This is for those that are starting over or starting new. This is for the new grad that is starting life in a new city far away from the community they’ve known. This is for the 20-something who took a new job hoping it will be the big adventure they’re dreaming. This is for the couple starting over after a setback in the fairy-tale life they’d planned. Big moves mean big risks and big doubt.
Starting something new is terrifying because it almost always requires that you leave something behind. About a year and a half ago I left my family, my friends, my church, and moved to America. I’m a born and raised Canadian, so moving away from my close community and choosing to live in one of the top 10 most populous cities in the U.S. was quite a big leap for me. These are the lessons I’m still learning about being bold, stepping out, and creating community.
Building community requires bravery. We’ve all heard the dreaded “comfort zone” speech but if we’re being honest, comfort zones are more like isolation zones. When we move somewhere new or start something new, it is tempting to recoil into what is familiar. And that can be a dangerously lonely place. It is in that place that you begin to question the choices that have led you here and the path God has for you.
Get out of the bubble. Each time I would head out to a new church or bible study or gathering of any kind, I would stop and think that maybe I would have more fun at home watching Netflix. I didn’t need any new friends; I still had my friends back home. And I was exhausted just thinking about how many times I had to recite where I was from, why I moved, and what the “big” plan was. But in deciding to step out, I realized the excuses I made to postpone uncomfortable situations were rooted in fear. The bold move is the best move.
In order to be loved, we must seek to love others. Don’t wait for others to love you first. Intentional relationships are what can make the difference between an amazing experience and a lonely venture.
Not-so-pro-tip: say yes to things.
You can be whoever you want to be. I know that’s cliché but it’s true. You decide what information to share. You decide what jokes to tell and what narrative of your life to share. You decide who you are in every moment. I knew that if I wanted meaningful relationships, I would have to get to know the most authentic version of myself and decide to be her.
It is important to pursue authenticity by going beyond small talk. And when you cross that bridge into more meaningful conversation, be sure that you listen. People may surprise you by honestly answering your questions and being able to remember details about a person’s life can be so powerful.
Not-so-pro-tip: read “Scary Close” by Donald Miller
Be prepared to let your friendships evolve.
When you move away, all your significant relationships become long distance relationships. Those require a different level of commitment from both sides. And simply put, it’s hard. It’s hard to maintain them, and it’s hard to ask so much of the people you love.
The people you used to see everyday become the people you speak to everyday, then every week, and then every month as calls become less frequent and texts slow down. You might blame yourself for being the one to change the nature of your relationships. But that burden will make you feel guilty and lonely when you should be feeling excited and confident about the crazy journey that is your life. Some friendships are meant to last a lifetime and some aren’t. Either way, count your friends as blessings in whatever stage of life you meet them.
Be intentional about staying in touch. The relationships you maintain from your past will become paramount connections to the person you were and the person you are becoming. And the new people you meet will change your perspective, challenge your beliefs, and become friends you can’t imagine life without.
Not-so-pro-tip: thank God for the wonderful people in your life.
By obsessing over how my relationships have changed I realized how selfish I was. I was thinking of all the ways that my life had changed instead of thinking of ways that I could change the world around me. We are always changing, and always writing and re-writing our stories. We have an incredible opportunity to make someone’s day, to make someone smile, and to make someone feel loved.
Not-so-pro-tip: get involved in your own life.
Ultimately, this time in my life has been amazing. I love this quote about storytelling from Donald Miller: “If the character doesn’t change, the story hasn’t happened yet.” I think I am changing, and I think I am still writing my story. I love exploring the desert which is so much more beautiful than I could ever have imagined. I love the church I’m a part of and the people there that encourage me in so many ways. I love the food, the coffee, and the culture. And I’ve loved getting to know myself, getting a glimpse of the person I’m supposed to be, and planning more adventures to come.