New city and relocation woes
October 19, 2018 11:06 PM   Subscribe

Looking for strategies to fall in love with / or just be okay with living in a city when . . . you miss and want to live in another place.

I am looking for general strategies to help me get adjusted to a new city, and preferentially, grow to appreciate it and not pull away from it. I'd also like strategies to be satisfied with life when you can't always get what you want (and in this case, the city that I will be living in).

More background if it helps:

In general, I've always been an unsettled person, moving from place to place or changing jobs and never being satisfied with life.

I did have the chance quite a while ago to apply for a job and what part of the country I wanted to live in. It all worked out - I moved to "desired new city". Desired city was a very large city, diverse, and tons of stuff to do. I lived there for a decade, established hobbies, favorite places, and make great friends. I also think that something about this place or where I was in life made me more settled (I did change my life about as often as I did in the past).

Because of the increasing cost of living in desired city (and I had other goals that would be easier without the high living costs), I did research and picked "candidate city 1" - on paper, it seemed to have some of the qualities that desired new city had. But in reality (I've lived here for two years now) - I am and was miserable. I missed desired new city all the time. I compare everything in candidate city to desired new city. I miss my friends.

I have also always had anxiety and something about this candidate city 1 exacerbated it - some of the hobbies I did in desired new city - I no longer did in desired city. I don't even bother to explore many new places or try to find friends because I think - meh - I don't like this place and will move on.

So after two years of this, I am picking "candidate city 2" based on the fact that I have family there. It has some of the qualities that desired new city does and some of the things that candidate city 1 was lacking in.

My main concerns, though, are that I will be just as unhappy in candidate city 2 and I think it might be who I am (maybe I need more stimulus, or more people, or more noise, or constant novelty). I am already anxious and wonder what if I don't like this new city either, or I end up moving from city to city every other year when what I really want is desired new city.

I'm looking for any strategies. tl;dr you don't always get you want, including where you live. Strategies to cope? I'd like to fall in love with the new city or at least be okay with the place. I won't be moving there for another few months.
posted by anonymous to Grab Bag (9 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Something that helped me was to get involved with community happenings. Attend the festivals, visit the local library and museum, do the art walks, visit the parks, etc. I also found that developing a routine in new said city, and volunteering, both helped me to feel connected. The volunteering especially, as I had the opportunity to be contributing and meeting lots of people. Also make a point to be friendly with your neighbors. Once you start to know people and develop some relationships, it makes it easier to be in a place. I moved two years ago from a city I adored to one I wasn’t excited about, and I was miserable for awhile. Just getting out into my new city really helped me to establish it as my new community. I still miss my old city a lot, but it’s a heck of a lot easier to be here now than it was. Best of luck!
posted by Happydaz at 2:21 AM on October 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

A good friend of mine moved to LA and didn’t love it and couldn’t move for years. She got one of of those books, How to Love LA or something, and it really helped.

So, my suggestion, both for your current city and new city: go to the largest independent bookstore and look for the shiniest books about that city. If there’s not one aimed at residents, get one for tourists. Then, be a tourist in your city. Do the interesting
things the booksuggests. Aim for one a week.

Even if you don’t learn to live it, you’ll keep yourself busy and probably appreciate it a bit more.
posted by bluedaisy at 9:04 AM on October 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

Commit. Don't keep one foot out the door.
posted by amtho at 10:33 AM on October 20, 2018

Avidly following. I am you, feeling quite "stuck" in an expensive place I have little affection for, and facing at least another 1.75 years here. I'm trying to keep it from making me either batshit or an intolerable asshole.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 11:38 AM on October 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

For what it is worth, I was not very happy about living in a particular city for eight years. I move back to my home area, which I loved. And for financial and mostly family reasons I have returned to the city I was unhappy with and now I’m very happy with it. And partly I think it’s because there is family here. So if you are moving to a place with family, actually hang out with the family members that you like and make them a part of your new life. It is working for me, at least.
posted by Bella Donna at 1:48 PM on October 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

I am struggling with this right now. One thing that has been helpful is to try to reframe the narrative in your head. Instead of leaving old city because of cost of living, you actively choose current city /future city because of XYZ opportunities. I still backside into random crying jags, especially after talking with friends in my old city or seeing them post FB pics of all our fun activities, but then I remember the specific reasons why I chose my current city and I feel at least a little bit better.
posted by basalganglia at 5:43 PM on October 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

I moved to a new city for a job for two years and kind of hated it, and wound up moving back to the city I loved. I have no regrets about either move, but I do wish that I had set myself up to be happier in the new city while I was there. For instance, I took the first apartment I found, even though I didn't love the neighborhood, because I was worried I wouldn't find a better place. I wish I'd actually tried to find an apartment in a part of town I liked better, where most of the people I knew lived, so that I could have had a better and more fun social life. Also, I didn't have a car there which limited me socially and logistically and made my life there harder than it needed to be.

On the other hand, I had a friend who moved to the same city for two years for a job, but she knew it was only going to be for two years, so she set herself up to enjoy it as much as possible. She lived in a central area, went out a lot, and had a lot of fun. I really wish I'd had more of that attitude.

So maybe you could double down with your current city and really commit to setting up your life so you can enjoy yourself there - or if you do end up moving, do that in your new city. Commit to doing the things you like, living in a part of the city you like, removing obstacles to a life you enjoy.
posted by lunasol at 6:08 PM on October 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

When I moved to a new city, I plugged in and tried to find as many interesting events as possible. Someone had a blog of events, Facebook, eventbrite, etc. Getting out to explore the new city and discover all the cool little things it had going for it made me appreciate it so much more. Making an active effort to make friends also helped. Also, finding a therapist to talk about this all really, really helped. Like another poster mentioned, a good way of framing my time there was “I’m not going to be here forever, let me find all the unique and interesting things to do in this city before I go so I don’t regret reading on some blog about how cool this city was.” I essentially made a bucket list of things to try. Now that I’m moving from this city, I have all these warm and fun memories about it, and lots to tell other people when they visit and I’m going to try the same with my new city. Good luck!
posted by buttonedup at 6:47 PM on October 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

Hey there - I feel you. I'm an expat and just made a move I've had very mixed feelings about, for very similar reasons. We also had a pro/con spreadsheet and couldn't do visits everywhere... heck, we bought our house sight unseen. It doesn't sound like it was an international move, but it sounds like you're maybe experiencing a lot of similar issues around homesickness, ideas of home and rootlessness, culture shock etc. I have some recommendations and while they lean toward the expat experience I think they might help (or at least lead down a rabbit hole that might lead to something that helps).

My first thought was - the things that are supposed to be easier to do in New Cheaper City... are you doing them? If not... well, then that's probably a huge part of it and it's worth sorting out why. If you are, have you reassessed whether the trade off is worth it? Sometimes we can't know until we try.

Next? Therapy. Are you treating your anxiety? I think at some point (when our cash flow improves) I'm going to try ExpatNest - which came very highly recommended to me from several sources; rates are pretty reasonable (low-normal here in Australia). They are people who know about places and dislocation and moving etc. I used BetterHelp when I first moved and was freaking out and really needed someone to vent to.

Are you a satisficer or a maximizer? You sound to me like the latter (me too); this context might help you reframe how you're thinking about this and give you some forward movement.

My current reading list includes (all on Amazon):
Braving the Wilderness - Brene Brown
Arriving Well - Cate Brubaker and Doreen Cumberford
You Can be Happy No Matter What - Richard Carlson and Wayne Dyer
This is Where You Belong - Melody Warnick

On a lighter note, you might also enjoy books about the expat experience that touch on the decision to go or stay, and whether to stay or move again or go home. How to Leave by Erin Clune is on my list. Old favourites of mine on this theme include The Poisonwood Bible and Names for the Sea.

And lastly, Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron, along with meditation, exercise, and some sunshine (seriously - come next fall I am asking about SAD and getting a lamp!).

Ok, really lastly... why not just move back to your favorite city? I'd really spend some time challenging assumptions here. Get someone (therapist, friend) to really play devil's advocate for you. You'll either figure out that you actually can move back -or- realize that you really can't because in some way, shape or form it's not what you want (which makes it easier to embrace where you are). (Sunk cost fallacy, yo!)

Hope you feel better soon; feel free to memail me!
posted by jrobin276 at 4:35 AM on October 24, 2018 [3 favorites]

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