| A Typical Picture of Renovation.|
Yes, corporate FF and all - unfortunate but true.
to living in your new
home, let alone a new
city, takes longer than
expected! When Randy
and I were in the process
of our move from out-of-
state, friends who had
experience in this arena
advised us to be patient;
we were told that to even
start to feel settled and
make new friends takes a
solid two years. I
remember doubting their
long estimate at the time.
But two years in, I kept
telling others we had
moved “just last year” -
because it seemed we had barely arrived - before realizing how much time had actually passed! Now, over three years later, this place is finally starting to feel like home.
Once in your new ‘hood, you could hang at the nearest bar for social interaction - and there is certainly a time and place for that - but it is the least dynamic of options. A few things we started doing early and often were invaluable in truly acquainting us with our new setting:
1. Get to know your neighbors. My fellow native Phoenicians will sympathize with how challenging this can be. Born and raised in Phoenix, prior to moving I was accustomed to the cinder block walls that separate every property. Plus, partly due to the heat, people tend to drive directly into their garages at the end of the day. The walls and garages don’t make for very good neighborliness; you almost never see one another, let alone speak. As I have become an adult, though, I have increasingly realized how important and rewarding it is to be a good neighbor and how priceless good neighbors are! They were also an invaluable information resource for us new-in-towners.
2. Take a class. I have discovered my local community college, and am so glad I have! I went directly to a state university after high school, so never had the opportunity to be involved with a community college until I decided to take a few exploratory courses, with a career change in mind, shortly after arriving in town. The CC was a great place to start learning about local activist groups and non-profit organizations, and to meet a diverse cast of others from the community. Whether you are considering a career change yourself; want to add a certification to your resume; have always wondered about organic chemistry, Eastern European history, computer science or are simply determined to find out what this “Zumba” thing is all about, the classes are extremely affordable and the lifelong learning setting is invigorating.
3. Find free activities. Even if you aren’t strapped for cash like Randy and I were (and are!), picking up your local publication (i.e. Phoenix New Times, Illinois Times, etc.) at a coffee shop each week is totally worth the five minutes. You will discover listings of just about every uber-local event and establishment in town, and all sorts of free activities. By checking out free film series, art displays, open mic nights, etc., we not only saved the cash we would have spent going to the movies or a bar, but we became better acquainted with some of the subtle, quirky, subcultural vibes happening around town as well. Plus, just attempting to find the locations served as much-needed practice maneuvering the city!
|Dressed up for Hoogland's Rocky Horror Show. Local theater,|
and went with our super fun neighbors! (See Items #1 & #5.)
4. Connect with a non-profit. As busy as getting settled in to the new place will keep you, there will be more downtime than you expect. After relocating, all of the time once spent with friends and family is suddenly empty. This is a great opportunity to get involved as a volunteer with a cause or group you have always been passionate about. You will meet new, likeminded people and learn a ton about your town through the group’s mission statement, networking partners, target populations, etc.
5. Support local businesses. Even if your budget does not normally allow for dining out, you are going to have to for a week or two at least, depending upon the state of your new home. You can go to McDonald’s or T.G.I. Friday’s in any town, learn nothing, and support a faceless corporation in the process. Bo-ring (and even a little morally questionable). Supporting your local restaurants, coffee shops, markets and other businesses/vendors as frequently as possible helps keep your local economy strong and supports real people’s efforts and dreams. Plus, as the owners are frequently womanning the cash register, you will meet some key players in the community. And when you mention you are new in town, you are likely to receive all kinds of recommendations and behind-the-scenes information. Therefore, this piece of advice has a part two:
5b. Tell people you are new in town!
6. Check out spiritual communities. Most Americans have a religious affiliation, so narrowing down this sort of search is not likely to be difficult. But you don’t have to be religious to do this - Randy and I are not. When he was growing up, his mom would take him to various, widely diverse religious services for the cultural experiences. We haven’t done that yet, but I was curious about the Unitarian Universalist congregation, so Randy agreed to visit with me. It was such a refreshing experience, I would highly recommend that everyone visit their local UU community at least once. What we discovered: Unitarian Universalism has established a spiritual community welcoming individuals from every religion, belief system and orientation (including humanists, secular humanists, agnostics and atheists). The community fosters increased understanding and meaningful dialogue, celebrating the things we all have in common. In addition to meeting weekly, the congregations facilitate a huge variety of special interest breakout sessions throughout the week, including news junkie groups, Zen meditation sessions, cycling groups, yoga, quilting circles, book clubs, movie nights, environmentalist meetings, Christian bible studies, Atheist philosophy coffee chats, etc. Talk about opportunities to meet people! There is something for everyone. Attending may have been the single most personally valuable thing I have done as a new resident to my community.
The approaches we have taken to meeting our “new” town have resulted in seeing recurring faces all over the place. Recently, after spotting the same guy at nearly every film, non-profit event, concert and festival, I finally introduced myself. I am glad I did. John is very cool! (Of course I would think so - we apparently have all the same interests!) There are really neat things happening all around you. Start making connections. And have fun!
|Our mantra on the road trip was "You don't know a place until you've been lost there."|
So consider this the Unofficial Item #7: Explore. Get Lost.