A longtime friend connected with me this week. She’s moving from a place she loves all the way across the country to be closer to family. It’s a difficult and complicated situation, but she’s moving for the right reasons. She asked me how my family left Alaska seven years ago. What did we do to make it easier? How did we leave a place (and people) we loved to start anew? Well, I was so grateful she asked me this question now and not six years ago. Our transition to a new state, town, schools, friends and work was challenging indeed, but the perspective of the intervening years helps so much.
BEFORE THE MOVE: Have a plan in place. As much as you can, settle the details in the new location. Where will you live? We were blessed to be able to have a house hunting trip ahead of our move which helped a lot. What schools will the kids go to? What activities will you be involved in? To the degree that you can, plan your landing well. Additionally, do everything you can to keep your departure simple and significant. Plan gatherings with the most important people you and your family members need to connect with. Also, put a return strategy in place. This is not a planned retreat in defeat, just something to look forward to. This might be as simple as a planned vacation back next summer or a twice yearly visit by yourself to check in on parents (or whoever) you left behind. You might find that after you come back, you’ll have an easier time calling your new place, home.
MAKE YOUR NEW HOUSE YOUR HOME: This is so much work, but it helps so much. Some people can settle into a house in 24 hours. Some take a week or two or three. At the end of the day, I say, just do whatever it takes to make your house feel like it’s yours, but embrace process over perfection. Walk in the door, open the windows, air it out. Get the floors and carpets cleaned, do a load of laundry and clean the kitchen. Hire painters, or plan if and when you want to paint yourself. Remove ugly wallpaper and manage your cosmetic updates. My closet smelled like the previous owners, so I painted that straight away. Move in the beds on the very first day, and everything else will fall into place.
AFTER THE MOVE: Start making memories right away. Throw a party and invite everyone you happen to know in the area. Or just have a neighbor over for coffee. I used to invite any random person I knew over for coffee and cake. I still have friends say, “Oh, we met at coffee that day at Lisa’s!” Make connections in your new community at the schools, in your place of worship, at the grocery store. I remember how lonely I used to feel when grocery shopping because I didn’t know a single person in the store. Well, if you start up a conversation with the butcher, or the gal at Starbucks, they might remember you next time. Settle yourself to the best of your ability. Find out where the best bakery is in your new town. Discover a fun hike or a place you’d love to bring visitors. Welcome friends from your “old” place every chance you get. Hosting visitors from Alaska was always a huge comfort and encouragement to us. It’s especially fun when your new friends meet your old friends.
USE A CREATIVE BRIDGE: After our move, I went into a sort of funk. I really had to work through my sadness without bringing down everyone else around me. One day, I had an opportunity to paint at a pottery shop. I chose a mug and in a fairly childish way, painted my current home and the last two I had lived in. While doing so, I allowed myself to relish the memories we had in those homes, and it helped me to realize we’d have new memories in our new home too. I also threw it back to our roots a bit as well. I discovered Map my State (not sponsored) and ordered two prints to symbolize where Roland and I had some from. It was a fun way to put our stamp on this new place. We also created a playlist of our favorite encouraging songs to help the new place feel more familiar and played it while we made dinner or went on road trips.
Finally, give yourself a little grace. This is going to take time. Connect with the ones you love the most and keep checking in on each other. In a year or two, you’ll all have a collection of new friends and new, happy memories in your new home. In seven years, you’ll realize how blessed you are to have two sets of amazing friends and so many cherished memories. You’ll be grateful for the growth in your family and in yourself.