Written by: Kellie Klinck MA, LPC
Well, it’s official - I have lived in Houston for an entire year now! My husband and I moved to Texas last summer and like many other transplants, a great work opportunity brought us here. Houston, let me start out this blog by saying you’re a lovely, hard-working, welcoming town (except on I-45 … y’all are out for blood) and I am very lucky to call this place home. However, my appreciation for Houston does not overshadow the fact it has been a very challenging year. I spent some time this week reflecting a lot on my settling into Houston and just the moving process in general. A few things came up that I thought would be helpful to share for anyone else out going through the same thing.
Let's start with a lightbulb moment..
> Moving is both excitement and loss. It's not supposed to be easy <
Whether you are moving 15 miles or 1500 miles, MOVING IS HARD. Period. It is not just the packing and unpacking of boxes, or the hours spent changing your address online that stink. It's easy to assume the physical nature of moving is what taxes us, but it is actually a bit more complex. Humans experience a REAL feeling of loss after moving and we can grieve as a result. In perfect timing, I've been reading this book by John James & Russell Friedman, founders of the Grief Recovery Method, and they define grief as “conflicting feelings caused by the end or a change in a familiar pattern or behavior.” That is EXACTLY how I have felt this last year.
I’ve had conflicting feelings of excitement, gratitude, and sadness. My move ended relationships and routines that disrupted my sense of normal. It does not surprise me that “moving” is one of the Top Five Most Stressful Life Events, sitting along side other major incidents like death of a loved one, divorce, illness, and job loss. Without question, pain, loss, and grief are experienced when we move.
*this is where I shamelessly plug that if you want to unpack some of the emotional stuff as you move through all the newness, I GOT YOU! In the meantime, here's a few things to unwrap to help you ground some roots.
Box #1: DOUSE YOURSELF IN SELF-COMPASSION
As I sit with the fact that moving involves grief and loss, I rely heavily on self-compassion to help me cope. I have compassion for losing that “first snow” excitement that comes with living in the Midwest, as well as no longer feeling the comfort of having family and friends within driving distance. I miss out on impromptu family events and long-standing traditions. I probably will not see snow again in Houston for quite some time (or ever?). Things. Are. Different. My self-compassion is like a hug, offering kindness, reminding me that I am not alone (i.e. suffering and struggle is a part of being human), and it gives me space to take care of myself in those tough moments. I have called upon compassion numerous times when feeling homesickness and it does help me through it.
Box #2: Listen for the stories you're telling yourself
I also have cranked up my mindfulness skills to help me notice and gently shift unhelpful stories, such as “I’ll never make any friends” or “things will always be difficult.” When I feel myself start to spiral, I take a mindful breath, come back to the present moment and pay attention to what I’m saying to myself. I acknowledge it takes time to meet people or that this feeling is temporary and will pass. Paying attention to thoughts that include “always” or “never” is a clue that I am in stinkin’ thinkin’. There aren’t too many things in life are absolutes. Through mindfulness, I can be with my thoughts and feelings and not get swept away in negative thinking patterns.
Box #3: Flip the coin. See what's on the other side
Like I said earlier, there is a lot of loss associated with moving (or any change, really), and my brain seems to fixate on those losses. It likes to point out what is missing ALL THE TIME. When I find myself in that space, I try to mentally ‘flip the coin’ and see what is on the other side. Sure, things have been lost, but what has been gained or acquired out of this change? Are there things I can be GRATEFUL for, even?
I started to learn a new side to myself… a new Kellie I didn’t know existed. This Kellie can handle her business. She can kill bugs the size of New Jersey without having a nervous breakdown. She can FINALLY use a gas range oven (don’t ask). She can run in 90+ degree heat. I’ve learned I can do things I didn’t know were possible for my person.
Inviting a new lens showed me that I have gained a LOT. I have grown tremendously both personally and professionally. Moving may have taken away my comfort but it gave me growth. The “space” coin has been tougher to flip, as the loss of closeness feels very heavy. However, if I allow it, I can see how the space gave me perspective. I can be more of an observer, which offers something different to the people I love. I truly believe this space has enriched some of my relationships. Ask yourself – what’s on the other side of the coin?
Box #4: Embrace your inner turtle.
My nature is to rush. I like to cross things of a list. I like the feeling of crossing some vague, imaginary finish line. In the past, I have rushed through decisions and not paid attention to myself. I often compromise thoroughness to avoid the discomfort of waiting.
I found myself wanting to rush through the moving process, too. However, an article I read recently stated that it could take 3-5 years to develop a “place attachment.” Damn. I guess I can slow down.
I tried something new and it has worked out well. I chose to divide and conquer my very long “to-do” list, rather than cram it all out in a weekend. I have things prioritized by their level of importance and am still checking things off to this day. It still gets to me at times but I am managing! I also had to level with myself because the things I WANTED to do weren’t always the things that NEEDED to be done at that time. For example, I wanted to rip down the hideous kitchen light fixtures before the ink dried on the closing documents but I had to be patient. After all, we still needed to get the garbage cans to put those light fixtures into! I have found this approach to be less overwhelming and more enjoyable. I’m sitting with something for a bit and able to be more decisive, which feels nice. There are also a LOT less returns to Target.
Box #5: Make your space feel like yours.
Our first few weeks in Houston were spent living in a temporary apartment. Nothing was ours – pots, pans, artwork, even the vacuum was a rental. I needed to see ME in this space. The sooner I personalized my space, the sooner I felt connected to it.
I added a few of my favorite books to the nightstand, lit a scented candle, and put a few photos around the space. There…there I am.
It can also be beneficial to have things have their own place, even temporarily, while unpacking. This is especially true of items used daily. When things are stashed in boxes and out of order, it further exacerbates that feeling of unfamiliarity. It’s hard to move through your morning routine when you can’t find the coffee filters or toothpaste. Routine can be healing.
Box #6: This is not your high school cafeteria. Be courageous.
I once read somewhere that people who move more regularly are likely to be risk takers – do you agree? I feel like that’s a fair statement. Moving requires us to be okay with discomfort. Not only did I have to learn a new city and all of its culture, rules, and lingo (what in the hell is crawfish boil?), I also had to embrace the pain of putting myself out there to meet people. Admittedly, this has been the hardest part of my move to Houston.
As humans, we are wired for connection. We can quickly feel isolated when we arrive someplace new. On top of that, the stress of the move can make it tempting to retreat rather than engage with others. I can see this in myself as I have spent quite a few nights at home, connecting with others through social media while binge watching some disaster on Bravo.
To help me overcome this, I had to remind myself that I am not the only one looking for friends. I also am not the only one struggling with the process. Whenever I meet other transplants, we tend to commiserate about the same three things: heat, traffic, and how hard it is to meet people. There MUST be others out there looking for someone like me, right?! Let’s go find them!
After quieting my inner critic and drumming up the courage to put myself out there, I realized that I could quickly meet really cool, fun people. I was grateful to have wine and “girl time.” However, I was foolish to think that these new friendships would completely take away the lonely, isolated feelings I had. In fact, it sometimes makes me feel even lonelier to be with people I don’t have a history with. I long for my tribe– the guys and gals who knew me growing up, who share the same stories, and can communicate with me without saying a word. I miss the “hey, remember when” moments. I was mistaken to think that these new friendships would somehow fill the void of lifelong relationships that are no longer in my space. I had to adjust my perspective, realizing that these friendships COULD become something very deep and meaningful, but that takes time. There is room in my heart for missing old friends and making new ones.
Box #7: Home is a feeling.
After a big move, there is a period where you can feel like you don’t really belong anywhere. You no longer belong where you came from and you don’t belong where you are. I consistently struggle with remaining “true to my roots” while also wanting to embrace my new surroundings. I experience this the most when I say ‘y’all.’ We do not typically say ‘y’all’ where I come from; rather, we say “you guys.” When I first arrived, ‘y’all’ was everywhere and I loved it. It was simple and fun to say. When I started to find myself wanting to say it, I would stop myself. I was not a Texan and I felt like a poser using the slang. I stuck with ‘you guys’ even though if felt foreign here. Soon, however, I realized it is unstoppable and just rolled off the tongue. I decided to go with it. I embraced ‘y’all’ but found myself hesitating a new way. I would not say it when talking to people back home, or if it slipped out, I would call myself out. “Excuse me while I go Texan” was my disclaimer to avoid criticism or judgment. The new me really didn’t belong back home, either.
Driving home last night, I felt something shift. I was enjoying the sky at dusk, listening to one of my favorite artists, and feeling a sense of pride for making it through another week. I felt very content and connected. It felt like home. It was then that I realized that home is within ME.
I instantly started to cry from relief and gratitude. I belong wherever I am because I am my home. It is not my surroundings – it is not the landscape, the climate, or the people in my space that make it home. Home is an internal state – a feeling of unconditional belonging to myself. I then recalled a book I recently read called “Braving the Wilderness” by Brene Brown. She shares her own experiences with longing to belong. I think I’ll pick it up again, as the message may have new meaning now. I invite you to do the same.
To all of my fellow transplants: I see you. It is tough moving to a new place and getting resettled takes time. Just know that we’re in this together. I hope you find some time this week to practice self- compassion, slow down your pace, and connect with yourself and others. See ya out there!
Feeling all the newbie adjustment? Want to make the most out of your transition? Right. There. With you. You can book online with us here for a session. Questions first? Not a problem. You can book for a free 15 minute consult with us too.