Moving to a new city can throw your whole life into disarray, and all you want to do is replace that familiar routine you used to have. After my most recent move, I found myself falling into some traps that kept me from really settling in.
Picture: Tim Samoff
I’ve been trying to replace the places (and people) I left behind
Leaving your friends, favourite restaurants and whatever else behind is hard. But if you really want to punish yourself, you’ll spend the first couple of months in a new city trying to find replacements for each of those things. Unless you’ve moved to a city of doppelgängers, that won’t work — you’ll be disappointed by everything.
I’ve found this out the hard way after a few big moves. I found myself lamenting all kinds of things that I missed. I looked for a neighbourhood bar to replace my old one, bike paths that felt like my old home, and even specific friends to replace the ones left behind. I was closed-minded to new places, because they weren’t similar enough to my old, familiar ones. I caught myself thinking things like, “This bar isn’t as grimey and small, plus they don’t play metal all the time” or “He’s nice, but he’s not as cool as so-and-so.” Obviously, this is silly. It doesn’t do you any good to try and remake the past.
So, I tried to expand my horizons a bit and enjoy my new experiences for what they are. I try new places and hang out with new friends without trying to compare them to the old ones. My neighbourhood bar doesn’t need to be an exact recreation of my old favourite. My new friends don’t need to fill the same roles as my friends from other states. It’s hard to convince myself of this, but I’ve found that when I do, I enjoy myself a lot more.
I settled into a routine too early
Routine is a blessing and a curse. It makes your life easier because you don’t need to think too hard about what you’re doing, but it also means you miss new experiences. Just weeks into living in Los Angeles, I found myself desperate for routine. I’d go to the same supermarket, the same restaurants, and do the same leisure activities over and over. This completely defeats the purpose of moving somewhere new — I never gave myself time to really explore.
I’m a creature of habit, and subsequently I rely a lot on routine. Once I found a handful of places in my neighbourhood I liked, I just kept going back, without venturing further. The other day, I was trying to decide where to meet a friend for dinner, and I realised I’d only been to a small handful of restaurants in my neighbourhood, for no reason other than it was always an easy choice. That’s not even considering how my places outside of neighbourhood I haven’t been. I made an active choice to try new places, and my friend and I met at a great little pizza place I wouldn’t have even considered.
It’s easy to fall back on the familiar, even if it’s a restaurant you’ve only been to twice. I love new experiences, new restaurants, new stores, and everything else, but I forget that so easily. When I know how long something will take or what type of experience I’ll have there, I feel like it makes my life easier, but just makes it boring.
I judged people too quickly
When we meet new people, we generally make an immediate judgement about them. That’s fine, but I found myself making negative judgement calls way too early on. Making friends is hard enough as an adult, but I’d somehow found a way to make it even harder.
It’s not that I thought “I don’t like this person” but more “I don’t see myself hanging out with them.” This is to say I’ve avoided any type of stimulating conversation because my immediate assumption is that we’re never going to be the best of buds. There’s certainly a lot at play here. It’s equal parts preconceived notions of people who live in Los Angeles, my own cynicism, and basic human nature of being protective of your own time. But it makes for a pretty lonely life.
Part of it stems from the problem I mentioned earlier: trying to replace old friends. If only I could meet meet someone with similar hobbies to someone else, they could just be that kind of friend again. When I inevitably realise they’re not like that, I’m disappointed. I’ve met a lot of people in my life and it’s almost impossible not to immediately compare them to others or to latch on to a stereotype.
I’ve been trying to get better about this. I’ll give people more of a clean slate when I first meet them. I’ll ask questions out of genuine interest as opposed to finding some specific, made-up common ground that I think will make us friends. This way, I can just chat and enjoy it instead of having an accidental motive of “friendship”. When I think about it, most of my closest friends and I don’t have a lot in common, but we get along great. Real friendships and routines take time to build — the more you try to rush it, the more you’ll end up with nothing, wondering why you’re unhappy.