When I was in grad school at Clemson, one of the assignments we completed was developing a five-year goal plan. In other words, what things did we hope to accomplish professionally and personally over the first five years of our student affairs career. I don’t have that plan near me right now, but I’m pretty sure “Move across the country” was not on my list, yet somehow it happened.
First, a little back story. My first post-grad job was in South Carolina. It seemed like a good place for me, as I was close to my friends still in school and/or working in the Clemson area. Yet, it was only about a three-hour drive from my family in North Carolina. I was far enough away to be independent, but not far enough to where I was isolated. It was during this time I met Amanda who is my girlfriend of almost seven years now. After about six months of being together, Amanda took a new job at Edmonds Community College, which is about 20 minutes outside of Seattle, WA.
At a crossroads, we decided to try long-distance, stayed together, and I eventually accepted a job at Eastern Washington University in the Spokane area. It’s still a decent drive (about 300 miles), but a four-hour drive is much easier and cheaper than a cross-country flight. Plus, jobs in the Seattle area are really competitive.
Now that I’ve been out here for almost five years, I feel good about looking back and reflecting on how things played out. Here is some advice for others looking to make a similar big move.
1. Emotions: I never considered myself a highly-sentimental person, but dozens of emotions went through my head. I was sad to leave my friends and family – especially my dad and brother – considering I moved about a year after my mom passed away. I was anxious about making such a big move in general, I was worried about what would happen if the relationship didn’t work out, and I was nervous about whether I’d like my job. The only comfort I could offer myself was a single sentence: “This doesn’t have to be permanent.”
2. Moving: The actual move involved a decent amount of research and prep work. How was I going to get out here? What stuff was I going to bring? Eventually, I settled on shipping my car, packing a few suitcases, flying out, and buying what I needed when I got here. Moving is a great time to downsize, but be mindful of what you take and what you leave. A certain set of flatware I left behind is still a point of contention.
3. Keeping in touch: Thanks to technology and social media, keeping in touch with my friends and family back home is easy. I text, Facebook message, and talk with people pretty regularly. It takes some of the sting out of being so far away. Note to self: call Dad this weekend.
4. Visiting home: Traveling back to visit is the part I thought about the least during the moving process, but it’s by far one of the most stressful parts. If you have a decent amount of leave to take, make your trips home worthwhile. I like being able to take time to myself, as opposed to just trying to run the gauntlet of seeing everyone I want to see.
Making a move, whether for personal or professional reasons, can be a highly-stressful process. My best advice is to plan as much as you can, recognize the emotions going through your head through the process, and remember: it doesn’t have to be permanent.
This post is part of our month-long series #SAmobile, a look at the stories of SA pros who picked up and moved for their career. This series is about the struggles, the successes, the hurdles, and the emotions involved in such a life changing decision. For more information, see the intro post by Juhi Bhatt. Check out other posts in this series too!