The plane takes off, the seat belt light goes on and as usual, everyone starts to relax and enjoy their flight. Me, I feel the usual pit in my stomach and baby sized tears swell in the corner of my eyes. I take a deep breath. I am pretty used to it now. I have been flying from New York City to Toronto for almost 14 years now. Two years of a long distance relationship with my now husband when, as a born and bred New Yorker I could barely place Toronto on the map, and 12 since we were married and I moved here permanently to begin our life together. Before anyone asks, why would anyone actually do something so ridiculous? I will set the record straight. It was from the start, a joint decision between my husband and myself. It was based on a ton of factors that we weeded through together. …We researched, interviewed, tossed the choices back and forth and we wavered … a lot. But in the end, starting our life in Toronto was simply the better choice.
But the feeling of missing New York, my home, and being far from my family never really goes away. I live with it and yes, sometimes I too join all the expats and moan about all the differences between Toronto and New York. I admit it. Kinda fun! For the first few years I kept wondering that if Toronto was really a City, then where are all the tall buildings and the people? The horn blowing, bumper to bumper traffic I was used to? Why could I always find a spot? (O.k. not so much anymore). I use phrases that nobody understands except a few other transplanted Americans, like the first time I asked where my “pocketbook” was? In Canada it is a purse. Only a purse. Why would you carry a book in your pocket? Ugh. So literal. And don’t even get me started on Canadian retail or bagels. See? Hard to stop when once you get going.
New York is where my roots and my family are. The hustle and bustle is in my blood. It makes me feel alive, confident and connected. The smells, the sounds and the scenery. It is not for everyone, but truly, if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.
I could go on forever about the difficulties of living in a place and raising kids without your own family and friends of a million years. Missing the day-to-day lives of my siblings, nephews, Mom … but for the most part we make it work. Phone calls, regular visits, vacationing together and quick in and out flights to make it to an important occasion. But, surprisingly, that is not what this post is about!
We all know that moving away sucks (a word my 9-year olds recently starting using). No real learning for any of us there.
What I think is important learning though, and affects how we shape our own vision of success, is what you need to think about/do when a move does happens. Whatever the reason is. We live in a global economy; careers can take us many places. Maybe it is you, maybe it is your partner, maybe it is a move back to a place you haven’t lived in years or simply a move to a new neighborhood and it feels new. It happens. And we must learn to not only cope, but be happy most of the time.
I am the first one to say that I have in no way figured it all out. I still am, even after all these years. There are also plenty of resources you can look to about relocating too. But in my 12 years as a transplant, I have learned, sometimes the hard way, as to what it takes to successfully get started someplace new:
- Be realistic. I wasn’t. It takes time to get acclimated. It doesn’t just happen. I truly thought I would just glide through the transition. New husband, new job, new city. These were all great changes. What would be hard? But it was. These changes were hard even though they were good. And the day to day of new routines and the lack of regular ones was tough and unsettling at first. Give yourself some time to adjust and don’t judge yourself. Be kind. Chances are a move will propel you forward in some area but perhaps might put others on hold. It is o.k. There will be time for everything.
- Connect. With anyone. Say hello to the barista, chat with the person on line at the grocery store, (another phrase, in Canada they say “in line”), the person next to you in a spinning class. Make sure you put yourself out there. They might not all become friends but certainly makes you feel like you have some.
- Admit you’re needy and don’t be embarrassed. Wasn’t very good at this one either. You might go from being the lady who had it all “goin’ on…to the one who has not much goin’ on!. You confidence may be shaky but just for a bit. I promise. But until then, you might need an extra hug, or a partner to pay a little extra attention, or a few more phone calls to the folks back home.
- Join. Something, anything! If you are the person with the new job, then it might be easier but if not, find something where you can be a part of something. A book club, running group, gym with classes, baby group if you have kids, a class (I took an English Literature class at a Toronto University, interesting on so many levels!). It will give you structure, it will give you confidence and it will get you started.
- Explore. You really are a tourist at the beginning, so why not? Museums, parks, silly attractions that the locals laugh at, why not? Soon you will probably be avoiding them too so enjoy them while you can.
Moving and being away from what I know has shaped me. It has influenced my choices, both for myself and for my role as a Wife and Mom. It has also proven to me that I have the strength and skills to make a great life for myself someplace else. Isn’t that a success?
So, as the tears start to swell, I look over at my husband and my two beautiful children and feel myself start to smile because as much as I love New York, they are my true home.
Have any of you made a big move? What has helped you through that you would like to share with others? Has it reshaped your vision of success?