When my husband turned to me over two years ago and said he was offered a wonderful position that would change his life, I was absolutely thrilled. I’d always felt he was deserving of greater things career-wise, and it sounded as though he was finally going to achieve the success and recognition he deserved. When he told me the position was in Boston, I blanched. (So much for me looking out for his career goals.)
We’d been living in California for almost twenty-four years, and yes, at least once every month during each of those years I did say that I wished I could move back to the East Coast. But not that East Coast…the East Coast that was New York; my real hometown. Boston was cold…well, cold-er, and the Red Sox were there. (I come from a family of die-hard Yankee fans…nuff said.) It is true that my East Coast family has already gotten used to my absence, but what about my other “family,” my friends in California? How could I really leave them?
She said I think I’ll go to Boston…
I think I’ll start a new life,
I think I’ll start it over, where no one knows my name,
I’ll get out of California, I’m tired of the weather.
Well, to make a very long story a bit shorter, I eventually did. And as I reach the one-year mark of the “Big Move,” I can’t help but reflect on all that’s happened. According to William Bridges, PhD., an expert on transitional management, “Shock, anger, anxiety, sadness, fear, confusion, and disorientation are a few of the common emotions felt by new movers.” And yes, I experienced them all. There have been many ups and many downs, and many curl-up-in-a-ball incapacitating days. I realized that this relocation was out of choice, not necessity. There are so many people out there who are losing their jobs and homes and must relocate because they have no other options. My situation was in no way similar to that, and I would never be so glib as to insinuate that it was. However, knowing that I did have options did not take away from the fact that it was stressful. While it may sound trivial that the search for new doctors, dentists, hair stylists, manicurists–all things we so depend on–was a chore, it nevertheless was traumatic for me, in my situation.
While the prospect of “starting over” in a new place–with a blank slate seemed inviting, it also seemed overwhelming. Relocating as a family with children is difficult enough, but children are a great entree into play groups and school groups where moms can meet other moms. I did not have that kind of calling card, as my sons remained back in California (and at 20 and 24, they are a little too old to be taking part in play groups anyway). I mistakenly assumed my dog would be a great companion, but he had his own issues to deal with, and for the most part, he alienated many of my neighbors, rather than endeared them to me. (Sorry, nice man in apartment 8J.)
One thing I did learn was that it takes time (and patience) to build a new life. I initially assumed that I would just jump in and immerse myself in everything new. But there was this self-imposed pressure I felt as being a symbol of “freedom” for all my friends back home. As sad as they were to see me go, they were encouraging, since I was doing what they could not do–spreading my wings. I didn’t want to let them down by not accomplishing tremendous things–immediately. It eventually became clear that this was not the right timetable for me. I had to take a step back, and lighten up. And I had to reacquaint myself with “me.” Being alone in a new place helped me do that. It helped crystallize the things I truly did and did not like. And while I was determined to step out of my comfort zone, and meet my “new me,” I also knew that I wanted to retain some of my “old me” as best as I could, as well.
The first thing I did was search out the local library. I at least knew I could lose myself in books, if necessary. The next thing I did was join a gym–actually two gyms–one in my building, and one across the street where I could take classes. When you are feeling so out of sorts, you need something that will immediately bring you back to a safe, familiar place. The gym did that for me. While the surroundings may not be the same, and the classes may be a little different, they all have weights and machines that I am familiar with, and that was comforting.
To get to know the people in my building a little better, I joined a tenants’ book group. There are about ten of us who meet once a month, and although we are all different ages and have different backgrounds, we’ve become quite a cohesive bunch.
I have always been a proponent of the maxim that you help yourself while helping others, so I began looking for volunteering opportunities. Becoming involved with the issues that those less fortunate face really does help you put your own issues into proper perspective. I went back to my true interests: food, childhood obesity, and hunger, and eventually found a program called Cooking Matters. I just completed a six-week session teaching children about nutrition and cooking, and I can’t tell you how rewarding (and fun) that was.
And then I began to put it all down on “paper,” and thus began my blog, relocationtheblog.blogspot.com. Being able to vent and express my feelings and fears, and exult over my accomplishments in print has been a lifesaver for me. I became more involved with social media, and in the process, found a local women’s group where I had hoped to meet some women who had not necessarily relocated, but were at least in the same stage of life as was I.
And so, as I enter my second year in my adopted city of Cambridge, I even have a new job…with that same women’s group: Betterafter50! A perfect example of how things happen when you least expect them to…and when you open yourself up to new and exciting things. Reinvention need not be a total reinvention. There are so many wonderful new things to experience out there, but we don’t have to give up everything about ourselves in order to do that.