Four years ago I fulfilled the millennial twentysomething’s dream of moving across the country. I followed in the footsteps of Jack Kerouac and Donald Miller by packing up all I needed (into a Honda Civic, no less) and drove from Pittsburgh, PA, to Tacoma, WA, for my first student affairs job. I saw a lot of the northern part of the country, stopping in such exotic places as Milwaukee, Minneapolis, and Missoula, in addition to other non-alliterate places. I have tons of wonderful memories from this completely independent trip that signified a dramatic turning of the pages in my life.
Then I got to Tacoma and realized I did not have any friends or really any idea of what I was doing without the norms of Pittsburgh guiding me through life. Crap.
Many of us have done it, are doing it now, or will do it at some point. I am no expert at moving for a job, but I’ve done it and, more than just survived, I’ve thrived. I’ll be marrying a gal from the Pacific Northwest in less than 2 weeks and will now have 2 homes instead of just Pittsburgh. As a result, I wanted to share some insights about how to make the move work:
- Find Your People
Have you seen Into the Wild? Humans need people.
The first moment of despair I felt 2500 miles away from home was when I realized I knew no one. Not only was home across the country but so was my community.
Go to where you know your people will be; church, shows, bars, wherever. My first year was saved by meeting people in the places I wanted to be who were doing the things I liked to do.
- Do Your Job Well
Remember that the main reason you moved was for this job. This can be difficult to remember when the homesickness creeps in, but it can also be an avenue where tension can be released, an identity can be created, and progress can happen. My arrival in Tacoma marked not only the start of life on the west coast but also life in my first full time student affairs role, so it was exciting to learn all of the nuances of the job and to establish goals for myself.
- Develop a Routine
Leaving your familiar environment will extinguish norms that seem like they’ll be there forever. All of a sudden you don’t know what to eat for breakfast, what to do on your lunch break, or where to set down your keys in your apartment. You may not even realize that these things have changed.
When I first moved here, I got into a rhythm of going to church on Sunday, going to happy hour with co-workers, and getting into something musical on the weekends. The sooner you create new norms, the sooner life will feel normal again.
This post is part of our #SACareer series, addressing careers in student affairs, careers outside of student affairs, and the work of career services professionals. Read more about the series in Jake Nelko’s intro post. Each post is a contribution by a member or friend of the Commission for Career Services from ACPA. Our organization exists to benefit the careers of career services professionals, student affairs professionals, and anyone supporting students in the career endeavors. For more information about how to get involved with the Commission for Career Services or the #SACareer blog series, contact Jake Nelko at firstname.lastname@example.org.