When I graduated from college, panic reigned. I had been told that the job market was bad, so what did I do? I expanded my job search. I opened myself to all corners of the country, and landed a job in Harrisburg, PA. Relief, more panic, terror, excitement, nervousness – I felt it all.
Emotions continued to flow even after I moved. I’d call it a rollercoaster, in fact. Some moments were good; some were bad. Every moment was a learning experience. As I lived day to day in a new place, near no one I knew, I molded into a new person. It was scary and sad while also beneficial and amazing. Some of the lessons learned from moving away were some of the most valuable a person can absorb.
You Have To Venture Out
Accustomed to staying in and binging on Netflix? When you move to a new place, you have to cut back. You cannot lock yourself in. Make a conscious effort to go out, explore and meet new people. See new things and take advantage of the unfamiliarity all around you. Experiences and friends won’t just fall upon you; you need to seek them out. While it may be comfortable and safe, staying alone indoors will become unbearably lonely before too long.
Making Friends Takes Effort
All your life you’ve been in school, where friends are basically dumped on you. You were surrounded by familiar faces, the faces of people your own age. Now, in this new place, making friends is all on you. Yes, you’ll probably meet people at work – I know I did. But there’s a chance that you won’t, and there’s a chance you’ll want more than just work friends. Join a group or club in order to meet new people – lots of cities have groups specifically for young professionals (like Harrisburg Young Professionals) that can be fun and help with networking.
You Will Be Lonely
Don’t kid yourself. There will be low moments, moments in which you’d trade your right leg for mama’s embrace or a night with a friend from home. It’s natural and normal to experience homesickness, so don’t be ashamed. When these instances strike, try to distract yourself. Go out with new friends or head to the gym. Use your energy positively and combat your longing in a healthy way. It’s not bad to call your parents or longtime friends, but don’t use them as a crutch or a means of avoiding your new life.
Independence Can Be Perfected With Practice
After enough time, being alone is second nature. You learn to entertain yourself, to be happy with yourself. Having spent all my years surrounded with familiarity and comfort, I hadn’t developed a true sense of independence. Moving away, however, gave me the push I needed to accept my personality, interests and goals. I learned that I can actually do a ton of stuff by myself, like handling finances. It may be rocky at first, but independence comes in time, like weight loss on a diet.
Stuff Is Expensive
Everything fell under my responsibility when I moved (rent, phone bill, car insurance, groceries and so on). I learned that living is expensive but there are ways to cut here and there. Coupons and membership cards became my best friends. I swear by going green as a way to cut back; I visited garage sales and thrift stores for some DIY home décor and made my own green cleaning products.
When it comes to my housing, I look for features I would have never considered before (like central heating, efficient appliances and new windows). I decided to find a roommate to cut rent in half (and to help with the loneliness). While I had doubts in the past, I’m now completely comfortable handling my finances.
You Can’t Define Yourself by the People in Your Life
Displacing myself from those I love allowed me to be me. Just me. People in my new city met me and learned about me; they didn’t know me as someone’s friend, daughter or cousin. They didn’t know who I was or what I came from; they only know me as I am now.
Consequently, I began to see myself as those new people were seeing me: me as me. I no longer defined myself by those in my life. I knew I couldn’t. It becomes clear that people will come and go from your life; you are the only constant. You need to be ok with that; come to terms with it.
You Learn Who Your True Friends Are
When you separate yourself from your old life, you learn who truly is a worthy asset. Some people will keep in contact, others won’t. You’ll miss some people, and relish the distance from others. Some people will remember your birthday, others won’t. You’ll see who your real friends are.
Yes, it’s been hard, but building a life away from home has also been fun and incredibly rewarding. If I could go back, I wouldn’t do anything differently.
Sarah Landrum is a freelance writer and the founder of Punched Clocks, sharing advice on finding happiness and success in life and at work. After graduating from Penn State, she moved to Harrisburg to start her career – and is loving every minute of it. Follow Sarah for more advice and a glimpse into the many, many things she learns from @SarahLandrum