I don’t know everything about transition (apparently I know four things). However my most reflective moments have hidden themselves underneath this strange urge to continue uprooting myself to seek out something that smells new and wreaks of struggle. I want to share just a sliver of the insights I have gained during the process.
1. Stay uncomfortable
Did you just move to a brand new city where you know few people? Yes? Then listen up. The couch can be incredibly alluring when anything beyond it is foreign and unknown. It’s remarkably easy to find yourself watching reruns of Friends (been there) or watching terrible Will Smith movies (done that, and I stand by Wild Wild West as a four out of five). The world is churning around you but you wouldn’t know it unless you peak out every now and then. Join a kickball league. Take a class. Sit at a bar, have a beer, and chat up whomever sits near you. You’ll never know what a new city can offer if you don’t meet it head on. It might be awful for a while. It could take a long time for anything to stick. But when it does… the whole city will open up before your eyes. Stay at it. Be awkward, uncomfortable, out of place. It only takes one encounter, one moment to lead you to the life you pictured before taking the leap. Remember, Edison did not fail at inventing the light bulb, he just found 2,000 ways not to make one.
2. Remain optimistic and naive
This goes hand in hand with #1. There are enough troubles in the world without having to add “Adjust to a city and make all new friends.” There’s a slippery slope that follows transition and at the basin lie self-doubt and depression. Granted those are worst case scenarios but it comes in all different sizes and shapes so know that others have indeed faced those demons. Forcing yourself to stay uncomfortable is the only way to break into a new scene but if it takes a while to catch on then you must also stay hopelessly optimistic and naive. It’s easy to lose that and get down on yourself, so I’m here to say this: Stop it. Keep going. Every happy hour, office outing, meet-up posted online, they should all be viewed as that potential “one moment” where you meet folks you connect with. You might go to dozens of these gatherings and not find exactly what you’re looking for. But guess what? It only takes one. I can’t press this enough. Keep trying. Always walk into a situation knowing it is your turn.
3. Your first impressions will be wrong
It’s almost like being dropped into the forest and you need to figure out your situation quickly or perish. You have to size up your surroundings. Except in a new job you don’t – and shouldn’t – size anyone up. Sadly our human nature pushes us to place people into boxes so it can better understand. It’s a tough urge to fight. No matter where you place people or whatever first impressions you stumble upon they will be wrong. You might call a few characteristics correctly but whatever overall judgement you try to place will be off the mark – sometimes even severely. Don’t feel bad about it; remember it’s human nature for us to try understanding those around us in whatever way we can. The delineation comes when you choose actions based off the preconceived notions. Know that people will continue to surprise you. Give people way too many chances to impress you. More often then not they will.
4. You shouldn’t go through this alone
You might think you can – but you can’t. Theres honestly too much for you to process and reflect on to believe one brain, heart, and soul can understand it all. There is a time and place to use your friends and family to help and this is one of those times. Call in the reinforcements. Some people feel uncomfortable unloading problems but that is a fallacy. They are your friends and family because they care about you. Plain and simple. Use this flux to reconnect, listen to some of their struggles, and share a few of yours.
Everyone goes through transition in their own way. You might think you are alone, stranded on an island but you’re not. Look across the pond and you’ll see thousands of islands just like yours with thousands of people just like you trying to write HELP in the sand.
[One last tip: Find a great TV show to get into. It’s better to be completely wrapped up in a TV series then sitting around during the down times with only you and your thoughts. 3 years ago it was Whose Line is it Anyway? this year I’ve moved on to West Wing. It all helps with patience.