or you are about to be, here are a few things I found that helped.
It’s awkward. And weird. And as someone who has never even asked a boy out before, asking a girl out is super uncomfortable. BUT, I have never asked a nice coworker, or a girl at my gym, or the cousin of my mom’s Pilates instructor who I was told I had to call out to get a cup of coffee or a cupcake or something and had them say no. Most women have experienced the starting-over effect, and so they are sympathetic and willing to give you an hour of their time. I mean it. Are you the new girl in town and living within 30 miles of me? Send me a message. I’ll take you to get the best cookie in Arlington and be your friend. Because I get it.
Join something. Anything.
And I don’t mean a gym where you go and look around and see one other girl on the treadmill and smile at her and have her ignore you because she’s on mile 9 and has no time to talk. You need something with like minded individuals. I was actually talking to someone the other day, and he mentioned how surprised he was that I had so many girl friends my same age, with my same interests. Honestly, it’s because of Pure Barre. It’s not surprising that a workout that is marketed towards young, healthy, fitness-minded women would bring in similar people. At the very least, everyone there has at least one thing in common. Think on things that are important to you and find a place where you might share interests with others.
I am forever thankful to my friend Christen from Pure Barre for teaching me a very important lesson. Once you get there, you also have to be open and reach out. Before class at Pure Barre, you sit on the floor waiting for the instructor, and most of the time people aren’t really talking. We made eye contact and she just said “so how was your day?” I actually turned around thinking she was talking to someone else. She wasn’t! I was a total stranger, and she just decided to extend a hello. We exchanged numbers and have been friends ever since. When you move to a new town be the Christen. What could it hurt?
Know that it is okay to drop your first friends.
When you move somewhere new, you are desperate for human interaction. There is usually a friend you make pretty early on. Sometimes this is a wonderful friend. Sometimes, it isn’t someone you would pick. There are friends who are just in your life for a season and that’s okay. If you aren’t really each other’s cup of tea, but he or she got you through the tough times, be grateful for that friendship, but know that they don’t need to be in your wedding. It is okay if they were just your closest friend for a short time until people that you really click with come along. Friendship is an involuntary reflex, and if it is forced, don’t force it!
The bad news: It is going to take some time for your new home to feel like home. There are all kinds of theories on how long it takes and here’s mine: it’s going to take three years. This is the worst news possible, like when you have just had your heart broken into a million pieces and someone tells you time heals all wounds and you’re thinking “I DON’T HAVE TIME I WANT TO FEEL BETTER NOW.” In my experience, it takes one year to feel comfortable. Within one year you have your dry cleaner, your nail salon, your gym, your car wash, all of that figured out. You have been at your job long enough that you feel comfortable and safe and you will have inside jokes with your colleagues and maybe have received a raise. Within two years you will have real friends, ones that you choose, and multiple ones to choose from when you are making plans for the weekend. And by the third? By the third you will be so settled and happy that when someone says “would you consider moving to ________ if the situation presented itself?” you are heartbroken at the thought of leaving the life you have created. Give it three years. The time will go faster than you think!