Should I move across the country?
January 15, 2017 12:58 PM   Subscribe

I haven't felt like I fit in the area I grew up in—so I moved an hour away and have been living here for two years. I'm not happy here. Should I make a drastic change and move across the country?

Nearing 30 years of age, I look around me and realize I don't have anything to stick around here for. I've felt stir crazy for several years, after my last serious relationship imploded. I moved shortly after it happened, when my life was spinning its wheels. I opted to move an hour away from where I grew up just for a mild change.

I don't feel like I belong anywhere around here. I've tried dating unsuccessfully. I have tried desperately to hold on to my relationships with my friends but they're married, or have kids, or are in a new relationship. They just don't have the time for me and I'm an afterthought nowadays.

A series of unfortunate events changed the way I view the world. I rented a house, changed jobs to make more money, and subsequently lost that job. It took me almost a year to find another one. I found my current position after I had to let the house go, after my things had been stacked up in my friend's place he doesn't use, and frankly, it traumatized me.

I'm terrified to place any roots down around here because it feels like something bad is going to happen. But, also, I've been...more afraid to rent because I'm super unhappy here. Locking myself in with a lease for another year breaks my heart.

I go to work and I just feel like it's temporary. I operate with one foot out the door. I enjoy what I do but I keep telling myself that I have to give myself a chance before I get too old and settled. I can't stay. After work is done and I get in my car, I feel like driving away until my car breaks down, leaving where I land next up to fate.

I don't know. I guess it's silly. I think about whether I can make myself happy here, truly happy, then I can be happy anywhere. But I can't really find anyone I'd like to date here, to share my life with. I don't feel there are many hobbies I can do here because what I like isn't popular (dance). I don't feel inspired. I don't feel alive. The last of my closest friends are moving to another country, and then I'll truly be alone.

Well, not completely alone. I feel guilty for wanting to leave. If I tell my parents that I want to go, they try to convince me it's a mistake. I wonder if it is a mistake to leave because my dad is in his 70's. I don't know how I'd feel if he died after I left. That scares me.

I'm thinking about trying Seattle or Minneapolis. I'm on the east coast. I know I don't want to move down south. I've started putting money into savings and I'm working on brushing up my résumé to apply for a work from home position.

I'm quietly toiling away with these thoughts and I'm preparing myself to do this all alone. I don't think this would be a mistake.

Has anyone ever felt like this? Have you ever wanted to drop everything and just leave? How did it turn out?
posted by AlexandriaParis to Human Relations (17 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I think you should make a drastic change but with planning and knowledge.
Find out as much as you can about the dating pool, the dance scene, the job market and housing.
Work out all the costs and logistics.
Wait to tell your family.
In the meantime think about whether this is depression talking and have medical checkup if you haven't already.
I confess that I'm wondering if too much of your happiness is tied to being in a relationship... I don't know is it really key for you - but I'd love it if you'd spend some time thinking about other kinds of happiness...
And finally, go and know that there are no guarantees but adventures are fun, so focus on the adventure...
posted by SyraCarol at 1:22 PM on January 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

Wherever you go, you'll always be with yourself - and a lot of the things your describing, to me, sound more internal than external.

Moving for the weather, job/industry opportunities, education, love - these are external things that can really justify a move, but I'm worried from what you write here that you may relocate and then feel that nothing has changed. (If you live in a decent sized city and "no one" is interested in dance where you are, that... just cannot possibly be accurate. Likewise, trying to hold to to friendships but being unable to because people are married, that shouldn't be a dealbreaker for mature friendships).

There is nothing to say that wanting a fresh start is wrong, but you need to make sure that you are using the opportunity to change/leverage your own approach/mindset, too. It's important that you don't view the move as the end in itself, it's just a catalyst - and this means being realistic and planning.

Are there a plethora of work from home jobs in Minneapolis or Seattle? What are you doing to ensure you will get one? What will you do if you don't get one? What will you do if your Mum or Dad get sick? How often will you visit them?

I hope this doesn't come off as a Debbie Downer - I love moving! By time I was 25 I had lived in Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney (all thousands of kilometres apart).

However, there is a lot in your post about how you feel, feelings are a lot harder to move from than scenery. I think it's great that you're saving, but have you also considered acting like your current city is a new city? When I was 18 and I moved to Canberra for university, I had a very hard time. After 18 months, I still felt like I had hardly any friends, my jobs weren't satisfying me, I felt alone and isolated. And I realised that I was treating my time in the city as temporary. I was holding back and shying away from opportunities to connect or reach out because I thought "what's the point? I'll be gone in two years, anyway."). I made a conscious decision to pretend I was going to live in Canberra for the rest of my life, and to view anything that came my way as a chance to set up something that would last for years. And you know what? The city suddenly opened like a flower and bloomed for me. Friendship sprung up, my hobbies took off, I got a great new job with people I loved doing work I really cared for. I got my first serious girlfriend and a letter from the dean congratulating me on my results! The friendships I made during that time are still with me, 15 years later.

Of course, it wasn't the city that had transformed, it was me. Moving can be great, but make sure it's metaphysical as well.

Best of luck.
posted by smoke at 1:27 PM on January 15, 2017 [30 favorites]

I have often felt like this. For me, it is both a mismatch with certain aspects of my city, as well as a preference for frequent changes of scene, that untreated depression turned into an all-encompassing discontent. Dropping everything and moving to a new place is a really welcome idea under these sorts of circumstances (and the urge to do so, to escape, is a frequent theme in others' historical and current writing about dealing with depression). In some cases, it probably can be a good thing. I never got to test it, and by the time I had recovered enough financially that I could begin to consider it again, I had also found management strategies for depression and depressive thinking. Still wanted to move, still plan to do so within a few years, but I don't drive home from work and then sit in the car on the street outside my apartment and sob for an hour because the idea of a string of pointlessly repeating days makes me feel hopeless and miserable.

The area you're living in now may, in fact, be a bad fit for your needs. Moving may be the right thing for you. But because of what else is going on (loneliness, disconnect with your former friends, a job you aren't into, a living situation you don't care about, trauma from housing/financial instability, and more) you may not respond to it in all the ways you expect. These are things to work on right now, right where you are.

One way of looking at it is to take an aspect of your current life that is contributing to your unhappiness, study it, and move out of it mentally. For example: I am unfulfilled by the options for hobbies around here, because there are no established groups that support them. My ideal, where I want to be, would be to have a core group of x people who get together for a weekly discussion/take a course together/attend an event/plan a show. In order to move out of unfulfillment into my ideal, I might need to research what groups in other places are doing, network online with leaders and participants in these groups, hang up posters in my area, and be the one to make it happen or build it up from whatever does exist. Learning how to DIY your social/cultural outlets is an essential skill no matter where you live; you might move somewhere great with many options only to discover that the ones accessible to you are filled with people you can't stand.

This all being said: your options are open, and you deserve to explore them. I don't think it's necessary to grow where you're planted when essential (and objective) parts of what make up that place are a contributing factor in your unhappiness. The worst mistake would be continuing to feel as you do, and doing nothing about it.
posted by notquitemaryann at 1:51 PM on January 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

A little over two and a half decades ago I moved from Chattanooga, Tennessee, to the San Francisco Bay Area. I'd grown up in the Northeast, so I thought of myself as reasonably open minded, but I was shocked, after living in the South for almost a decade, at how much the culture had imposed itself upon me. how much of myself I'd lost to that culture around me.

Yes, it's true that when you move you take yourself with you, but here in the U.S. the various different areas of the country are dramatically different and have their own cultures and vibes, and I couldn't go back to the South, and could only maybe go back to the Northeast.

Getting into a culture that feeds your soul rather than stomping on it, that celebrates your quirks rather than lookiing side-eye at them, can be amazing. You're not gonna build a new social circle immediately, but: yes, a location can be stifling. Dive headlong into a culture that you fit into.
posted by straw at 1:58 PM on January 15, 2017 [7 favorites]

You are 30 with no ties. Go have an adventure!

Except maybe not in Seattle. The "Seattle freeze" is a real thing. MPLS is more friendly. The job market is okay, too.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:25 PM on January 15, 2017 [5 favorites]

I've moved across the country from the east coast and found it to be totally worth it, for me. My sister on the other hand, has also moved around the country a few times now, and it hasn't been working out for her. So, a move can be good, but when I compare myself and my sister, the main failure condition that seems to happen is that she doesn't plan things, she just shows up and then tries to find a job/housing/etc. She also has never gone to therapy to deal with her many issues, so there's that too. I think, you are young and an adventure could be good for you, but make sure you plan it out, don't just drop everything on a whim and go. Apply for and try to get a job before you move to your new city. Check out housing and quality of life / culture there before you commit, by maybe taking a mini vacation to the city(ies) that you are considering. Make sure the hobbies you like (dance, etc.) can be found where you want to move.

It is also true that bad feelings come with you, so also be prepared to handle that. Those bad feelings might be exacerbated a bit too while you try to make new friends in your new city (this can take a few years in my experience).
posted by FireFountain at 2:55 PM on January 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

I am a veteran of several cross-country moves (including to both Seattle and Minneapolis! I live in Seattle now) and I'm from the east coast. Really, I know people say you can't run away from your problems, but a well-planned, well-timed long-distance move can be a really amazing life kick-starter - and I think many people would benefit greatly from living someplace far from home. There's a lot of freedom that comes with that.

The planning part is important. I have only ever moved cross-country without a job once - I think it's always better if you can line up a job ahead of time, even if it's not your dream job. It gives you some financial stability, but also a "place" in your new community - a daily routine, people to see and talk to every day, etc. Once you have a job, the other stuff is a lot easier to work out.

As for your parents - this part is hard. I come from a family of nomads, so I don't get a lot of guilt trips from mine, but it's still hard. I make it a point to be in regular contact with them, and I budget to see them several times a year (which was harder when I made less money and had less vacation time), but I still worry about what will happen when they get older and their health declines. But that's in the future. Is your dad relatively healthy now? I mean, you have no idea when anyone is going to die - you have to live your life.

By the way, I recommend either Seattle or Minneapolis for a cross-country move. Seattle has more transplants and no one here seems to have kids until their late thirties, so that's a benefit for you. Minneapolis has fewer transplants from outside the Midwest, and people tend to settle down younger. Minneapolis is a lot cheaper - a LOT cheaper. A bit friendlier too, though IMO Seattle Freeze is overstated. There are so many transplants here and they want to make friends. Both cities are great for creative hobbies like dance.
posted by lunasol at 3:32 PM on January 15, 2017 [9 favorites]

After work is done and I get in my car, I feel like driving away until my car breaks down, leaving where I land next up to fate.

I had this until I moved to grad school (undergrad was less than an hour from home). I had none of the preceding stressors, I just needed to get out of there. I still occasionally get this, but it's much more mild and fleeting(although I haven't lived anywhere for more than 5 years since I started grad school).

The move to grad school was on my own, but I made the half days drive back home once every month or so to see my now husband. We then moved to the PNW together after graduation. Then back to my hometown, and then Chicago. So two cross country and a couple in between (about half a days drive).

When we moved home I still didn't get the urge to just get in the car and drive, even though I don't actually want to live there long term again. I wouldn't mind living near undergrad though, so moving away was good for me, and maybe eventually we'll wind up moving back permanently.

I think moving away and experiencing something different helped me figure out what I like. Now when I'm somewhere I'd rather not be, I know that working towards X goals will actually pay off vs just be a gamble. So even if I'm stuck for a certain length of time, I don't feel trapped (if that makes sense).

Some thoughts on your potential destinations:

Like lunasol, I found the Seattle freeze overstated. It's there, but not quite how I expected. As noted, there are a lot of other transplants forming new social networks. And even native Seattlites are fairly nice, and will make friends if a bit more slowly. They're just a bit more...Fluid (flakey isn't quite right)? with their sense of planning than we were used to. But we are from the Midwest, so maybe our friendliness (I can't tell you how many times native Seattlites remarked on our friendliness) helped bridge the gap?

Seattle freeze was more noticeable in passing drive-by interactions, to me. After the move back home it was noticeable how often people check to see if you need help or smile warmly as you walk by. When we're in our building elevator in Chicago, there's a lot more casual and warm chitchat than our building in Seattle. This may be a positive or negative for you (I know one transplant there who loved it, and another who hated it). I'm not sure if this will be as noticable a contrast with MN.

Seattle is expensive! My apartment in Chicago is just as nice, way better view, way higher up, and costs about the same as my Seattle apartment a few years back.

Does one airport have more direct and cheaper flights back to your parents city? If you have the funds, being able to hop on a direct flight could help your concerns re: father's health.
posted by ghost phoneme at 4:19 PM on January 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

Yeah, that's a good point about the friendliness in Seattle. I have that very up-front kind of East Coast friendliness, which was definitely jarring to some Seattle folks when I first moved here, but made it easier to make friends.

That actually reminds me of something else I meant to say - if you've basically always lived in the same place, it might surprise you how much you have to work to meet people in a new place. But it also might surprise you how much more energy you have to go out and try new things, meet new people, in a new place. Obviously, you could do that at home too, but I've found that moving can kind of push you, or give you license, to put yourself out there that you might not have when you're in a comfortable, albeit unsatisfying, routine in a place you've lived for a long time. For instance, you can ask everyone you know if they know anyone in your new city, and then go out for drinks or coffee with those friends of friends. You do have to commit to it though. If you just move and expect to meet people, then you'll probably be disappointed.
posted by lunasol at 4:59 PM on January 15, 2017 [5 favorites]

I would echo everything said above about planning and state of mind, and also caution you, after having made several huge moves, that it takes awhile to make friends and establish a community. The first 6 months basically suck for anyone. So if you do make the move, make sure you are prepared to give it a little time before despairing. Best of luck.
posted by likeatoaster at 5:14 PM on January 15, 2017 [3 favorites]

I did this at age 34. I had lived in the same state for my whole life, and picked up and moved 1200 miles away to a bigger city in a completely different climate.

The first year kind of sucked. I had to get used to actual winter, and boring food, and it took forever to make friends. But after a while, I settled in, and by the time I left I had made great friends and acquired a true love for my new city.

I moved back after 3 years, but I don't regret having tried it. It was a wonderful adventure that I cherish.
posted by tryniti at 5:39 PM on January 15, 2017 [3 favorites]

It's definitely a little bit from both columns: you bring yourself wherever you go and changing your location doesn't necessarily change you, but also some people and places just don't fit right and you just do better someplace else. It's entirely possible for both of these to happen at the same time.

likeatoaster's advice to give yourself six months of adjustment time is exactly right, though your particular timeline may vary. It helps me to consciously refuse to let any negative impressions take root for the first few months after a major change. They still happen, but I tell myself, "nope, I'm not going to let myself hate it here."

I moved to the area where I live now almost eight years ago, having never set foot anywhere in the region before. For the first few months, I was afraid I'd made a mistake. For a few years after that, it felt fine but temporary. At some point I put down roots, and I feel like I belong here. Sometimes it takes a while.

Oh, and since you mention it: for the first six months after I moved, I worked remotely, and it ultimately made the adjustment period more difficult for me because I wasn't meeting people or exploring beyond my immediate neighborhood. If you do move and work from home, you'll need to make an extra effort to regularly get yourself out and about.
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:44 PM on January 15, 2017 [3 favorites]

What you wrote sounds very familiar to me. Moving across the country when I was in my early thirties was the best decision I ever made. It is true that where ever you go, there you are. But it's also true that new experiences and people and places can change you - and if you are miserable right now, that might be for the best.

One rule for this type of move - you must stay for a year. If you can stick it out for a year, then it is easier to commit long term. Things will be difficult within the first year and make you want to run home. If you can last a year, you'll be in good shape.

Good luck!
posted by Toddles at 7:56 PM on January 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

I live in a country that's a lot smaller and a lot less polarised than America. I envy the diversity of options you guys have! I've done the "move across the country" thing twice now, first to a town that was just simply very different (remoteness, landscape, climate, size, culture) to where I grew up, then briefly returned to my home city but wasn't happy and decided to move to the city in my country that fits closest to my own personality. I don't regret either moves for a second- they were fantastic decisions.

I grew up in a beautiful city with lots of opportunities but the dominant culture is just not "me" at all (it's expensive, centre of the country's finance industry, status-driven, looks-driven, beach culture, anti-intellectual, a lot of pressure to settle down). There's small pockets of the city that fit my personality, volunteer opportunities etc. but even so it felt like such a struggle to be happy and enthusiastic. My friends in my home city who I feel closest to and new friends I made who I could see myself becoming close to all seemed to be vaguely oppressed by the overarching culture of the city too. I returned to this city enthusiastic about giving it a red hot go at finding my niche and carving out a space for myself but just found myself disheartened and a bit sad really quickly. I found the overarching culture really oppressive and got sick of being seen as "quirky" by many for things that no one in my new city finds odd in the slightest and always feeling like I was fighting against a certain insidious current. In short, if a change is done for the right reasons (wholehearted identification with a lot more of the overarching values of the new place to move to) and with enough cash and options I think a move really can be a weight off your shoulders and a genuine go at a meaningfully happier and slightly easier way of living.

I don't regret moving for a second (that said I have travelled overseas for extended periods and I'm used to spending quite long periods alone, before I'd done all that I'd probably be struggling with loneliness at times more although I doubt I'd actually regret the decision either way). I visited my old city for Christmas and felt slightly homesick for my new city (transporting a few of my friends here would be ideal, but I was still so happy to return even without them). Making friends in my early 30s is hard, but the flip side of that is I feel much freer here to put myself out there in a way I found harder to do in a place I grew up in where to be honest I struggled to shake the feeling of being a bit of a weirdo and a loser for trying actively to expand and diversify my circles and seek out new people. I've started improv classes here and joined a sports team. I'm going to pick up some volunteering soon. If I still feel a bit lonely I'm going to try using the same sex seeking-friendship bit of the Bumble dating ap. I've even been more successful online dating and met so many more people I kinda jell with through online dating here than in my old city! The new city I'm in has a lot of people move here from around the country and internationally and a lot of civic pride and enthusiasm- it has a reputation as being artistic and a lot going on, so I think that also helps in fostering a culture of being new and seeking things out and meeting new people.
posted by hotcoroner at 8:09 PM on January 15, 2017 [3 favorites]

My dad is 86. He was put on hospice more than a year ago and he is still ticking along. Do you really want to sentence yourself to 16 to 20 to 25 to 30 years in a place you're not happy to be because of your dad's age? Do not be impulsive; plan your move. But I don't think you will be impulsive because you are asking this question. If you are depressed or have depression that needs to be dealt with wherever you happen to be living. This is a great time for you to move, either way. You're not in a relationship, you don't have children, and you want to be somewhere else. You may move and decide after a year that you'd rather go back or move somewhere else. That year won't have been wasted. You will have learned a lot more about what you like and what you don't like. That is important information. That is what life is about. This is all an experiment, so experiment! If nothing else you could always find the absolute best place for the dance you love and move there. Why not?
posted by Bella Donna at 9:40 PM on January 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

Wherever you go, you'll always be with yourself

Yes and no. Cities/towns absolutely differ in opportunities and constraints, culture, politics, and mood, and people respond to those things.

If people settle young and stay home where you live, that's got nothing to do with your state of mind. (Retreat into domestic life is partly an age/stage of life thing, but larger cities will have more older, single people, or coupled people who care about having a social life and will even bring their kids to parties.) If the arts aren't valued in your community, there isn't going to be a scene you can get into, you'll be stuck dancing alone in your kitchen. Whereas somewhere else, you could take classes, see shows, be around others who share your passion and create opportunities to engage with it. In the right community, you might find yourself opening up in unanticipated ways. (It won't be immediate, though, agreed.) You might have a better chance of finding a partner if the dating pool is bigger.

I wonder if it is a mistake to leave because my dad is in his 70's. I don't know how I'd feel if he died after I left. That scares me.

Very sympathetic to this feeling... Does he have a plan for his later years? That will help (and would be in place anyway, ideally). There is Skype - you can talk every day if you want to, nothing wrong with that. I understand that there's such a thing as cheap domestic flights in the US, perhaps that's something you could budget for. (If you were talking about an international move, I think that'd be different, but if you're staying in the US, I mean - go for it.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:50 AM on January 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

Thank you all for your responses. I'm always so afraid to talk about this because I feel like I'm the only one who feels this way.

Some of my feelings might stem from depression, but I think what I've been through has caused me to see my area differently. I'm just done here.

I figure if I have to start over I should do it somewhere else. It'll be scary but I have to try to make something of my life. It's not all for relationships, although I'd like a chance at that, but it's also about the experience. I need more. I think.

Anyway, all this advice is amazing and I appreciate everything you all said. I really like cotton dress sock's reply. That was the main point I was trying to make. There isn't much where I am. It's almost like I can only get small tastes of what the world offers, but I can't immerse myself in it because it's not all here. The lifestyle is different.

Also, my friends did turn inward once they found something like a relationship or children to focus on. It's just the general attitude here. I know it's different elsewhere, albeit not by much. Not that it's a bad thing, but where does it leave the people you outgrow? I feel like they forgot about me and I don't have many options in replacing those friendships.

Thank you again! I will plan! Great advice!
posted by AlexandriaParis at 5:26 PM on January 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

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