Is the Grass Really Greener? 5 Tips for Settling in a New City
BY GWEN GRIFFIN
The hardest, most challenging, and most rewarding thing I did in 2021 was move to another state with my boyfriend of four years. It has been a full year since I accepted a new job at a consulting firm in Boston, Massachusetts, when I was living in Richmond, Virginia, with my boyfriend (Joey), and I had just finished grad school. I knew I was craving something different and wanted to move to a bigger city and pursue my career as a Transit and Urban Planner. I grew up as a military brat, so I was constantly moving with my family, and no place ever felt quite like home, so I knew (at the time) that moving to a new place was no challenge for me. The most exciting part was that Joey was so supportive and knew he needed a change of pace too. We shared the news with our friends and family (including our pets), left our jobs, sold my car, and after a few short months of working remotely and saying our goodbyes, we were on our way in a U-Haul and a Kia Soul (in true hamster fashion, IYKYK) to the City of Boston.
The last week I spent in Richmond, I spent so much time with friends and reflecting on what the city had done for me, and after seven years of living there, I never thought of it as home and just saw it as a place I was just passing through to go to college and then go on to find something better. That last week in Richmond was really hard on me because I finally realized that I had a community there, and I had met friends that I wanted to be in my life forever. It didn’t seem like it at the time, but Joey and I gave up a lot to move our lives to a different state. This included friends, financial security, job security, familiarity, proximity to family, and missing huge life moments we could no longer be there for with the people we loved. We really wanted to get out of our comfort zones, and we knew that if we didn’t do it now, we would never do it.
I definitely know what you’re thinking “Why would you leave all that behind? How was your boyfriend so okay with this?!”. Not to get too sappy, but this move brought Joey and me closer together than we’d ever been before. We really depended on each other and had to trust each other every step of the way. It solidified that we weren’t just dating; I knew I had found my life partner and best friend and that anywhere I was, he wanted to be right by my side.
Once we arrived in Boston, we were lucky enough to have two friends to hang out with, but there were and still are times when I feel incredibly lonely. This was another challenging moment, and it’s almost impossible to feel completely comfortable moving to a new place. Even though I was with my best friend, I still wanted other friends and craved that sense of community I had before. Within a few weeks, it finally hit me that I moved, and let’s be honest unless you’re doing really well financially, it’s really hard to turn back and pick up and move again. I kept thinking the easy way out was to move back to Richmond and just cut my losses, but I also knew Joey sacrificed a lot to move with me, and I really didn’t want to let him down.
Within the first few months of moving, I did my best to distract myself with working, baking, cooking, walking, running (ugh), reading, and hanging out at local coffee shops. Keep in mind that during this time (Summer 2021), we were still in a pandemic, and COVID vaccines were still rolling out, so it was almost impossible to meet people naturally IRL. So I decided to start at home – I began settling by spending way too much money decorating our apartment, making it feel like a cozy home and a place of refuge. I thought if I had a little oasis with all our favorite things and lots of snacks, everything else would fall into place but that was so not true. I really needed to do the opposite and get out of my comfort zone. So I began to make plans with the few friends I knew and started going to work out classes, but I still wasn’t meeting people, and every time class got out, all the cool girls would rush to leave (like I was dying to get a post-Solidcore green juice too!) and I would trek back home still feeling lonely. It felt great to sweat, build a routine, and talk to my parents every week, but there was still something missing. And to make things worse moving thousands of miles away from home really shines a light on who your real friends are. I knew the people who continued to check on me, planned to visit, and scheduled Facetimes really wanted to keep me close. As a person who is a pro at avoidant attachment, I was so quick to push people away in fear that I’d lose them anyway because I decided to move away from them. It was definitely hard to realize this at first, but it is totally fine if your high school bestie and childhood friends slip away. I knew that other people that I met later in life are now built-in family, and they are the most real and genuine relationships that I have.
During my first few months in Boston, I had to face a lot of hard truths, and while they left me sobbing to Joey multiple times a week, I’m glad I learned how to connect with myself and the people in my life when I’m not feeling my best. On top of the whole, “no one loves me” saga, I had to learn a new city, learn how to get around via public transit, get to know my new coworkers, and learn a new job. Later, Joey had found a job, and I settled into a daily routine that included long walks in the morning, some form of movement, reading, and chatting with friends via text or Instagram. I really learned how to enjoy time with myself and found a balance with spending time with Joey. On weekends, I would try new coffee shops or go window shopping at niche markets and boutiques, and I also began planning trips to visit close friends and scheduled weekends around Boston for friends that came to visit.
I know this whole post isn’t the most uplifting one, but it’s so important for anyone reading who has moved away from their family and friends to see that they are not alone. Transitions take time, and I am still learning to be patient with myself. After 10 months in Boston, I still feel so new, and living in a new city hasn’t been a walk in the park, but I know that over time I will find my people, my favorite places, and soon this city will feel like home.
Here are my top five tips for settling in a new city:
- Pick up the phone – Schedule certain days and times when you call or Facetime your family or a few close friends. This scheduled time will relieve some of the pressure to keep up with loved ones and will also give you something to look forward to during the week.
- Go explore – Get out of the house every day during your first three months (yes, every single day)! Whether you go on a walk around the block or grab a coffee near your house or apartment. Seeing people’s faces and familiarizing yourself with your community and the physical space around will give you a little boost each day.
- Try something new – Sign up for workout classes, pottery classes, tennis lessons, or even community service. Don’t be afraid to try something you’ve only done a few times. Learning something new and developing skills is a bonus, and you’ll probably meet new people this way. Also, take advantage of new client deals (many workout studios will give you a free or discounted class)
- Don’t be shy – Say Hi! Literally, that is it. You don’t have to become or be an extrovert when you move to a new city but start with simple greetings even if people look at you like you’re crazy. If you really want to extend yourself, throw out a compliment or mention that you just moved to the area.
- Be consistent – Keep showing up. If it’s a workout, a pop-up class, working in the office, chilling at a coffee or juice shop, or hanging at a park. If you enjoy it, keep doing it, especially if you’re moving, have moved, or are considering moving to a big city. People will continue to show up in the same spaces, and it’s a bonus to make friends that have similar interests and love being in the spaces as you.