7 things to remember when moving to a new city.

My heels began to burn for adventure at a very young age. I dreamt of big cities, alluring accents and many transatlantic flights. That desire to experience every corner of the world is as strong as ever. In the past three years, I’ve lived in DC, Paris, London and now San Francisco. In that same amount of time, I’ve visited more than 10 other countries. My family sighs and laughs it off — “Oh, Mary” they’ll say. Life on the go has always been my thing. But that doesn’t mean it’s been easy. In fact, sometimes it’s fucking hard.

As humans, we tend to forget the bad when the good is just so great. I mean, how is it that after a night of too many tequila shots, we promise to never drink again…only to find ourselves out with the same awesome group of friends a week later?

I do the same thing when it comes to moving to a new city. The good parts are so spectacular that it’s easy to forget the bad parts (and who would want to remember those anyway?). More than that, the bad parts are usually at the beginning, and the good parts are what you’re leaving behind when you pack up to move to the next city.

So here they are — 7 things I always forget when I move to a new city:

  1. The first month is like a tornado: I mean really. At this point, I’ve packed everything I own into a couple suitcases and now I’ve had to buy a new toothbrush three times because I keep losing mine (or dropping it on the dirty floor of my AirBnb’s bathroom). I don’t know which way is up and I’m just putting one foot in front of the other because there really isn’t another option. It’s during this month that I’m relying on friends, family and strangers for shelter and everyone is just waiting for the storm to pass so they can gently kick me out of their home (their generosity does not go unnoticed).
  2. The second month is like a vacation: Why would anyone not want to live in this A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. city? Choose your pick. The weather is beautiful (San Francisco), there are SO many free museums (D.C.), how can any other city claim to be diverse? — this is the most diverse city in the world (London), the city just smells like bread, chocolate and coffee — I’m in heaven (Paris). Catching up with old friends has never been so much fun. Drinks every night! Making so many new friends — who knew it would be so easy! Buying local clothes to “blend in”— not exactly torture! This is so fabulous!
  3. The third month is like trying to rescue a bad relationship: What the hell have I gotten myself into? Nothing is the same as the last city I lived in. Routines are different. People are different. Even the food is different. And those old friends I caught up with? Haven’t seen them in a month. Turns out they have their own life/family/job/friends and can’t hang out every single weekend (who can blame them?!). That new friend…What was her name again? Insecurities abound. A sense of “who am I?” ensues. Finding stability becomes the new priority. I guess some would consider this the end of the “honeymoon phase”.
  4. My family loves me, but they don’t care that I’m “miserable” (again): Families can only take so much of this. I was scared the first month, super happy the second month, and now suddenly sad and want to move back to City X? Well tough shit. While they’ll be kind and listen for about 5(maybe 10) minutes, they’ve heard it all before and they know what you’ve already forgotten so many times….
  5. You’ll find your sea-legs: About five months in, I find stability and secure a “new normal”. This is almost always when I’ve found my favorite running route, best coffee spot, and preferred method of transportation. At this point, I’ve started to get into the swing of things — but I haven’t made it out of the hardest part just yet.
  6. Making friends is 10 times harder as an adult: It seems like it would be easy. You start a new job — insta-friends! Or your friends who live in the same city would naturally invite you out on a regular basis. But in reality, you work too much, your schedule is different from everyone elses and you’re still a bit stressed out. For me, it’s usually about six months in that I start to make an effort to build solid relationships. I give my old friends a bit of breathing room so I can make new friends (“make new friends, but keep the old…one is silver and the other gold”)... But making friends is seriously difficult. Quite frankly, it sucked as a child but it’s even more awkward as an adult. As a child, you didn’t have to worry as much about common values and interests (let alone political and religious views). Friendships have to happen naturally and, as such, there’s not a precise timeline. All I can try to do is remember that I’ve formed great friendships in every city I’ve lived in, so this city (and the next, and the one after that) won’t be any different.
  7. With each new city comes a bit of confusion: Moving to a new city is like putting a magnifying glass on how much the last city changed me. I was completely oblivious while it was happening, but my routines and habits became a part of who I am. My relationships changed me. My friendships changed me. I mature a bit more in each city (perhaps that just comes with age) and my view of the world expands in a way I couldn’t have noticed while I was in the chaos. It takes some time for the confusion to wear off, and for my new habits and routines to begin to shape me again (though I’ll still probably be oblivious while it’s happening).

I am only five months into San Francisco. I’ve got a ways to go before I can call this city home, but I’m making progress.

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