Although I may have a gypsy spirit, I still feel a strange pulling at my heartstrings when I uproot and find myself trying to build a life in a new place. With all the traveling that I do, it’s important that I have a home base where I can feel completely comfortable, and I work hard and put in a lot of effort to create that space. So, naturally, when it’s taken away from me I feel like a piece of me is missing and I can’t quite get comfortable.
This past move was particularly difficult for me, maybe because I was finally “on my own” and in the “real world.” But as they say, life begins when you leave your comfort zone, and moving pushed me to confront a lot of my demons. The lessons I’ve learned have terrified me, challenged me, and almost defeated me, but ultimately they pushed me to grow, and growth can be one hell of an uncomfortable thing. I’m sharing the things that I’ve learned throughout this process because I wish someone had been there to teach me these things beforehand, and perhaps this can act as a guide for the next time you find yourself building a new nest.
1. Remind yourself daily how courageous you are. Although it may seem like moving is nothing out of the ordinary, changing space is a major shock to our emotional and mental equilibrium. Our homes are our safe places, our nests to hide and recover and escape the outside world, especially for those of us who are especially sensitive or clairvoyant. It takes bravery to decide that you are going to uproot everything, pack your life into tiny boxes, and then move into the unknown. You no longer have that safe space, and you are faced with the task of having to create it again from the ground up. Tell yourself that you are brave and strong, and believe it.
2. Lose your fear of solitude. You may be moving someplace completely new, where you know no one and have no connections, or you may be moving somewhere where you already have an established circle of friends. Regardless, don’t be afraid to explore on your own. The worst thing you can do is allow yourself to have a crutch; whether it’s relying on a beloved friend who knows the area to constantly show you around, or letting the fear of being alone keep you from experiencing your environment. Give yourself the gift of independence, and establish that quality from the start. You don’t need your friends or your significant other to be your chaperone. All you need is you.
3. Foster an insatiable sense of adventure. One of the best things you can do for yourself is let yourself be adventurous. When we go through major life changes, our mind resets itself and regresses to the thought pattern of a child. It’s our mind’s way of assuring that we take care of ourselves. In the first couple of days or weeks, you often feel the aftershock of the major change and behave like a newborn baby would: you feel tired, needy, emotionally unstable and constantly feel the urge to sleep, eat, and lie down. But after that phase passes, you naturally move into the mindset of a toddler. You begin to feel a childlike sense of awe and adventure, and want to explore your surroundings. You begin really seeing the world around you for the first time with fresh eyes, and feel that aching to know, see, and do more. Nurture and embrace this feeling, it will take you far (both literally and figuratively).
4. Be gentle on yourself. Don’t be afraid to be afraid. One of the biggest things that I struggle with is accepting that fear or sadness isn’t weakness. I’m not any less of a person because I felt anxious and scared and questioned my decisions when I first moved to a new place. In fact, it takes strength to feel those feelings to the fullest and not just shove them aside to manifest themselves later in uglier ways. Be gentle on yourself and accepting of the way you feel.
5. Build your nest and make it your sacred space. I’m reading a book right now called SoulSpaces by Xorin Balbes that I found when I was traveling in Maui. He talks about how your home is your sacred space and a reflection of yourself. All your fears, desires, memories and dreams are reflected in the way you decorate your home. You have the power to make your home a sanctuary, even if your living space isn’t ideal, or the world just outside your door is chaotic and unforgiving. Build a home that is full of vibrant memories, places to fulfill your dreams, and space to grow. When you know you have a beautiful, warming, welcoming space to return to, you can have the courage to go out into the great, big world and face its trials and tribulations. Happy home, happy mind.
6. Appreciate the differences, don’t compare them. No living situation will be the same. When you transition to a new place and a new home, you are embarking on a completely unique adventure. Sometimes I find myself thinking, “I miss how quiet and peaceful my old apartment was. I miss the big, beautiful window in my room in my parent’s house. I miss having a lush backyard to garden and relax in.” While it’s wonderful to reflect on past living spaces or other homes, it’s unhealthy to pine away for what once was. Just as you do in meditation, acknowledge and recognize the thought or feeling for what it is, and then let it pass. Embrace all the new parts of your home that you will grow to love, rather than focusing on what it lacks.
7. Find the beauty in small things. My boyfriend always reminds me of this. He constantly tells me to “stop and smell the roses” when I need to be grounded. It’s a wonderful mantra to live by. Whenever you feel like you’re forgetting to be grateful, take a moment to be appreciative of the things around you, no matter how insignificant they made be. I’ve made a practice of stopping and naming three things that I’m grateful for whenever I start feeling my attitude shift, even if it’s something as small as “I’m grateful for my turquoise nail polish, which makes me feel happy when I look at it.” It’s a simple practice, but it makes a huge impact.
8. Grieve the loss of the life you once lived gently and fully. I had to talk to a therapist to really grasp this concept fully. Grief comes in all shapes and sizes, it’s not limited to grieving over a physical death. When I first moved here and was having trouble adapting, I was still grieving the death of the life I previously had. I had to let go of everything that was comfortable and familiar for me. I had to let go of all the places that I loved, the restaurants I frequented, my university, my old apartment, my friends, even the proximity to my family. That, in some ways, was a death. I now had to learn how to stand on my own two feet in a completely different world, and I couldn’t really do that until I had let go of that old life and put it to rest.
9. Maintain your relationships. ALL of them, not just the ones in close proximity to you. I sometimes forget this lesson, because all my friends and I seem to have an unspoken agreement that we’re allowed to go on our separate adventures and occasionally lose touch, but we can always come back to each other and pick up right where we’ve left off like no time has passed. But what I’m learning more and more is that friendships, even long distance friendships, will help you feel stable and grounded when your world is turned upside down. When you’re in a new environment, you’ll feel better if you take the time to reach out to your friends. You’ll feel close to them knowing that they support you and are there to listen, even when its through a phone call because they’re ten hours away. One beautiful thing about all these crazy advances in technology is that it allows us to stay connected and feel close to the ones we love when we’re far away.
10. Set time each day to do what you love and what inspires you. Although it pains me to admit it, a routine helps significantly in adjusting to a new place. If you loved to do naked yoga in your living room, or if you spent time relaxing after work by a peaceful lake in your old home, find a way to integrate those activities in your new home. Intentionally make time every day, no matter if its five minutes or two hours, to do things that you love and that make you genuinely happy.
11. Exude kindness and warmth and everyone around you will reflect it. I’m always being reminded that people are mirrors. The energy you put out and the way you behave will be reflected by the people you interact with. When I first moved here, I felt closed off and upset, and everyone around me seemed to be feeling the same way. Strangers on the street passed me sullen-faced and angry, without bothering to smile or acknowledge me. My relationships started dissolving because all I was exuding was negativity. Everything and everyone around me seemed to be grey and gloomy. The unfriendliness of my environment made it even harder to adjust, but as soon as I shifted my attitude things began to change. I made a pact with myself that I would smile to everyone that I passed on the street, no matter who they were or how unfriendly they looked. It became like a game to me, being as positive and friendly that I could be when out in public and seeing how many people would respond. At first, people seemed stunned that I was acknowledging them, but gradually I began getting more and more genuine smiles in response. Now, on my daily beach walks, I find myself happily greeting and being greeted by complete strangers. They are reflecting the positivity and happiness they see in me.
12. Don’t be afraid if the adjustment is slow. Some people can move to a new place and instantly feel at home or be completely unaffected (my boyfriend is one of them, and I both envy his nonchalance and playfully despise him for being so laid back and easy), but for some people the adjustment period takes time. Everyone has their own natural pace, and comparing yourself to others will only dishearten you or make you feel abnormal. There are still times when I look at my boyfriend and see him completely unfazed by his move and at ease in new environments, and I want to slap myself and tell myself I’m crazy and need to get my shit together because I’m being an absolute baby. I’ve learned that this is completely unproductive, because I am not him. I don’t cope with problems the same way, I don’t have the same thought processes, I don’t carry the same baggage or knowledge. I move at my own pace, just as he does. So, don’t fear if you have to take it slow. Trust the process.
13. Get involved. When you feel uncomfortable, sometimes you’ve just gotta dive in fearlessly. Go to coffee shops alone and talk to people who look interesting. Go on walks and make friends with people who are walking their dogs. Volunteer at charities that are meaningful to you. The more you put yourself in places that fit your interests and lifestyle, the easier it will be to find people you resonate with. It sets you up automatically with a common denominator to start conversation and begin to relate. The more involved you are in the community you’re building a life in, the easier it will be to feel at home.
14. Spend time in beautiful places. One of my best friends taught me this piece of advice. When I would come to her feeling sad, distressed or worried she would take me somewhere beautiful, and we would explore until our hearts were bursting with appreciation, and I had the clarity to understand what I had to do to move forward and make myself feel better. It could be a botanical garden, a coffee shop, the beach, a park, the middle of a city. Whatever your idea of beauty is, seek it out and let it inspire you. Your problems will seem insignificant in the face of appreciation and wonder, and letting your soul feel lifted by being somewhere inspiring will help to guide you in the right direction.
15. Stay true to yourself. Probably the most important lesson I’ve learned is to stay true to yourself. Listen to the inner voice that is guiding you, because it definitely knows best. If everyone else in your brand new city is rushed and frantic, emanate your own sense of inner calm for everyone around you to feel and appreciate. Just because everyone else may be stressed and unfriendly doesn’t mean you have to be too. Just because everyone around you may be obsessed with material possessions and social status, doesn’t mean you have to change yourself to keep up with them. Now is the time to realize who you really are as a person and stay true to that.