Why I'm Relocating Across The Country And Why You Should, Too

If you took a look at my last five years, you might guess that moving is one of my favorite and least favorite things to do:

  • At 18, I opted to apply for music programs exclusively in California and Chicago, both of which are quite far from my hometown of Syracuse, a small city in Central New York.
  • At 19, I moved from the gross, thin-walled dorms on campus into a house with a bunch of friends in which I was a terrible roommate (I am now apologetic about this fact) and we drank entirely too many Mickey’s forties.
  • At 20, I moved into a lovely apartment with my close friend.
  • At 21, my close friend allowed her married 34-year-old deadbeat boyfriend to move in with mooch off of us while abandoning his poor wife… for 3 months. I wound up moving in with some lovely ladies from Craigslist who were all my age, plus the greatest little chihuahua and had a lovely time.
  • At 22, I moved back east to Syracuse to save money.
  • And now, 6 months later, at 23, I am moving back to the West Coast and relocating to Portland, OR.

I, a young woman who does not particularly like hippies and PBR and the feeling of used books on my fingers, am moving to the highly satirized (and highly fantastic) city of Portland. A big portion of this decision is my desire to own chickens — which apparently a ton of people do in Portland, even if they live in the city itself. I also prefer small cities to large ones, as I find them (A) cleaner (B) kinder, and (C) cheaper. Since I typically don’t even get dressed for work, let alone actually go to an office (well, besides last week!), I was able to make the decision and buy my plane ticket on a bit of a whim.

Now, despite recent personal stories, I actually do very little things “on a whim.” I don’t vacation spontaneously; I don’t randomly quit my job; I rarely even stay out late if that wasn’t my original plan. And I most certainly don’t suddenly decide to move back across the country when I had spent hundreds of hours just six months ago packing up, donating, and generally ridding myself of all of my accumulated belongings.

But, lo and behold, here I am: Seeking New Beginnings Sam. Because apparently, I am living in a 90s comedic drama.

In the past couple of years, I’ve gone through more changes than ever. This makes perfect sense, considering I’ve gone through quite a few situational changes — finishing college, leaving California, ending toxic relationships — as well as simple mental changes, like truly figuring out how to keep myself stable depression-wise and with regard to body image.

Leaving all my friends in California behind was a terrible feeling. In fact, when I went to visit in October, I almost wound up staying to avoid more obligatory goodbyes. Plus, I had such a good time seeing them all, and feeling like it was still college, I couldn’t help but wish that feeling wouldn’t stop.

But I am not still in college, and I do not think feeling like I am for longer than necessary is a good idea, nor conducive to “growing up,” whatever that means. Plus, in January, when I went through my fucked-up breakup, I realized just how much of me was staying in California only because I cared about the people in it — not because I actually liked the place. I suddenly became aware that Los Angeles is ugly and that I would never, ever be comfortable driving on freeways. And that I had entirely too many ex-boyfriends and ex-lovers all located within like three miles of one another, which became horribly apparent when I stood outside my going away party and realized that I had been in either a relationship or a serious-ish affair with everybody on the porch at some point in the past four years. There were seven people there. When another ex pulled up in his car just after that moment, I knew it was time to get out off that coast.

In general, I am a fan of relocating because of circumstances. I remember Ms. Chatel saying earlier this year that if you’re going through a bad breakup, leaving town can do a lot for your mentality. I heeded her advice and realized how right she was; as a matter of fact, leaving was one of the best things I had ever done for myself.

Make new memories, relocate

Suddenly, I was forced to actually concentrate on obtaining a job (fortunately, I found one that lets me lie in bed and post GIFs all day). I didn’t have time or energy or even the right circumstances for parties or dating. Leaving a place where I had terrible memories and going to one with so little nostalgia left made self-improvement so much easier.

But then came the decision to move back to the West Coast.

The initial mood toward my move was as it always has been: simple excitement. There’s the feeling of longing and anticipation for a day in the future that may be four months away. Having bought my ticket sometime around September, it’s been a long time to maintain those eager feelings. You make little “Things I’ll Do In Portland” type lists with generic activities like “Attend Shows” and “Have Chickens.”

Then comes the actual planning. If you’re remotely like me, you feel insecure if not everything that can be controlled is currently being controlled. For example, I am an obsessive budgeter. I can tell you what percentage of my paycheck will go to what, and then I can tell you exactly how those percentages might adjust depending on taxes and holidays, and even illness. This can be exhausting to some, but for me, it’s just another way of increasing my excitement. I’m one of those weirdos who’s always actually enjoyed filling out paperwork at her doctors’ offices and during college application season, so this annoying preoccupation with numbers and data is not without precedent.

Finding a place to live is one of the major areas of moving where I’ve witnessed men and women differ considerably in regard to how delicately they treat the issue. This is obviously not the absolute case, but most of the women I know have some deep apprehension about moving in with strangers — especially Craigslist people. Now, I’ve fortunately had incredibly good luck with Craigslist (my best and longest-lasting situation was a result of a spontaneously CL move-in), so my attitude is a little less negative. But in general, I’ve seen more women feel stressed about moving in with unfamiliar folks from the Internet than men, possibly because of all those “Craigslist Killings” or whatever the media called them a few years back. From a young, we’re trained to be vigilant around strangers, particularly male ones, so the thought of moving in with one is a bit less appealing than, say, a friend of a friend.

Relocate across the country moving as female is weird sometimes

Just FYI, moving in with women can yield unfun results, as well.

After two or so months of digging around CL, I eventually found a great fit with a sublet in a large house residing on a quiet street in a sleepy neighborhood. My roommates are two guys in their late-20s/early-30s who both work as engineers and seem like overall great guys. But even with my positive experiences regarding Craigslist, I still found myself digging deep into people’s identities, looking for inconsistencies. It wasn’t as though I wanted these guys to be sketchy in some way so I didn’t have to live with them; it was that I just kind of expect people to be lying about things. As I’ve likely mentioned before, I grew up with some seriously paranoid parents, and it rubbed off on me to the point that I’m in a constant state of suspicion 90% of the time.

Turns out, my roommates are normal human beings, as far as I can use the Internet to tell. I Skyped with one of them, and he gave me a tour of the house. This lifted a weight off my shoulders — woohoo, he’s real and not somebody using fake pictures of the house/himself! — but, again because I’m a woman, my parents have maintained their skepticism. They would shoot off a series of increasingly stressed-out hints:

  • “Wouldn’t you rather live with women?”
  • “You can’t borrow makeup from guys.”
  • “What if they never clean? You’ll end up being a maid.”
  • “What if they want to get involved with you?”
  • “Why would two men in their thirties be okay with having a 23-year-old move in?”
  • “What if they have their friends over and those friends are bad guys?”

According to my parents, Craigslist is basically like this:

…and then you don’t even get your deposit back.

Now, we could argue each of these points, but I think it’s pretty obvious as to why they’re just plain old-fashioned and generalize male vs. female behavior and thought processes. Nevertheless, it gets exhausting to have to prove that I have found a good place to live where I won’t wind up-sold into slavery or stuck in a never-ending pit of despair. Oh, and that I won’t sleep with them. Never once did either of my older brothers have to contend with this amount of suspicion. My parents would simply shrug and say, “Figure it out” to them about their living situations, and that was that. No fear of perpetual gang rape nor trying to sway opinions with the promise of shared cosmetics.

But this sort of suspicion is normal (to an extent). Like I said, women are trained to be afraid of other human beings, which is fucked up and we shouldn’t have to feel that fear in the first place. If you do decide to relocate far away, do so with a fair amount of caution, but don’t write off people simply because of their gender.

In any case, I think that moving across the country is extremely fun at the same time, and I strongly recommend you do so if you’re contemplating it. Whether it’s for work or to get away from bad memories, it can be a wonderful, enormous change for anybody. Plus, it’s weirdly fun to await!

Counting down the days is so exciting; it’s like Christmas, except I’m forced to buy all my own presents and call in a lot of favors because I prefer queen-size beds. I have finished all of my lists: lists of things I need, lists of things I have, spreadsheets of boxes needing to be mailed…it’s the tops. I love labeling and categorizing and making an inventory of each thing I’ll be bringing. Basically, I’m the most neurotic, selfish Santa Claus ever.

Things I Wish I Knew Before Relocating

Ugh, Billy Bob, always stealing my thunder (and booze).

All sorts of moving requires this level of planning, but it’s still not the same as, say, switching apartments from Brooklyn to Manhattan or going from Orange County to Los Angeles, or even moving a few hours away from your current city. To relocate across the country (or even to another one) requires precise planning and a whole lot of security in your abilities to make new friends, have positive experiences, and just generally rely on yourself. You can’t be afraid of not having any friends — well, this one’s easier said than done, and I’m sure I’m showing my fear by actually re-joining OKCupid in an attempt to meet buddies. You can’t be too afraid that things won’t work out, because if you do that, you’ll wind up never leaving that current home you sit in.

Moving far, far away has social advantages, business benefits and can really enhance your state of mind and knowledgeability. It may not be easy, but the pros often outweigh the cons. You will come out more independent on the other side, and that is worth all the trouble.

Photos: Portlandia, Donny Miller, Single White Female, Psycho, Community, The Simpson, Bad Santa.


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