Next weekend marks the one year anniversary of my move down from Rhode Island to North Carolina. Can you believe it!? I cannot, and yet here we are. I’ve been thinking back on the past year of life I’ve lived down here in the Tar Heel state (fun fact: still no idea what a “Tar Heel” is) and let’s get one thing straight. Making moves is not easy. Especially when you’re moving to a place that you’ve never been to before, where you know no one, and you’re starting off on a brand new chapter of your begrudgingly “adult” life.
Let’s just say I learned some things. Things like vampire teeth bottle openers are a necessity in every modern home. Things that I would like to share with you in the event that you are thinking of making moves of your own. Enjoy.
Do not search for apartments from the screen of a computer, way across the Atlantic, while sitting at a desk in a house on the Emerald Isle. Not my most brilliant idea because, shocker, I hated my first apartment here in Charlotte. Even though I hadn’t seen it before I moved in, I happen to be pretty… let’s call it unaffected (when I looked up synonyms for that I found ‘unsophisticated’ which also works) when it comes to stuff like this, so I knew I could make it work for the length of the lease. Understandable that everyone is not like that, so my advice is take a flight to the place you’re thinking of moving towards. Rent a car, get out there in the neighborhoods, and get away from the tourist attractions of the city / town. If you move there you will not be a tourist, you will be a resident. Go see where you want to reside. With your actual eyeballs.
2. Keep an open mind
When I was first looking for apartments (again, stupidly from afar) I was convinced that I needed an outdoor patio and a fireplace. There was a compromise on the fireplace but I was still completely unwilling to budge on the outdoor space. Which then led me to spend an entire year never once using said space because I hated my surroundings, so, refer to #1… then also remember that the things you think you are dead set in need of you probably aren’t. Scope out all sorts of arrangements from your wish list and go with the place that gives you the best vibe. It might be the one you expect to like the least but you’ll never know if you don’t keep an open mind about the whole thing.
3. Clean first, move boxes later
When you finally find your dream dwelling and moving day comes around, take your time. Let the moving trucks idle for a few minutes. I know, this can be difficult, but trust me. Pick up your keys and walk into the place. Look around, see what the layout is like, if everything is prepped and ready for you to really immerse yourself and your boxes and boxes of useless belongings (no one needs that many mixing bowls, NO ONE) into it. If the guys who gave the place a fresh coat of paint weren’t so careful about leaving their shoes at the door, give the floor a quick mop down (or Swiffer if you’re not fully embracing that adulthood thing yet) before you start bringing everything in. Take the time to prep the place before you start the fun parts of unpacking. You don’t want to clean at the same time, trust me. I did that with my first apartment and it was miserable.
4. Don’t rush through it all
This goes for unpacking the old and purchasing the new. There is no race to unpack. Take your time, look at the things you’re moving in, and see if any slipped through the first round of “spring cleaning.” Put them places with a purpose. If something seems to have no place, and you’re stressing about where to shove it off to (because the hall closet is somehow already miraculously full with your two costume bags which you simply cannot downsize in any way), maybe just chuck it out. I am the QUEEN of holding on to things. I genuinely still have an old acorn in my possession from… no less than 6 years ago. Couldn’t tell you where or why or any semblance of significance but it moves with me everywhere.
I also happen to be the Queen of impulse buys, a woman of many talents. I see something or think about something that I want and it becomes a need to have it as soon as possible. Don’t be like me. Think about that children’s train rug from Ikea before you buy it. Give yourself a week or two or four to really think on the new things that you want to purchase. Then come back and see if they’re still in your head and if so, no one will stop you from buying them. Hopefully no one will stop you anyways because I assume you are an adult and are capable of making your own decisions, but you get the picture. I will not practice what I preach so be a doll and do it for me.
5. Get used to new creatures
Especially if you move down to the South. Let me tell you, this little Northerner had never seen bugs until she moved to the other side of the Mason-Dixon. There were a lot of new creatures I had to become accustomed to and… you know, I’m still not fully there but I’m doing alright for myself. And I have decent friends who will kill things for me when I ask them to… with tears in my eyes. Just accept that this is a new part of the culture, wherever you go. There will be new animals and critters to get used to. I believe in you.
6. Don’t let everyone scare you
You’ve never met My Nana but let me tell you, a more terrifyingly superstitious tiny Scottish woman you never did see. My first month down here she sent me a care package comprised of one little newspaper clipping. The harbinger herself sent me an article about a brain-eating amoeba that was found at the Whitewater Center in Charlotte. Other people I knew warned me against certain parts of my new town and tried to repress the habits I’ve cultivated growing up in a close-knit Rhode Island city. There is danger out there in the world in every place, city or small town. Not trying to get too deep into that rabbit hole, and I’m not saying to trust every stranger you encounter, but know that it’s not healthy to let every little panicky Patricia out there get into the core of your livelihood when you’re moving to a new place. Just be smart about yourself.
7. You are much tougher than you think you are
Two weeks. That was how long it took before I had a complete mental breakdown, sitting alone on top of my bed in the early morning hot summer air, with about two months left before I started work, realizing that I just wanted to go back home. It was really hard to be in a place where I knew absolutely no one and at the same time, I knew that I had done this to myself. I wanted this! I wanted a change and a new area and I knew that came at the cost of friends and family nearby. I had to remind myself that I had never experienced a new place before where I had gone the whole duration without meeting anyone (and Charlotte has been no different – I’m very thankful to have met all sorts of wonderful and interesting humans, a few of which I get to call my friends). That reminder didn’t come to mind very quickly, and it didn’t make things any easier to deal with for a while. It probably took me a good month or two before I came to terms with the fact that I’m a tough cookie. I can stick it. But tough cookies still get homesick and that’s okay. You will get through it, even though you might not think so.
8. Find routines
Anyone else a big routine person? A planner person? A, I believe what they call us is, “type A” person? Part of what helped me get acclimated to my new city and my new life is the Sunday morning routine I’ve built for myself. I love going for drives with the windows down in this Southern swelter, so on Sunday mornings just before 10am I hop in the car and hit the road for a 20-25 minute-ish trip down to one of my favorite coffee spots. I turn on NPR’s Car Talk (shoutout to my best friend’s mom for getting me into that one) and laugh along with the radio as I cruise there and back for my caffeine fix. It’s an hour of my time, in all honesty, that has kept me sane. It’s something that I look forward to every weekend and it’s a routine that’s helped me adjust to my hectic work-life down here. Highly recommend getting something similar for your own.
9. Know your space
Whether it’s a walking city like Boston or a driving city like Charlotte or a small town in, I don’t know, wherever you’re going with a small town, get out there and know your space. I pride myself (on many things, but on this in particular) on knowing how to navigate most of the bottom half of Charlotte without a map. Queen of the (yeah, one more) backroads… in my own heart and mind. When I first moved down here I experienced getting myself lost a few times and eventually finding my way home. Figure out where your favorite stores are, where the best coffee place is, what routes to take when your usual cut-through is blocked off for a 5k. It makes you feel really good about yourself and like you’re actually getting a bit more settled. Sidenote: my uncle is one of those guys who can tell you directions for literally 99% of the country (“85 has a lot of traffic? Just hop on 49 to 77 to breaker breaker 1-9” etc. etc.) and I aspire to be that so this helps.
10. Receive change
Refer to the above, god knows how many times, when I mentioned some form of my stubbornness. Charlotte has never been on my radar as a forever home. When I moved down here I was convinced that I was going to absolutely love my first apartment and live in it for the few years that I stayed down here. I thought my trusty little blue VW would get me through those next few years. I thought work would have me traveling all over the country and I’d never get to know this fair city. I thought I would keep to myself and make 0 friends. What I’m getting at here is that, basically, I thought a lot of things and very few of them have held true. Yeah, guys, I made friends.
In March my best friend came down to visit and as I told her my woes of having to start the new car search process, she voiced the very core of my fears out loud. Change happens. Plans get deviated from and that’s okay! In my head, it was everything but okay. I had all of this figured out, it was step by step, cookie cutter. And now, merely a year later, almost everything has changed from what I expected. You’ve heard it before, and you’ll hear it again: don’t fight that. I did, until I realized I can’t. Receive the changes that happen in your life. Tell yourself what I tell myself:
It will all be a-okay, Jack.