Thursday, January 15, 2015

It's OK to hate your new town

I've moved a lot in my life, and I am a firm believer that any place can become a good place with the right combination of cool friends, stuff to do, and a fun, fulfilling routine.

But, just because it's possible doesn't mean that it happens right away...or at all. For example, my move to Bavaria was a tough one. The first 8 months were miserable as I struggled to make friends, find a job, and invent reasons to get out of bed in the morning. Over time, everything got better-I made amazing friends, had fun adventures, and wrote about my experience in Sometimes Being an Expat Sucks, which is one of my most popular posts to date. It didn't happen overnight, but I eventually grew to love Bavaria and make it home. It wasn't the place, it was the people.

No matter your locale, whether you're in a beautiful, romantic European capital or the armpit of Texas, the adjustment that comes along with a big move is HARD, and it just takes time to make that new place a home. Some moves are easy-you're lucky enough to make cool friends right away, find a favorite restaurant or store, or land a job pretty soon after you get there. But sometimes it takes months before you feel settled, and that's when depression and loneliness can creep in.

Our move to Texas has been one of those hard moves. We've been here 3 months, and I still feel lost and lonely. The job search has gone nowhere, I haven't been able to meet many people, and Fionn will be leaving on a deployment soon.

Today, in an attempt to branch out and meet new people, I went to a local women's ministry group. The president of the group was giving a speech and in her speech she started calling out those newcomers that hate this town and don't want to be here.

"Get over it!" was her sage advice. Get over it, accept where you are, and stop complaining. Bloom where you're planted! Hunt the good stuff! SILVER LININGS, GUYS!

And truthfully, those words hit me right in the gut. I left the meeting early and sat in my car in tears.

Get over it? What, with a snap of my fingers?

After a lifetime of moving, I am the LAST person to encourage anyone to wallow in self pity and hatred for a new city. Yes, some places suck. As an outsider with no routine or support system, it is normal to feel hostile towards a new environment and long for home. I always encourage others (and myself!) to get out, try new things, make new relationships, and try to stay positive and give the new place a chance. You can usually find cool people anywhere in the world.

But moving just SUCKS, and it's ok to admit that sometimes. It's ok to hate your circumstances, or your loneliness, or to grieve your old life. It's ok to feel exhausted at the prospect of starting all over again and putting your life back together. It's ok to feel frustrated that it's taking so long or that a new place is so different than home.

But I think that just barking, "Get over it! Bloom where you're planted, cupcake!" is a cruel way to deal with someone who is going through something incredibly difficult and life disrupting. Because no matter how hard you try to make a home in a place, you can't do it alone. You can't force people to be your friend or to build memories with you. It has to happen organically. It will happen eventually. But it takes time.

I wish that woman had said, "Hey, we know moving to a new place is hard. We're sorry you're going through this right now. We know this city gets a bad rap sometimes, but we would love to help you see that this place has a lot to offer."

Something encouraging. Something that made me feel understood. Something that didn't make me feel like I was failing or not trying hard enough.

Moving is hard. Why aren't we allowed to just say that?

In the meantime, I'm back to trying to meet people and finding things to do. This isn't where I want to be, but it's where I am, and I'm trying to make it into something good. Keep on keepin' on.


  1. This is exactly what I needed - thank you so much!! I've been feeling the same these last couple of months in Tromso even though I have a job and friends but sometimes you just don't feel at ease (or at home) in your new place no matter how hard you try....and I think it's important to remind yourself that it's a) not your fault and b) not going to be like that forever :)

    1. Very true! I've been moving my whole life and even though I know I have to go through that "adjustment period" it doesn't make it any easier. Hang in there! :)

  2. It doesn't sound like that person had much empathy. I've had some great moves and I've had some moves that were really hard. Eventually things always get better though so hand in there.

    1. Either it gets better, or we move again anyway ;) Perks of nomad life?

  3. So sorry you've been having a hard time of things. I would have left too. I hate crap advice like that. That person isn't you and although it might be easy for them to "get over it" it quite often doesn't work like that... Hope things improve soon and you feel settled. Emma