Last year my boyfriend and I moved from Cincinnati, Ohio to Los Angeles, California. We were very comfortable and happy in Cincinnati. It’s where we grew up, went to college and began working professionally. But we were given the opportunity to experience a new city, so we took it.
Now, that’s not to say it’s been easy because it hasn’t. I pride myself on a love for exploring and assumed moving would be an easy transition. In reality I have never been this emotional in my life. One day I’m ready to shoot for the moon, try new hobbies and meet new people, and the next day I’m crying in my car in a Ralph’s parking lot.
When I feel like I might lose it, Cole says: “If this were easy, don’t you think more people would do it?”
It’s a very true statement. If you decide to make the plunge, know there will be some dark days ahead but there is also a new kind of light you won’t find by staying put.
My point in writing this article is not to say you won’t “find yourself” or become more independent unless you move. You can be extremely happy and fulfilled living in one place your whole life. I’ve seen it first-hand and it’s nice.
But if given the opportunity to go — here are some reasons why you should:
1. You get to know yourself better
There is no better way to build an intimate relationship with yourself than to move to a new city that is far culturally removed from your hometown. Being in a new place enables you to discover what you really want — and often times what you don’t want — without the societal norms you’re used to and influences of people close to you.
Moving also gives you an outsider’s perspective. You’re being influenced every which way, and you start to re-think your own original beliefs and attitudes by which you were raised to form a 2.0 version of yourself.
Just like psychologists first named the life stage adolescence around 100 years ago, there’s a new stage that has been debated by experts for twenty-somethings in the 21st century, called “emerging adulthood.”
It’s the “I’m no longer a teenager, but not quite a full-fledged adult with a career, spouse, mortgage and children” phase, and for a number of reasons, young people are spending more time in this in-between point.
Moving to a new city can be a significant step in your path to greater self-awareness — and reaching adult status.
2. You become more independent
In Cincinnati, I know every major road and highway like the back of my hand. I know characteristics of each neighborhood. I can confidently provide recommendations on restaurants, bars and parks. I know the mentality. I know lots of people through grade school, college, jobs, proximity, and can always make plans. But when you move to a new city, the unfamiliarity can leave you feeling small and insecure.
Planting yourself where you don’t know anyone makes you more adaptable. You’ll learn to enjoy your own company because you will spend a lot of time alone. You will also develop a social ease and can walk into a room, not know a single soul, and be okay with it.
Being forced to navigate a new place can be scary at first, but a couple months later you’ll find driving through your new city is no longer (as) difficult. You’ll have a couple of new friends. You’ll feel proud to have mastered this new place on your own — and that can translate to so many other parts of your life.
3. You become more open-minded
We grow up with a set of values and beliefs, and typically surround ourselves with people who share the same set of values and beliefs. Because why not? The bubble is nice.
There’s nothing wrong with the bubble, but moving certainly opens your eyes. It’s like when you travel for the first time, and you actually understand and physically see there is an entire world. Millions of people are doing something the complete opposite way you are, and it’s normal for them.
Millions of people believe something you were always told is not right — so which belief is right?
Between big ideas like cultural and political beliefs to smaller things like social and business etiquette, you will become more willing to consider a difference of ideas and opinions. You don’t have to agree, but you’ll be more open to hearing and discussing them. When you take a second to try and see something from another person’s perspective, it speaks volumes.
The next thing you know, you will no longer be scared of change. Change will be welcomed.
4. You learn to make connections
We all grow up with some kind of inherent network, including family, classmates and co-workers. Most jobs come from having a referral. When you no longer have that to rely on, you’re forced to learn how to build connections and network.
This is something that takes time and commitment. But once you’ve made a few key relationships in a new city, you will become confident that you can do that anywhere — in business and in life.
5. You become bold as a lion
What are you scared of? Not having your core group of support around you could be one thing.
When you move away from your hometown or college town, you have to find the courage to build from the ground up. You have to find a way to manage your anxiety and the little voice in your head echoing, “What if I get a flat tire?” “What if I don’t make friends?” “What if quitting my job and moving is actually a giant mistake?”
It’s all a learning experience. Once you get over the fear of moving away on your own, you’ll be able to get over a lot of things. It will be a little easier to make other big decisions, and you’ll take more chances without the fear of failure.
6. You learn to deal with egos
I come from the Midwest, the modest capital of America. Humility is celebrated. Down-to-earth is the norm. People are mostly polite. Ohio even looks like a heart.
It is not that way in Los Angeles. Chances are if you move to a big city, you will work with at least one alpha male or alpha female. The Devil Wears Prada executive. A legend in their own mind, if you will.
At first, you can be a bit taken aback. Why does this person think they are always right? Why does this person think they are God’s gift to earth? Why does this person cringe when I speak? Am I an idiot?
But you will recognize they are also a human being, and everyone is a product of their environment. Even if they don’t show it, they have fears and insecurities. They are someone’s child and might be someone’s parent. They are also probably very driven. You’ll learn how to interact better with this person, and they might prove to be a valuable mentor down the road — or even a friend.
The experience will make you better equipped to deal with an intimidating boss in the future and simply strong enough to handle anyone.
7. You appreciate where you come from
Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Not only will you miss family and those old familiar streets, but you’ll find yourself defending your hometown and comparing everything to it.
Moving forces you to grow up, and part of growing up is knowing what’s important. You’ll respect your parents and grandparents more. You’ll be more inclined to tell people how much you love and appreciate them. You will send cards.
On the flip side — if you don’t have the best relationship with a family member or friend, distance can give you a new outlook. Is there a reason to hold onto grudges and bitterness if you only see the person once or twice a year?
Anger and resentment weighs you down. Distance and time can help you take the high road — and the high road is always the best road.
Moving to a new city for the first time is simultaneously liberating and terrifying, but it’s a decision that will give you the most self-satisfaction.
When I’m 75, I would rather look back at my life and say “I can’t believe I did that” rather than “I wish I’d done that.”