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Coffee Talk: On Moving to a New City

Coffee Talk is a monthly series that dives headfirst into real life territory. Consider it like a deep conversation with a friend where nothing is off limits. Take a seat, grab your mug and let’s chat.

Moving to a new city is a thrilling adventure. You pack your life into cardboard boxes, load them into the back of a Uhaul, hug your loved ones goodbye for now, and trade the familiar feelings of home for the opportunity to venture into the unknown. You save every penny you have. You sell things on Craiglist. You spend hours apartment searching, hoping the internet pictures aren’t as bad as they seem. You make plans for the immediate future, and are excited, hopeful and terrified all at the same time.

I moved to Columbus, Ohio 10 months ago after losing my job of almost three years. I was slowly recovering from the feelings of shock, embarrassment and failure, yet in spite of everything, I felt like what happened was a blessing in disguise. It gave me the opportunity to change my scenery and start fresh. So, I found a new job at a PR firm, packed my bags and headed north. And while the move wasn’t across the country by any means, it was still a change for a girl who called Cincinnati home for 25 years.

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Whether you’re an hour and a half drive away (like me) or 2,000 miles across the country, no matter how you look at it, moving to any new city is a challenge. Meeting new people, learning to navigate in unfamiliar territory, starting a new job — all factors contribute to this thing they call a Quarter Life Crisis, a fancy term used to describe a dramatic life change in your twenties.

If you do move, I promise, you will have high highs. There will come a time after one too many martinis where you stumble upon a breathtaking view in your new hometown, on a perfect 75-degree night, and for the first time in awhile, you will feel like you can take on anything. But just like the highs, there will be lows. And trust me, you will have some low lows. You will get lost, lock yourself out of your apartment and feel so very alone. But just as good always overcomes evil, the highs always outweigh the lows.

Your twenties are the period in your life where you try new things to see what works. And if things don’t go as planned? Just remember, you can always go home. If you do, don’t feel like you failed. Tell yourself you won because you tried. Trying is so much better than wondering “what if” 20 years from now.

So, if you’re thinking of moving, I’m sure you have a ton of questions. I know I did. I asked my friends Preeti and Annie to share their experiences with you. Both know a thing or two about leaving the familiar behind. Preeti has lived in four different cities in just five years, and Annie bought a one-way ticket to San Francisco without a job or apartment, and never looked back.

Read their stories below!

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Where are you from? 

I was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago, IL. In 2005, I graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (go Illini!).

What inspired you to take the plunge and move? How old were you?

I got a job offer I couldn’t refuse in Kansas City, 500 miles away from where I grew up. I was only 21 years old, but I’ve always been very ambitious/career-oriented, so I felt confident making the move, as it was the best thing for my professional future. My parents were really supportive and I am a very adventurous person by nature, so I knew it was the right thing. My dad and I drove down with a car packed up with my stuff and I moved into my first apartment.

What are some of your tips for meeting new people?

Even though I was lucky enough to have a few acquaintances, I really was determined to make a life for myself there. Be open to new experiences. Go out and explore your city. It really only takes one person so be fearless and talk to people. Staying in your apartment with Netflix is the safe route, but you’ll meet some of the greatest people by putting yourself out there. It can be scary, but I have some of the greatest memories of my life because I took the plunge and let myself make new friends.

Describe your most challenging day/experience in your new city. How did you deal with it?

I probably can’t pick just one. I’m not going to lie, there were some lonely nights where I missed my friends and family so much it hurt. But, with each promotion I got, each new friend I made, each new guy I met, each new fun night out I had, I knew I was on the right path. It’s funny, because that’s actually something I’d tell my 20 year-old self. Some nights may be hard, but nothing’s permanent. In the long run, those tear-filled memories eventually slip away and become replaced by all the amazing adventures you had.

What was your most rewarding moment?

Again, it’d be hard to pick just one. My career has flourished over the last 6 years and I truly believe that by taking everything that was thrown at me in stride is what got me here. Being open and available to change took me down a road of both professional and personal successes. Being 28 and at the place I am in my career is definitely rewarding each and every day. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t taken every single one of those chances and move as much as I did. Living in 4 cities in 5 years is certainly risky, but the juice was worth the squeeze.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to someone who’s thinking of moving to a new city after college?

DO IT! I am so grateful that I moved around so much before I eventually settled down because it taught me so much about myself and also introduced to me to people who are now lifelong friends. If I hadn’t taken that initial leap, the subsequent changes that came with it wouldn’t have happened, and I wouldn’t have met my husband! Life’s funny that way. I live by the motto “If you get a chance, take it. If it changes your life, let it.”

AnnieWhere are you from?

I was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. I went to school at Miami University, about 60 miles west of my hometown. I moved back when I graduated and worked downtown for a few years. I guess you could say I’m an Ohio gal.

What inspired you to take the plunge and move? How old were you?

A few weeks after I turned 25 I used all my credit card points to buy a one way ticket to San Francisco International Airport. It had been a thought tugging at the corner of my consciousness for several years. Honestly, the biggest motivator to take the plunge was fear that if I didn’t finally try it, the “tug” would never go away. There’s a book I adore, written by Cheryl Strayed, called Tiny Beautiful Things. And I kept thinking about this letter she wrote, and “a tiny clear voice that would not, no matter what I did, stop saying go.”  I didn’t want to always wonder, so I left.

What are some of your tips for meeting new people?

Moving from a city where it feels like you know everyone, to a place where you can count your friends on two hands was difficult. I reached out to everyone I knew: college neighbors I hadn’t spoken to in years, sorority sisters who I hadn’t seen since I left my sorority, my older sister’s best childhood friend who was on maternity leave, the boy I taught swimming lessons with in high school, my little sister’s friend on co-op in the city.

Every person I reached out to accepted me with open arms. No one thought it was weird. Every one wanted to help. They would invite me over, introduce me to their friends, offer advice. I think that’s my biggest tip: ask for help. You’d be surprised how many people are willing to give it to you. The other great asset I had was a college alumni group. I hooked up with other Miami alumni who had moved to the west coast at our sanctioned events. Definitely check your college website, because I bet you have one, too. In a city so unfamiliar, it felt great to be surrounded by people with a shared experience.

Describe your most challenging day/experience in your new city. How did you deal with it?

One most challenging day? Goodness, I think I have one a week. For me, the hardest thing has been adjusting to life in a big city. I’ve never done it before. Things like: public transportation, homeless people sleeping in front of your door, sirens in the middle of the night, screams wafting through the open window. Sometimes it scares me, I guess I was pretty sheltered before. It’s easy for me to spiral in my own mind and suddenly make a situation feel much worse than it is.

On those days, I listen to the advice from my older sister (the one that lives here): look for the beautiful. Just leave the city for a little and remind yourself how pretty the world is. Go see something beautiful. She’s right, of course. A few miles in every direction of this city is a gorgeous ocean, mountain, or national park. Being in the quiet of those places makes my mind calm down.

What was your most rewarding moment?

I think the most rewarding moment I’ve had in this city came about four months after I moved. I hated my apartment when I first moved in. I didn’t have enough money to do anything. I could only buy one thing at a time. So for the first several weeks I was sleeping on a mattress on the floor under a single sheet. Then I bought the things for a standing desk, then the next month I bought a chair for it, then the next month, I bought a kitchen table, then the next month an arm chair.

After I finished the table, I was using it to mix some beer bread batter together and my boyfriend was in the kitchen making breakfast, and I just sighed and said “Ohh, I love my apartment.” Then I gasped, I hadn’t even realized I was saying it. “Did you hear that?” I asked. He came around the corner, made me put down the bowl, and gave me a hug. I don’t want you to ever forget this moment, Annie. He said. You did it.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to someone who’s thinking of moving to a new city after college?

If you’re thinking about moving, you need to go. You won’t be satisfied until you try. Yea, you might decide you hate it, but can always go home. And the thing is: you might love it. I have grown in ways I could have never imagined in six short months in this city. I didn’t realize when I stepped on the plane, but these are the years that are going to form my life.


Have you moved to a new city or are you thinking of taking the plunge? Share your insights and thoughts in the comments!

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  • Love this post, Natalie. It was these kind of reads that inspired me to make my move to SF in the first place. I just kept thinking — well if she can do it, I can too. So glad I finally did! Literally has changed my life.

    • Sarah Wissinger

      I loved reading your responses, Annie. When I think about you hopping on a plane to SF with no plan, I’m like DAMN GIRL. I would be so scared to do that (SF in particular with the limited housing and crazy cost of living!) but the fact that you did it is so freaking awesome. I know we’re only internet friends but I am so proud of you! haha
      Sarah

      • omg Sarah, this just totally made my day. Thank you so much! I didn’t realize you made a similar move yourself! I don’t think it matters at all where it is you’re going — any move away from home is a challenging and rewarding experience. I really hope we can meet in person someday! I just know we’d hit it off. xox

    • SO proud of you, Annie! Can’t wait to plan another trip soon :)

  • Love this post, Natalie. It was these kind of reads that inspired me to make my move to SF in the first place. I just kept thinking — well if she can do it, I can too. So glad I finally did! Literally has changed my life.

  • Sarah Wissinger

    Love this post so much! I feel like my move from Amish Country, PA to Pittsburgh happened so gradually over time that it didn’t feel like a huge change. But when I think back about my rural life growing up and now living in the 2nd largest city in the state, it’s totally crazy how different life is now (and of course how happy I am!)
    I’m glad to hear that things are going so well in Columbus! I’ve only been there once to go to LC Pavilion, but I certainly had fun. Next time I’m around I’m hitting you up for a real coffee date instead of a virtual one, haha.

    • I totally know what you mean, Sarah! My move from Cincinnati to Columbus wasn’t far distance wise, but it’s amazing how different a place can be, even if it is semi-close to home. I’m happy to hear you’re loving Pittsburgh! I’ve never been, but I’ve heard it’s similar to Cincinnati. And YES! I’d love to go on a real coffee date someday. Let me know if you’re in town! And if I’m ever in Pittsburgh, I’ll hit you up. It’s on my list of places I need to go to!

  • Janelle Beckman

    Love the concept of this blog! Go Natfolch!

    This piece really resonated with me because I, too, moved and started a life somewhere else! There were hard times for sure—getting the flu and having to drive my sick self to the doctor and getting pulled over for speeding on my way there plus breaking down crying in the doctor’s office filling out paperwork that seemed foreign. But then wonderful times—having gone through that experience knowing I can take care of myself BY myself. It’s so refreshing to be alone in a new city. Scary, yes, but it built in me a new confidence that I didn’t know I could possess.

    I moved to Odessa (middle of nowhere West Texas town) for a wonderful speech pathology job a year and a half ago. I knew no one and had only been there for my interview 1 month before. I luckily had felt that I would get the support I needed from the staff at my outpatient clinic and especially my fellow speech therapists. And just as I’m comfortable where I am and who I surround myself with, I’m ready to move to another new and exciting place again!