“Time is the longest distance between two places.” – Tennessee Williams, The Glass Menagerie
Each time I have accepted a new position, it has also been in a new place. My career has been almost defined as much by moving, as it has by the roles themselves.
After college, I moved to Gainesville, Florida for grad school at the University of Florida. Then I moved to Doha, Qatar for my first position at Texas A&M at Qatar. After three years there, I moved again to College Station, Texas where I worked at Texas A&M for four years. And I just finished my last move back to Washington, D.C. in July 2014.
As I reflect on my experiences, the one common theme that comes to mind is time. Regardless of if a move is to a new state or another country, it just takes time to get settled. It is easy to try and rush things. I want to try to get that community feeling back that I had in my last home, and would get frustrated and sad when it doesn’t feel like I belong yet. But one lesson that transitions continue to teach me is that time will need to march on at its own pace.
With my most recent move, I had been looking for positions in the Mid-Atlantic region for about a year. I grew up in the Washington area and wanted to be close to family. However, the move from Texas to DC occurred over two weeks, without much of an opportunity to process the change.
Intellectually, I knew that it would take an adjustment period to start a new job. I also continually reminded myself that this was a long-term move, so I have plenty of time to get settled. However, I would often find I was ‘should-ing’ myself into thinking the transition shouldn’t be hard because it was a move home or because I had been planning this for a while. It has still been hard.
My family has been so excited to have me home, that I felt like I was letting them down when I was really missing my friends in Texas. I have so many awesome restaurants outside my front door, but would find myself craving the (admittedly awesome) tacos from Fuego in College Station.
I struggled with recognizing that it doesn’t matter that where the move takes you – the rule about time as the longest distance between two places still applies. It was 14 years since I left for college. I needed to build friendships beyond my parents, brothers, and high school friends with their divergent lives. I also needed to find those places in town that are important for my sense of place – a church, a dentist, go-to restaurants.
I celebrate the small wins now, such as when I meet a new friend for coffee, make connections at a social event, or when I found my hair stylist. And, I celebrate the big things too – living close to family, in a city I love, with an exciting professional opportunity. Lastly, I celebrate that missing another place means I was fortunate to have had wonderful experiences there. I have been back to visit Qatar and Texas since moving away, and friends visit me here. As I keep in touch with friends, I have couches to crash on from Seattle to New Zealand, and that is worth celebrating too. The people and experiences from my previous homes will continue to hold a special place in my heart no matter where we go.
In a transition, the physical act of moving is short. That sense of community and place only comes when you have lived somewhere for a while. Celebrate your achievements no matter how small, and show yourself some grace when you feel lonely or out of sorts. The rest will happen in its own time.
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!