Thursday, March 22, 2012

Relocating: The Thrill (and Fear) of the Ride

Image by Alexandra Elefteriadou

New job, new city...I guess you could say I put the new in New Year.

I’ve been in Tampa about a month now and I can count on one hand how many places I can drive to without the crutch of GPS--work, Target, my friend’s apartment and anything off Dale Mabry highway. Then again, depending on where I  start off, I need assistance getting to those spots too.

Which means that every day has that new car smell. And I’m diggin’ it in more ways than one.

While I'm only an hour and a half away from where I pitched my tent for 11 years, this move is still monumental for my psyche. Living in a different location than you’re used to feels a lot like being on vacation. Not that I’m kickin’ it with a cocktail in a coconut all day, but in the sense that everything and everyone has the benefit of a fresh slate, including me. There are no good or bad memories or news reports or gossip to attach to anything or anyone. No predetermined opinions. It's refreshing.

Like vacationing, relocating forces you to open up. You ask questions--Where’s a good place for sushi? What’s the live music scene like? When you’re from a city or you’ve been there a long time, you lose that curiosity, that childlike wonder that only reappears when you’re out of town.  

Residing in Tampa for the last few weeks has illustrated just how routine my life had gotten in Orlando. Mind you, by a lot of people’s standards, I lead a pretty spontaneous lifestyle. Even still, I was doing so within the confines of my comfort zone. Hanging with the same folks, going to the same places, shopping at the same stores.

I learn something new at work every day. I learn something about the Bay area every day. All this shiny newness has me wondering how many days went by in the past that I didn’t do anything--different.

But it’s not all pudding pops and rainbows. There’s no auto-pilot mechanism at this point, which means I’m figuring out something all the time...which gets tiring. Sometimes you just want to coast through the day. And the learning curves at work rival Jennifer Hudson’s before Weight Watchers. I’m constantly running to keep up. And there are piles of uncertainty. I don’t really have much to fall back on here. No decade’s worth of connections. No die-hard buddies in every section of the county.

And that whole clean slate thing? There are cons to that too. New folks don’t know your story, which means you’ve got to explain the prequel before talking present day. This Valentine’s Day I’m freestylin’, but they don’t know this time last year I thought I was about to be engaged. And when May rolls around, some well-meaning colleague will surely ask what I’m getting my mom for Mother’s Day. 

I don't mind sharing, it's just that 30 years comes with quite a bit of data. One of the good things about old friends is that they already know.

Embracing the Change

I’ve been mulling over this phrase for the last few weeks, trying to pin down what it actually means. So far this is what I’ve come up with: It means accepting the moment, the situation, the phase, without trying to make it something else more familiar. It means being open to vulnerability and uncertainty.

Embracing change is a conscious decision; I don’t know if it can be done accidentally. Aside from relocating, we’re all faced with the choice of embracing change or not. Do you sulk when you’re single or do you use the time to do what you want, no questions asked? When you don’t have the kids for the weekend, do you call every 10 minutes instead of enjoying the temporary freedom? If you’re in college, do you just go to school and go home...or do you take in all that the university experience has to offer?

I’ve got to make friends here. Find a mechanic, a doctor and a church congregation -- here. That’s embracing change.

Sometimes you gotta shake things up just to know you’re alive.

It's why we ride roller coasters.