30% of twentysomethings move each year. A new city brings adventure and potential, but also loneliness. If you’re in a new place for the first time or are trying to make your latest move more successful than the last, I’m here to help.
My first move took me to France, where I immediately started reading a book called “Loneliness” that detailed the psychological complexities of the feeling. I mostly stayed in my tiny room while the sun hid behind a permanent, grey mass of clouds, both of us missing the life around us. Armed with new knowledge on how and what I was feeling, I turned the loneliness that was sucking me in and starting to come between me and others into the driving force that got me out of the door each day. Loneliness isn’t a disease or a judgment on your character, it’s a warning sign that you need to get back to being with people. No one gets angry at the fire alarm when it goes off, they’re too busy getting out of their burning house. Loneliness is your social fire alarm.
Next, I went to sunny Lisbon where there’s something special about the light. (Really. It’s the capital of freelance photographers for this very reason.) It was easy to be happy in Lisbon because of the incredible surroundings, but also because I found a community ready to embrace me. Lisbon has a growing Beach Ultimate Frisbee community and I started attending practices and even a few competitions. People drove me around, translated for me, and kept me up to date. Why? Because I was a good player and coach (and because I was nice – that’s important). I was a valuable addition to the group, and that value bought me time to get to know people and make friends. Figure out why anyone should hang out with you, what value you can bring them, and then try to find communities hungry for your skills. Your expertise and shared interest will buy you entry to the community and time to connect.
Lastly, think about what you want to learn. People appreciate your expertise, but they also love when you make them feel smart. Get out there and join a dance class, a yoga studio, or start practicing a foreign language. Whatever you have always wanted to learn. I took a dance class in Lisbon in this stifling room/warehouse thing with no ventilation. Of course, I was terrible and the combination of the heat and my own awfulness soon drenched my shirt with sweat. Every woman I danced with had to re-teach me the steps and put up with my muggy t-shirt. But they were nice about it. In the end, I had three or four basic moves down. It was kind of awful but not. I would have gone back had my schedule allowed. It’s okay to be a terrible, sweaty dancer when nobody knows you.
With these things in mind, here’s your plan of action if you’re new to your city. Or if you’re not so new and want to get out of your shell.
Feel the loneliness, acknowledge it, but don’t worry about it. It’s a call to action.
Make three lists: things you’re good at and like doing with others, things you want to learn, and ways you can help others. Aim for twenty items on each list. Just write, don’t censor yourself now.
Take the top three from each list and start your research. Choose two or three groups/classes/activities that you can try in the next ten days. (Look for meetup groups and trust google to get you started.)
Use your online networks. Even if you don’t know anybody who lives in town, I bet you know somebody who knows somebody. Put a status out there and see if anyone can help. This is a moment when those 350 friends actually come in handy. Meet up with your friend’s friend and learn a little bit about your new home. After that, you never know.
Don’t be afraid to use professional networking events to get you started. Use whatever you have in common with people to connect. Use this great site or come to my favorite event if you’re in Kansas City.
You hear the alarm, now get out of your house before it burns down.