I’m about to end a six-month stint living in Freeport, Texas. My house, and 90% of my stuff, are back in Michigan, but I’ve been here since September because my wife has been working on a temporary assignment at one of her company’s Texas facilities. Having moved frequently in the last few years, I came into this move expecting it to be a cakewalk. (Side note: is there a place where you can walk on cake? I would like to go there, please.)
But it’s turned out to be more challenging than I had anticipated. The moving itself was pretty easy – it took exactly two hours to pack everything up since we didn’t have to move furniture or dishes or anything like that – but for the past six months we’ve been in a strange city halfway across the country from everyone we know, and we’ve had little incentive to make friends since we’ve known from the beginning that we weren’t going to stay here very long. It’s the same problem many military families often face once they realize that they’re going to be deployed to a new location every couple years, and it’s a real issue. I’ve sometimes jokingly referred to our move here as a 6-month “prison sentence,” but that’s hardly fair to prisoners. At least they can make friends with their cellmates and all the other prisoners in the exercise yard and whatever gang they decide to join. You can tell that I’ve watched too many movies about prison and haven’t actually been there.
Anyway, a lot of us struggle to attach to a community when circumstances – moving cross-country for a new job, working as a traveling consultant, following one partner’s career, etc. – make doing so more difficult than usual. I’ve had six months to analyze this problem for myself, and so here are three things I can you might easily do in order to make sure the stress of a move doesn’t fatally overwhelm you:
Establish a Routine, Any Routine
Mark Kelly, the American astronaut who just ended a 350-day trip into space, said that establishing an ordinary routine was critical for his mental health while isolated from the entire planet for over a year. Finding a routine might be difficult if you’re job involves sporadic travel that doesn’t allow you to maintain the same schedule every day, but you can still do it. Even simple routine like scheduling time for phone calls to family and friends every week can make you feel significantly less alone.
So what if you’re only planning to be at your new job for the next year? That’s no reason not to find people to spend time with. I was only in college for four years, but that didn’t stop me from making friendships that I still have today. I understand that the work of making those friendships can at times seem like more trouble than it’s worth, but it’s not. Not at all.
Spend Time Exploring Your New Surroundings
In the six months since we’ve moved down to Freeport, we’ve taken several trips to nearby cities, gotten lost for a few hours on backroads motorcycle trips, discovered multiple beaches where we can successfully exhaust our puppy, and attended a concert for a band we had never heard of before. Exploration takes work, and it’s easy for our routines to become overly simplified – wake up, go to work, go home, be sad, repeat. If you push yourself to find the interesting things in wherever you are, you might find yourself more excited about where life has taken you than you were at the outset.
The world is actually quite enormous, and it can be a challenge to enjoy yourself when a lot of the things you’ve come to love are in different places than you are. Unfortunately, it will probably stay that way until we invent teleportation and can be anywhere we want in the blink of an eye. (Get to work, science!) But the difference between ‘a challenge’ and ‘impossible’ is almost entirely dependent on the amount of work you’re willing to put in. Which means you actually have lot more control over your well-being than you might sometimes think.