There are few events in life that so perfectly encapsulate heightened feelings of fear and excitement at once, but moving to a new place is certainly a contender. I’d also venture to say that starting a new relationship is another, and much like the beginnings of a budding love affair, moving requires cultivation and intention to progress it past its novelty and into the snug permanence of regular life. A world of promise inhabiting the 500 square miles of the city’s jurisdiction sit before you and, if you’re anything like me, you begin to fantasize of all the wonderful and exciting moments that lie ahead well before your bags are even packed. But what about when the fateful day arrives? When your car is loaded up and your family/friends/kindly neighbors see you off from the edge of a driveway, tearing up as they shrink more and more into the distance of your rearview mirror? I recently took that step and relocated to Nashville, TN, home to Reba McEntire and far too many shops devoted solely to cowboy boots. As I round out my first month here, I find myself looking back at the weeks past with particular detail paid to the first 14 days. From me to you, here is a guide of my first two weeks in Music City, and how to execute a seamless move.
1. THE FIRST DAY
You only get one chance at a first impression, so make it count. In the early hours of relocation, your opinion of the city is the only one that really matters. As you crest that highway hump and the varying levels of city skyline peak into your vista, remember that this is your opportunity to see your new home for the first time. Embrace it! Allow yourself to fill up with all the happiness and delusions of unbridled perfection, because why the hell not? Responsibility can come later, but for now, you are engaging in the stuff of dreams. You moved! I felt a sort of incomprehensible levity as my car, weighed down with the only possessions that I cared to own, chugged past the exit for Hermitage, home of the people’s president, and crept into Nashville’s city limits. Of course, I happened to be driving in for two back-to-back job interviews, so adulthood wasn’t far behind, but for a while, I didn’t worry about any of that, and you shouldn’t either.
2. SEEKING GAINFUL EMPLOYMENT
The unfortunate thing about moving—beyond the physical toll of schlepping countless boxes of varying size and weight across multiple state lines—is that most of the time it ain’t easy on the old bank account. For most of us pretty young things new on the workforce scene, a paying job is imperative upon arrival. So go out and find one! Does it have to be the landing pad to rocket you into a fruitful and illustrious career that will color the remaining decades of your adult life? Contrary to what your parents might say, no, it absolutely does not. It just has to be a job! If you have dreams of climbing the corporate ladder within a designated industry, start at the bottom rung and see where you go. If your passions fall under the umbrella of artistry, work during the day and feed your creative appetite at night. There isn’t anything wrong with pursuing a position right out the gate with determination and focus, but I find no fault in the contrary either. I ended up with a job in the service industry that allows me the freedom to nurture further dreams, and while I don’t have the desire to stay in this position forever, I appreciate the relationships and opportunities it’s given me for the time being.
Perhaps one of the most obvious and yet overlooked parts of moving is actually getting your feet wet in the city that you’ve just relocated to. Seems pretty simple, and yet I’ve talked to plenty of people who move to a new place and then . . . don’t go out in that new place. They spend their daylight hours working and their nighttime at home worrying about money. It’s a cycle that feeds itself as most of us feel like the most important thing to do when we land on unfamiliar ground is to build a fiscal nest. I was talking to my brother after he moved to San Francisco and found out that he still hadn’t been down to the Fisherman’s Wharf eight months after he’d moved there. When I asked him, sputtering in disbelief, why he hadn’t taken a single afternoon to experience one of the city’s most famous attractions, he said that he’d been too busy with work. In all likeliness that’s true—my brother works a ton and he does so from home, so there’s no 5:00 shut off time for his career-driven mind. Still, exploring your new city is so monumental to your assimilation. How can a place feel like home when most of it is still a mystery to you? My first week in Nashville was all about exploration. I spent the first morning that I had there driving around the downtown area, stopping off to grab a cup of hot coffee at Crema. The day probably cost me a total of $10 if you account for gas usage, and I consumed a visual feast of all the beauty that Nashville has to offer. The next day I hit up Centennial Park and Tennessee State Museum as a way to get both my nature and culture fix. After that, I did the neighborhoods: one morning in East, the other in Hillsboro Village, another on West End. Without spending more than $15 each day, I was able to align myself with this stellar city and get an idea of how my life was going to look over the ensuing months.
4. FRIENDLY CONNECTIONS
One of the most rightfully stressful aspects of moving is the newly vacant friend circle that the majority of us end up with. Suddenly, your best friend’s living across the country and you’re without your Tuesday wine fix. But look at this as the opportunity that it can be: with a new place comes the chance to be a new you. Moving offers the kind of reinvention that is almost impossible to do in your hometown. If you’re fortunate enough to know people already, present yourself the way that you want to be presented when you see them and meet their friends. If you don’t know anyone, go out alone and see what happens. You will feel weird and self-conscious and out of that vulnerability, something spectacular will happen—you’ll find friends. The first fifteen minutes will be the worst by far, but it will get easier, and the people that you meet in a place that you elect to go to will likely have opinions and interests similar to yours. You get to rebuild your entire social network with whatever kind of people you wish to be surrounded by. When I arrived here, I knew five people. I now have a couple steady social circles that I feel comfortable in and plenty of people that I’m excited to see. Most of these contemporary companions were either friends of friends or friends from work (two very full barrels if you’re looking to fish) and I can happily say that all the people I spend time with are people that I’m electing to have in my life.
5. FIND YOUR PLACE
This is a tall order for the first two weeks in a new city, but finding your place is one of the best remedies for a case of homesickness. And by finding your place, I don’t just mean your physical domicile. Your place could be your community, your circle of friends, a job that fulfills you, or even just a routine coffee stop. It’s whatever reminds you of yourself. Finding such a spot can be difficult and may take longer than 14 days, but the journey is just as much fun as the destination. As I arrived in Tennessee, I felt a connection to the mountains around me. They reminded me of neighboring North Carolina, my home away from home. I took as many opportunities to hike the areas close to Nashville as I could, for that was a place that I could always connect with. I also found a coffee shop with wonderful lighting and delicious beverages where I could sit and write for hours. These places were mine, unequivocally so, and they made the transition that much smoother. Though it hasn’t hit me yet, I know that when sadness and stress come knocking at my door, I will have sanctuaries to escape to. I will have my roommates to care about my most trivial desire, and we will have a city waiting for us to explore.
No one ever said that moving was easy, nor should it be. It’s because of the challenges, the heartache, the loss, and the ultimate gains inherent in this milestone that we learn and grow. Though moving always remains a challenge bested by few, there is a crucial two-week period that you can use to your advantage. They exist there to set the tone for your new life, and it is your responsibility to do just that. So take it from me as someone who’s just survived: the first 14 days will test your limits, but they also mark the beginning of a new world full of beauty and wonder.