Feeling adrift in a new city? Use these tips to start feeling more like a part of the community.
by Dan Healy
I recently left my home of four years. I left where everything was familiar, surrounded by 50,000 people my age with similar interests. Now I live in a new city where I know about four people. The truth is: it kind of sucks. However, I know that I have to adapt, and adapt fast. I know if I act miserable, then I will be miserable. So here are a few ways I’m encouraging myself to enjoy it. That way, I can be happy sooner with my new life and my new surroundings.
1. Open your mind to new activities and events.
No matter where you find yourself, there are going to be new events and activities that you have the opportunity to take part in. Though you may feel like you don’t belong there, take a chance. Most likely you do belong there because the activities are aimed at the community and, like it or not, you are now part of the community!
Here in Madison, there is a symphony performance every Wednesday night in the center of town. Honestly, I am not a huge fan of the symphony. But a large number of people attend these events, so I make an effort to show up. Maybe I don’t love the entertainment, but I do feel like I am a part of something local, and that helps.
Your new stomping grounds may not have a symphony every week, but they most likely have sports teams (professional or amateur), and making an effort to attend their games will help you feel like you are a part of something new.
2. Stay in touch with your old life, but do not rely on it.
I still have much of my former life in Columbus, Ohio, and I plan to have that for a long time–good friends, a business and a steady relationship. Obviously, I stay in touch with these on a regular basis. However, I learned that I cannot rely on them in the same ways I did before because they are not here, and they have trouble understanding my state of mind because they aren’t dealing with the same changes I am.
I learned quickly that the best thing to do is to limit my contact with them (except my girlfriend) to text messages, emails and Facebook messages. This allows me to keep up with all of the gossip, sports talk and other current events. However, it limits the personal connections that really make me wish I was there.
3. Accept contentment; don’t expect perfection.
I have a distorted perspective on my time in Columbus, and I realize it, but it does not stop me from believing that that life was perfect. I know there were problems, things weren’t always easy, but I don’t think about that stuff when I remember. What I end up believing is that where I live now cannot compete with (or even compare to) the past four years of my life.
So the best thing to do is look at the positive aspects of my new city, and work on becoming content with it. While I can talk about Columbus as if it was God’s gift to earth—and I can even believe it all I want—I still need to teach myself to say, “Columbus was heaven, but it’s not like I moved to hell.”
4. Don’t force yourself into the role of a big fish in a small pond (or a big fish in a big pond).
I had four years to build up a reputation in Columbus. I did whatever I could to become a recognizable person with a good reputation and plenty connections. I have been here in Madison for a month, and the last thing I should do is to act like I have proven myself here. But I have to be careful to not act like I am useless, either, because I know that I am capable of adding value to the community and to my new company.
The best thing to do in this situation is to look at this as a new opportunity to build a new reputation and start to form a new network here. This is my way of “climbing the ladder” and taking my new life in stride.
5. Give yourself something to look forward to.
New city or not, it is important to always have something to look forward to. When we were kids, it was the first day of school, or a baseball game or golf match. These events were handed to us. Our parents put us in school and signed us up for sports. Now it is necessary for us, as adults, to create these new opportunities.
One option is to join a class at your gym that meets once or twice a week. Maybe you could start a new hobby like joining a recreational softball team. Just make sure you start small as you find your way in your new community.
Also (and just as important), make sure you plan large (even if it’s only large in your mind) events to look forward to. For example, my girlfriend came out last weekend; I looked forward to that for a month. In a few more weeks, I am going to a fraternity brother’s wedding and I’ll be catching up with old friends.
I keep a calendar that marks both large and small events in my life that I can look forward to, and when days seem endless, it helps to look up and count the days until I get to do something new that I enjoy.
It is never an easy transition to fit into a new place, especially one that is very unfamiliar to you. Just remember to take it day by day, and try this advice. Before you know it, you will start referring to your new “location” as “home.”