A major rite of passage into adulthood is living on your own (as in, away from Mom and Dad). This is an exciting privilege, but there are several slap-in-the-face realities that come with it. Crystal shared brilliant advice on how to tackle chores to help keep stress at bay. But what about the physical and emotional aspect of moving to your own place - the actual milestone itself? As I learned over the course of this past year, there are many more realities than just chores, and some of them can make you cry and wonder if you knew what you were doing in the first place.
One year ago this month, my boyfriend Chris and I turned the keys to the front door of our first home. That was one of the most exciting days of my life yet! The first thing I did the day of the closing was take out fall decorations and place them around the house, and then I began unpacking boxes in the kitchen. I’m not sure I slept much that night. Having cupboards to fill was too exciting to sleep. But when I did, it was on the floor in the living room with Chris by my side. But that was ok. We had this new, blank canvas to call home.
The excitement continued every day for a long time. I imagine having a newborn is similar to having your first home; that is, you don’t mind staying awake all night and sacrificing your schedule and sanity because this new addition is too wonderful to leave for even a second – at least, it’s that way for the first place you move into. Likewise, I was running on enthusiasm during the moving process. Which was critical, because, did I mention my new house was in Massachusetts, but my job was back in Connecticut and all my stuff was at my parents’ house in Connecticut as well? For several months, I had a foot in both states!
It took only a few weeks for the house to be completely livable – people said it seemed as if we had been there for years! There were a lot of projects needing to be tackled, but with the actual moving part behind me, I could focus on starting a new chapter.
Or so I thought. Many unexpected feelings also came with this transition, and not just the feeling of disappointment that we had no trick-or-treaters that Halloween. No, this was nothing on the outside, nothing that had to do with the house or the neighbors. Instead, a piece of me was just lost, confused, tired, and unsure.
If moving was like having a newborn, then I admit it ended up feeling a little bit like postpartum depression in which some days I experienced sadness, hopelessness, low self-esteem, a feeling of being overwhelmed, inability to be comforted, exhaustion, emptiness, social withdrawal, guilt, low or no energy, becoming easily frustrated.
When one would expect to be nothing but happy, I had unwelcome feelings. I was well aware of what was happening: in the blink of an eye I left a comfortable job that I had for over four years, a house I lived in for 25 years with people who knew me better than anybody, friends whom I rarely saw but were not far away, and a routine that worked well for me. Suddenly I had a house and chores, a new job, no new friends, and I was in a new place. I felt such guilt that on many days I just couldn’t accept how blessed I was!
I blamed being a perfectionist, I blamed being a dreamer, I blamed being a planner. I could not be sure I had made the right move, that I would make new friends and find a new routine that involved more than squeezing in grocery shopping and cleaning toilets.
But then, one day several months later, I felt relaxed. It’s as if all I needed was some time. And suddenly I could see clearly – that I came in with such a force that I didn’t take the time to slowly introduce myself to a new place and a new life, to take it one day at a time.
Should you, or should I, find ourselves moving down the road, here’s my two cents having already lived through it…
What I would do next time:
1. Recruit help. Don’t do it alone, unless of course you want to. I was so anxious that I drove carloads of boxes all by myself. In hindsight, that’s what friends and family are for. Likewise, realize you literally are not alone if you have a roommate. He or she is your support system.
2. Slow way down. Yes, you’re anxious to move right in but cramming the process into a few weeks not only becomes stressful, but it also takes away the fun. Similarly, if you were in the middle of a project before moving – say, sewing a quilt – set it aside until you feel relaxed so you can come back to it with the right energy and attitude.
3. Have a game plan. You don’t have to map it out, but It would help to put some thought into which rooms you’ll want to set up first, which projects you’ll tackle and when. That way, it doesn’t all feel like one houseful of projects that need to get done simultaneously.
What I did right:
1. Pack efficiently. There should be a rhyme and reason to how you pack if you want it to be less burdensome when you unpack. For example, keep all kitchen stuff together, and label boxes!
2. Land a job first. If you move far enough away that you need a new job, like I did, I strongly recommend securing a job before you move if you have the luxury to do so. I can’t imagine having moved into a new place and having to apply and interview for jobs. Sure, having a new job to adjust to during this time was a factor to my stress, but I was excited to show up every day. It also gave me something structured to keep balance in my life.
3. Get settled in. Everyone has their own idea of establishing their roots in a new place. For me, it was welcoming the birds, meeting the neighbors, and exploring the local library and hiking trails. In moments of feeling lost and overwhelmed, it helped to see the birds, wave to the neighbors, and stroll through town – all things that brought me comfort.