The last six months have been the hardest I’ve ever faced. I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, and I’ve indulged in one too many Netflix marathons with my dogs. But in the mix of learning about a new city and a new job (and the intricacies of Liz Lemon’s relationship with Jack Donaghy), I’ve also learned a few other crucial lessons by moving 2,500 miles away from home all by myself.
1. It’s all fun and bliss and honeymoon-like excitement until the “new” wears off.
In the weeks leading up to my move, people kept telling me how brave I was to take such a leap of faith. But they all shared in my excitement in the biggest of ways. Friends and family made sure I was sent off with the best cocoon of love and joy. But what I didn’t expect was the sudden shift from the bliss to the utter loneliness of being in a new place and a life that didn’t — and sometimes still doesn’t — even feel like my own. It’s the 2 p.m. crash that happens at your desk after four cups of coffee earlier that morning; you’re on a high and then the low hits you out of nowhere. Suddenly things aren’t exciting anymore. They’re hard and you start to question (a lot) whether or not you made the right decision.
2. Making new friends is tough.
My mantra since my first year of grad school has been #NoNewFriends. I love my friends. I think they’re pretty rad, and I wasn’t really looking to add to the friend group I have. Lucky me, because I’ve learned that making new friends is tough. It’s not like being in school, where seeing someone regularly automatically makes you friends. People in the professional world already have lives outside of work, and this is complicated even further when you only work with and see a limited number of people on the daily. For this, my introverted self has had to work twice as hard to make new friends and still maintain strong relationships with friends back home.
3. Dating is even tougher.
Just go ahead and set yourself up on Tinder, OK Cupid, and every other useless dating site that exists. At least you’ll get a nice ego boost every few messages when someone tells you what a great smile you have (because we all know that’s what people actually say in their online dating messages).
4. Traveling back home gets exponentially harder (and more expensive).
When I moved away from home for the first time, I was a mere six-and-a-half-hour drive from the comfort of my parents’ living room couch. It would cost me $30 to put gas in my car and my dog was always down for the drive. Now if I want to visit home (which I’ve only done once since moving), it costs at least $300-$400 for a plane ticket, an approved period of leave from work, and someone who will watch my dogs (read: more money). Gone are the days of weekend trips to visit my family and friends, and in its place is life with visits that are far too short and no vehicle at my disposal when I go back home to visit.
5. You learn the difference between being alone and being lonely.
I didn’t know a single soul within a 100-mile radius of Reno before I moved here. I couldn’t have told you what cities or towns are close to Reno and I had no idea where to even find a grocery store when I first moved here. That was all part of being alone.
But the loneliness set in when I was sitting in my empty apartment with no furniture and just an air mattress in my bedroom floor, furiously refreshing Facebook to find pictures of two of my dearest friends’ weddings. The loneliness came when I realized I was missing a thousand little moments back on the east coast with my family and closest friends and there was nothing I could do to bring those moments back.
If you move across the country by yourself to a new city, a fresh start brings both being alone and being lonely. I’ve learned that both are okay. In my moments of being alone, I’ve hiked to see sunrises in the mountain range and sunsets near Lake Tahoe. I’ve written more than I ever did while I was living back home. I’ve become content in the silence of my apartment and quiet mornings on my balcony. In moments of loneliness, I’ve cried my heart out, but my capacity for emotional strength increased tenfold. I’ve needed both the loneliness and being alone to grow as a person.
6. You become the cook, the bread-winner, the maintenance person and everything in between.
I have never been fully alone. I lived at home during undergrad and with roommates in grad school. This has been my first experience with true independence, and I was surprised at how little I actually know about being an “adult.” But that’s why the world has Google and cell phones with Dad on speed dial. Six months have come and gone and I now know more about my retirement plan, how to change the headlight in my car, and cutting coupons for groceries than I ever thought I would know.
I have two tiny dogs who depend on me for sustenance and affection, and if something breaks and needs to be fixed right away, I am the person I call to fix it (usually after I give one of my parents a call first, though — true independence takes more than six months to develop, right?) I have learned firsthand about responsibility and independence. I guess you could say I moved across the country by myself to grow the hell up.
7. You develop an appreciation for the people and things in your life that might not have been present before.
For all of the lonely moments and times I’ve doubted my decision to move to Reno, there have been moments I appreciate everything in my life much, much more. Phone calls and FaceTime visits with family and friends are sweeter, trips back home are more meaningful, and I have a deeper love for every single pair of shoes I was able to cram in my car for the move. Moving to a new city by myself that’s 2,500 miles away from home definitely hasn’t been easy, but it ultimately needed to happen for me to learn a few important things about life and myself.