“You look at where you're going and where you are and it never makes sense, but then you look back at where you've been and a pattern seems to emerge.”
-Robert M. Pirsig “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”
There are few things more awe-inspiring for me than being able to point to something that is happening, or a decision I am currently making and say, “because of this my life will be severely altered forever.” These realizations rarely appear while the event itself is actually happening, and rarely become aware to us at all. However, if I were to ask you to list three past events that changed your life forever, I suspect you could produce them quite simply, and your brain would easily fill in the pattern.
Part of these realizations are being aware of the age we live in, one in which continents can be traveled in a matter of hours, relationships can exist from halfway across the planet, and thanks to the internet, we can be hyper-informed to each and every current event. For a majority of the time humans have been around people spent their whole lives within a few dozen miles of where they were born. Most of the people you knew were family, which was your unit or tribe, for social and security reasons.
I moved 2,745 miles from home for a job after graduating college. For a job. I didn’t decide to move because of political regimes, natural elements, or migration patterns of food sources. But because of my desire to step outside my comfort zone and attempt to learn as much as I can from as diverse a collection of resources as possible. What a thing, for that to be an actual possibility.
I distinctly remember thinking, while driving across the deserts of New Mexico with Jimi Hendrix live in Monterey playing, that by heading towards the Golden State I was changing the outcome of my life forever. Because of this move I would end up marrying a different woman, fostering different beliefs throughout my life, and set a precedent for the measures I was willing to take to learn from people that were different, in places that are different.
Uprooting your life and being transplanted to a new climate, cultural environment, and geographic landscape where you know absolutely no one is not supposed to be easy. Quite frankly, it is pretty darn confusing. With college, summer camps, and other forms of extended travel you often have a network that has been premeditated by some form of intelligent design. Coordinators of the school or program strive to make your day to day as conducive to social collision as possible. The program is designed for you to spend time making friends and to feel as comfortable as possible. When it comes to first job out of college, there is work, and whatever the hell you want to do with the other five hours you spend awake.
After speaking with others who have made a similar relocation, the following list what I feel are the top four pieces of advice when moving across the country for your first job out of college.
Drive, and drive slow
I cannot stress this first point enough. Driving from Upstate New York to California, with all my worldly possessions inside my car, changed my life. It taught me how simple it is to strip down one’s life to a few items and be completely mobile and minimalist.
“But when we really delve into the reasons for why we can’t let something go, there are only two: an attachment to the past or a fear for the future.”
-Marie Kondō, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
Driving also gives you a lot of time to think. For me, that time was to think about the choices I was making and how I planned to reboot my life. When people say a new city allows you to be whoever you want, they are telling the truth.
The sandbox days are over
Making friends may not be as easy as it was growing up. You used to be able to share your little plastic shovel and BAM, new best friend.
It is important to realize that initially you will know no one. Likely not one single person.
The person who interviewed you may be the only other individual who knows your name. Understanding that nobody is going to fight for you to socialize and meet new people is very important. If you decide to spend every evening and weekend locked in your tiny apartment people will let you.
The most frequent question new transplants ask me is “how did you make friends?” Besides the obvious resources such as social media, meet ups, and co-workers, all I can recommend is to get out and explore. Learn your new city. This is your home now. Like-minded people exist everywhere, don’t be afraid to go and do the things you love to do; chances are you’ll meet other hikers if you are hiking, and other runners if you are running.
Mentally prepare yourself for an extended period of growing pains
There are so many things that everyone has to learn about being on their own, and those things are amplified without the nearby support of family and friends. I never knew the value of alone time and ways I could keep myself occupied and productive until I spent a few weeks without knowing a single person within thousands of miles.
It takes longer than people realize to become comfortable in a new environment. Every new stage of my life (high school, college, real world, moving to California), has taken me over a year to fully assimilate. It is important to completely immerse yourself in your new environment with the knowledge that it's going to be a rough start, but being comfortable and feeling like your new city is your actual home comes AFTER the new experiences that can often be uncomfortable. A lot of people move to a new city as an escape from their old life, which I feel is the wrong mindset. Moving is not an automatic cure for anything. If you had deep-seeded issues before the move they're not going to magically disappear. Having a growth mindset, rather than a fixed mindset, is essential. You have to take action to help yourself. Move to a new city for the adventure.
Recognize that things will be harder than you think in the short run and easier than you think in the long run
Acclimation will not happen over a matter of days, weeks, and perhaps not even months. Your mind and body will reject it (I even got physically sick). It will initially be very overwhelming and confusing - this is because everything is new. It takes time to develop new routines and figure out your way around. However, after a few months it will not seem like a big deal, and you’ll look back wondering why you didn’t move before.
In the same way that Goldman Sachs holds the philosophy “business builds business” to heart, one should hold the personal philosophy of “experiences build experiences” even closer. If you let yourself become the type of person that goes to roller discos and drives three hours on the weekend to climb Half Dome you will quickly find that there are those who are willing to introduce you to even more profound experiences. You’ve made it clear that is the type of person you are: one whose desire is to participate in the new. Experiences build experiences.
You’ll probably be doing these things alone for longer than you would think, but will be doing them with larger groups of friends far quicker than expected. Trust me.
A possible rule of thumb to help make these decisions could be to ask yourself, “As I am approaching the end of my life and am looking back, what is it I wish I had done?” This advice is not perfect, and it needs to be combined with common sense and reason, but it will help to make the change a little less scary and put it in perspective as what it really is, which is an exciting opportunity to grow.