How To: Crush It in a New City
a twenty-something's guide to finding balance and happiness in your new home
Moving is scary. No matter what stage you’re at in life, whether you are 22 and moving for a job or 13 and about to be the new kid in school, starting over might seem glamorous and exciting in theory but in reality it can also be one of the more nerve-wracking and difficult things you could possibly do.
I was born and raised in Portland, Oregon, and spent the first eighteen years of my life surrounded by the same familiar trees and the comfort of lots of family nearby. I moved for the first time when I started college—3,000 miles away from everything I knew, to Providence, Rhode Island. It was one of the scariest and most challenging seasons of my life. Not only was I navigating a new place with new people, but I was also starting a new chapter in my life, one which I couldn’t completely visualize until I was there.
Four years later and I find myself in a similar position. I just graduated from college and moved to Weehawken, New Jersey, right outside New York City. A few months ago, I had no idea what life would look like after college. Before this year, I had never even been to New Jersey and now I have my first adult permanent address here.
It was a risky move. I could have played it safe and stayed in Providence or gone back home to Portland, but I knew that leading a life I’m proud of means doing the scary things. I am young and independent, and I get the amazing opportunity to live somewhere different and to pursue my career goals. No growth ever comes from playing it safe, and without growing we will never become the people we are meant to be.
Soon after my recent move, I found myself sitting on my new bedroom floor, overwhelmed by the boxes of all my belongings piled high around me. There, I came across a stack of letters my mom had sent me during my Freshman year of college. I opened one at random, not knowing why I had saved them, and saw this piece of wisdom my mom had for me: “The first few weeks will be tough, but after a while it will feel like home and you will never want to leave.” Her words were exactly what I needed to hear in that moment, and words that I think would be beneficial for other people to keep in mind when moving somewhere new.
These words also reminded me of how I felt when I first moved to Providence, at a time when I could never have imagined that a city all the way on the other side of the country would feel like home. Fast forward a few years to the end of my senior year, when I cried my eyes out as I shut the door to my house in Providence one last time and walked across the stage at graduation to receive my diploma. Once again, I was in a similar situation, moving to a new place, uncertain of myself, and not sure what this new season in life will hold. But since I have already conquered this fear before, now I know that I can do it again. I can make friends, build upon my career, and find a space that feels like home here. As the cliché Pinterest quote says, “life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”
Although there isn’t one standardized set of steps to having a successful move, I’ve found that following these four simple principles can really make a difference when moving to a new place.
find your people
First and foremost, in order to make a new place feel like home you need to find your people. Making new friends is both harder and easier than it seems. It’s not like college where you can walk down the hall of your dorm and see if anyone wants to grab dinner in the dining hall. Although we are now in a very different chapter of our lives, we’re still back to that Freshmen mentality where everyone wants to make new friends. Everyone is a little uncertain and if someone tells you otherwise they are probably lying. Reach out to an acquaintance or new coworker and invite them to coffee or happy hour. They will probably be just as excited to build the friendship.
make a list
Write up a new city bucket list of bars and restaurants you want to check out, museums you want to visit, and new things you want to try. Look at Yelp reviews and the TripAdvisor ‘Top Things To Do Near Me’ list for your city. Google search the best brunch spot in your neighborhood. Ask a coworker where they like to go and what they like to do. Invite people to check things off the list with you. You will get the opportunity to develop relationships and you will have fun familiarizing yourself with your new home.
turn your house into a home
Whatever your living situation, make it undeniably yours. Put something on the walls that makes you smile. Get a really fuzzy blanket for cold winter nights. Learn to cook your favorite meals. This is your space and it is up to you to make it feel like a home.
Say yes to new opportunities and the invitations that come your way for happy hours and lunches and new opportunities. Try the Soul Cycle class or the weird food trend you see all over the internet. Whether you make a friend, learn a new skill or discover that you hate gin and tonic, you’ll have learned something valuable. Life is too short to live with regrets and too fast to navigate it with fear. Keep yourself open to new experiences and you will grow as a person, in your career, and in your relationships.
Ultimately, the success of a move will be measured by how much you take advantage of your new surroundings and make the most of your time. Get out there and conquer your new home, it’s waiting for you to enjoy.