I moved to Charlotte a few months ago by way of Syracuse, New York. I left my family, the only place I’d ever lived, and snow in both May and October to check out life down south. Since I was Syracuse born and bred, I didn’t fully realize how monumental moving is until I did it.
When you move, you go into survival mode. It’s time to stop being polite and start getting real, as the kids say. Whereas at home you could get by just binge-watching Netflix and going to the same places with the same people, that’s no longer the case. You have to put yourself out there so you can start to build a life for yourself. Some of the other things I didn’t realize until I moved include…
You have to get comfortable being permanently lost.
When you move somewhere new, you’re going to have to get used to being lost all of the time. The first few months are just nonstop confusion about where you are and where that road leads. It was a huge personal victory for me when I was able to get to my local grocery store without my GPS. Now I can get to a few key destinations (Target, for example) but still find that when people reference streets and landmarks I return their words with a blank stare. Not only will you get lost, but you’ll also end up aggravating a lot of people as you drive. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in the right lane, only to realize I almost immediately had to get across four lanes of traffic. Whoopsy doopsy. Plenty of horn honking ensued.
You have to get comfortable looking like an idiot.
When you move somewhere new, you have no idea how anything works. Where do they keep the hummus at the new grocery store chain that you’ll have to go to now? I still don’t know. You’ll have to ask. This bar looks cool. But where is the door to get in? Oh, around back. Where is your new hair salon located exactly? Welp, not there. Time to make a U-turn. Moving someplace new certainly keeps your ego in check, since you’re constantly making mistakes, getting lost, and having to ask other people for help.
Southern insects are on steroids.
Have you ever seen a Palmetto bug? Non-Southern people may also call it a huge ass roach. Yeah, Google image that and get back to me. If you were too afraid, just know that they’re like the John Cena of roaches: unreasonably huge and very menacing when you have to face them in a small space. I saw one of those in my apartment on day two of my arrival in Charlotte. I peed a little, definitely cried, and was this close to getting on the next plane home. Turns out they’re a non-event for people down here. In fact, I saw a man in an expensive suit squash one in the middle of Nordstrom the other day using just his shoe, not even stopping to wipe off the carnage. But I don’t care if they’re a part of Southern life, that doesn’t mean I have to accept their presence. These things fly at your face and hiss. And they never die. Send help.
You make friends with everyone and no one.
Making friends in a new city is actually very similar to meeting a significant other. You have to put in a lot of work getting to know each other. There’s some awkwardness. You hope they’ll call or text again. See, when you move, the friends you’ve relied on for years are gone and you have to go out of your way to make new ones. It’s not like college when you can plop down next to someone during your freshman orientation and the rest is history. Unless you make a conscious effort to make and continue to build connections, you won’t have any.
You’ll probably also find yourself making friends in unlikely places. This includes but is not limited to: in line at the grocery store, at Starbucks, at your local Rite Aid, and with the girl stamping your hand at the door of the bar (all of those have happened to me). When you’re in a new city, you no longer worry about being creepy or seeming desperate as you try to make friends. You just go all in and hope for the best.
Lastly, if you’re moving somewhere new, you’ll want to try Meetup. At first I thought Meetup was like making friends at the gym: a good idea in theory but just not practical. Turns out it’s one of the best things you can do when you move somewhere new. I started a Meetup group for people who are new to Charlotte, and it’s grown to more than 100 members in just a few months. I’ve met a lot of great people that way, and only encountered one creepy middle-aged man who kept trying to put his arm around me while insisting that we become Facebook friends. I like those odds.
Moving is one of the hardest, best, scariest, most adrenaline filled things you can do. You’ll have days where you can’t believe you get to live in this new place, and also days where you’re ready to pack it in and head back home. But if you’re looking for a way to shake up your life, see a completely different side of yourself, and change your perspective on everything, it’s the best thing you can do.