We’ve all left home at one time or another. Whether it was just staying over at grandma’s house for the night or moving across the country for college, the feeling of being in a place that isn’t “home” can be scary for us all. You might feel like you don't know where home is anymore or that you won't have friends in this new place. It's enough to make anyone anxious.
This Gumption Gal will be making the move from Ann Arbor to Chicago in less than a month and is facing a lot of those feelings again. I’ve spent the last four years making A2 my home, and the idea of leaving and putting down roots again scares me more than a little. I’m already worried that my friends will forget me, I won’t make new friends in Chicago, and that life, in general, won’t ever be as good as it was in Ann Arbor.
But it’s not the first time I’ll move somewhere new, and it certainly won’t be the last (the life of the journalist, what can I say?). I needed a reminder that life changes, sure, but that doesn’t mean that it has to be scary. So here’s the reminders that I’ve been telling myself and would tell anyone else about to make a big move in their life:
1) Your friends will love you no matter how many miles keep you apart.
I don’t talk to most of my friends from high school anymore, but I have a few that I’m still close to, even though I’ve been 300 miles away (or more) for the last four years. Distance might make your conversations less frequent and you might not get to live with your best friend in the next room anymore, but that does not mean your friendship is doomed. Make a pact to call once a week, or FaceTime during Sunday dinner, or even write letters back and forth. Whatever it is, your friends will still love you even if they don’t see you every day. Reassure them that you will still love them, too.
2) Remember to reach out if you need help.
We all want to look like moving doesn’t bother us, that living in a new city is exciting and wonderful all the time. But sometimes late nights alone can remind us how, well, alone, we really feel. You might be making new friends at your new school or new job, but nothing replaces the feeling of a long-time friend nearby. And those feelings can be too much to handle sometimes—especially for someone like me, who already struggles with anxiety and depression in my regular, not-new-at-all life. If that happens, reach out. Don’t try to put on a tough face and pretend like everything is rosy. Eventually, it will stop working and everything will come crashing down. Instead, talk to someone. Anyone. Even if it’s a Facebook friend who you haven’t talked to in a year, most people are willing to lend an ear to someone in their life who is struggling. Just know you don’t have to feel lonely alone.
3) New things can be intimidating, but you’ve adapted before.
Grandma’s house? Summer camp? College? Everyone has adapted to a new environment before that isn’t the home they know. Just remind yourself that making your last place feel comfortable took some time and that this will take time as well. But you’ve done it before, and you can sure as heck do it again.
4) Other people are just as nervous about making new friends as you are.
You might be moving for school, work, or another reason, but making new friends can be stressful for most people. Remember that the people around you are nervous that they won’t find new friends either, and try to be yourself (maybe just a more shy version of yourself, in my case). Think back to meeting your best friend: it took awhile before you were comfortable enough in front of them to burp or walk around in your undies, right? It’s the same thing again. Breathe and introduce yourself.
5) Don’t forget that you are always loved.
So what if your friends do stop talking to you, and you feel like you can’t reach out to anyone at all, and you can’t convince yourself you’ll adapt like you have before? Let me remind you—you are always loved. Someone out there cares about you. It might be a stranger, a voice on the other end of a phone that will help you through a crisis. It might be the neighbor across the hall who you say hello to every morning and who genuinely cares if she gets to say hi to you. Whoever it is, there is always someone out there who cares. And I want to tell all of you, that if you think that person doesn’t exist, I am that person. I care about all of you, whether you’re broken or happy or angry or lost. There will always be someone there for you.
Yes, moving to a new place is intimidating and exciting and nerve-wracking. But just remember my tips above, and never hesitate to reach out for a helping hand if you need it.
If you need to talk to someone and feel as if no one can help you, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and you will be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center near you, anytime 24/7. If you feel you are in crisis, whether or not you are thinking about hurting yourself, please call the Lifeline. For more information, follow this link to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.