What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever done? For me, the answer undoubtedly is moving to a new city, 14 hours away from home one year ago today. I never really thought I’d do something like this, as I’m the youngest child, the only girl, and I’ve never lived more than a quick drive from the parentals. Beyond that, I absolutely LOVED the city I was in (Memphis, TN). I’d developed a strong network, gotten involved with the community and it’s needs, secured my favorite restaurants. I was comfortable there, but that was the problem. I was a bit too comfortable. I was drifting from job to job and while I enjoyed them, I was without any pressure to align my passion with my profession. I realized my twenties were more than halfway over and I needed a jolt. I needed a breath of fresh air and a change of scenery for a while.
People relocate for tons of reasons. Sometimes, something really good happens like a job opportunity you can’t refuse, and sometimes bad things happen like losing loved ones, that catapult you to a new space and make you answer the questions, ‘Now what do I want,?’ Where do I want to be?’ Sometimes it’s neither of those things and you just want to see a new part of this world we’re occupying. Whatever the reason behind your possible move, I want to share a few tips that helped me in this journey that will hopefully be helpful to you too.
1) Research- My first and biggest piece of advice is to find out everything you can about your potential new life in the new city. It sounds like a no-brainer, but it's easy to underestimate how drastically different one city is from the next. I recommend starting with the cost of living. You need to know what it will take to survive there. The cost of living difference from Memphis to DC was night and day. I started saving for the average apartment rental, and slowly factored in my new travel expenses for trains(Metro)/buses that would now be part of my daily commute, and paying for more Ubers and garages. Every single thing you can think of is more expensive here, from food to dry cleaning, and I needed to first wrap my mind around that. In addition to the cost, it’ll help to learn the living culture there prior to moving also. For instance, I don’t know many people that live alone here due to the scarcity of affordable single-space apartments, unlike Memphis, where it was much more common. It’s not unusual for the average resident to have one to FIVE roommates! (You read that right). Utilize Facebook for info on your prospective city. I found a FB group specifically for DC housing and got a first look at available places. Research job markets. Find out if that particular city is a wise career move. Professionally, will you want to be here in a year…five years…ten? Among others, understand those dynamics before moving.
2) Ask for help. Tell people you’re interested in moving. You never know who’s connected to who and to where. You might be surprised at the ties you have to various places via your current network. Work those six degrees of separation! Several people connected me to their people in DC and many of the connections were totally unexpected. Most likely, someone you know has a cousin, sister-in-law, old classmate, etc. in whatever area you’re thinking of, and you’ll never know if you don’t ask around. I had so many phone conversations with strangers that lived here and each one helped me get here in their own way, whether it was helping paint the picture of DC, or giving tips on what to prepare for. This is a great precursor to my next tip…
3) Network- One of the hardest decisions in me leaving Memphis was leaving the social and professional network I’d built while there. I had a fair share of anxiety about the idea of starting over in that regard, but I knew that if I’d done it there, I can do it again somewhere else. If you’re moving to a place where you know no one, you’ll need to get out and meet people. Go to stuff! Attend events. Find out what’s happening in that city. Eventbrite.com is a pretty solid tool in finding events in your particular area. Additionally, there are lots of local organizations to join that’ll help you connect to the new city, like the Urban League of Young Professionals. There’s usually a chapter in every major city, though the names may differ slightly, and they are a great way to get out and connect with the people and the community. There are also tons of GroupMe groups in many major cities that are constantly updated with things to do around town. I joined TheWave DC and now I alllllways know of cool festivals and events to attend. Now none of these things may sound fun to introverts, but enjoying a new city is always made easier with the help of new people, so get out and interact.
4) Explore- When moving to a new space, it likely will not be the city you grew up in, and have vivid memories of field-trips to different parts of town. It will be generally unfamiliar, so it’s up to you to learn it. Get lost. Go out without your GPS and see what you discover. Start with the typical touristy stuff then find the hidden gems or vice versa! Just don’t be afraid to [safely] wander. Pinterest is a surprisingly helpful tool if you’re totally clueless about what your city has to offer. Search the site for lists of top things to do in your new area and then eventually, create your own!
I have to say that exploring the new area can be the best part. You can either spend your time thinking of how much you miss your old favorites, or you can channel that energy into discovering new ones. Once I shifted my perspective from missing to exploring, this entire experience became more fun. I missed my old church and my favorite Memphis restaurants, but I found a great deal of enjoyment in finding new ones.
5) Be an “-ian”- This is my tongue-and-cheek way of saying immerse yourself in the new city and really be a part of it. The transition from Memphian to Washingtonian was and still is at times, a bit challenging. It took me a little while to stop checking my daily Memphis news outlets so much and start being more aware of DC news. I downloaded all the local news apps and even went to a community meeting to become more abreast of my current surroundings. Even though DC is a temporary home for me, it is indeed home for now, and I should govern myself accordingly. I’d hate to leave here one day, having not given my current home the time and attention it deserved. For as long as I’m planted here, whether it’s 6 more months, or 16 more years, I want to bloom!
I cannot end this blog without allocating a portion to the many people that have helped me along this journey. I first have to thank my cousin for not ignoring my “Do you want a roommate?” text in late 2015. She and I can count on ONE hand how many times we’ve laid eyes on each other in real life, but she didn’t hesitate to take me in for several months in DC while I figured out housing. I’ll forever be indebted to her for opening her home to me and I’ll forgive her for charging her sweet little cousin rent later in life, I’m sure, ha!
I have to also recognize my professional and personal network of Memphians who sat down with me, helped me strategize back when this was just a crazy thought, and mostly notably, connected me to their DC friends and family to help make my transition smooth. I’ll omit names to avoid missing anyone, but I can’t thank you all enough for your sound advice and making your friends my friends early on in this process. The questions you couldn’t answer about the city, you made sure your DC peers could, and I'm so grateful for your help.
Lastly, but certainly not least, my Memphis to DC family! I was blessed to transition to a city with so many Memphis transplants, who have been ultra hospitable and welcoming. I don’t think I paid for anything my first month or so here! (SN: can we go back to those days ya'll?! Renew our relationship??) Some I knew before, some I connected with here, but all are my good friends now and this experience wouldn’t be the same without each of you. To Tristan, Darrah, Kenny, Whitley, Tammi, Jasmine, Preston…thanks for being my home away from home!
Whether you’re just starting to think about moving, or you’ve recently relocated, pat yourself on the back for taking the leap. It’s a bold move to pack up and move away from everything familiar. It takes some courage to really go for it, whether it’s clearly calculated or every step is as ambiguous as the last. Don’t be consumed with sinking or swimming. If it’s in your heart, do it, and allow yourself space to change the course if or when you need to. When you’re in new territory, even your failures or misses are incredible instruments for development and sharpening, so don't be afraid to bump your head a bit. I’ve had plenty of days where DC won, and I lost, but even those days strengthened my character and without question, I know that I’ll look back on this move and be so glad I made it. Most likely, you won’t regret the experience even if it isn't entirely pleasant, so go for it. Take the leap!