One year ago today, our little family packed up and moved home.
This may be shocking, but I’m not going to get all sentimental about it. I’ve grabbed deep into my heart and thrown its words onto my computer screen a whole lot in the past year (here and here and here and here and here, for example).
Enough of that.
Instead, I want to spend the day helping the next generation of cross-country movers. Thus, with all my wisdom and experience, I present you with…
How to Call Your New Town “Home” in Just 6 Easy Steps
Step 1. Locate the necessities. This means a grocery store and a Target. That’s really all you need to survive the first month or two. If you can get to the grocery store and Target, you can live the good life. When you start feeling a little more sassy, figure out two different routes to each store. It makes you feel like a local when you think to yourself, “Hmm, which way shall I travel to Target today?”
Step 2. Eat local. Good food is vital for the soul. It calms the stress. When Mike and I move to a new area, we are on an immediate mission to locate the following:
- A solid Chinese takeout spot (must be close and fast)
- A go-to pizza joint (can be delivery or takeout, as long as it’s roll-your-eyes-with-the-first-bite good)
- A local brewery (great beer is a must; good food is a big-time bonus)
- Authentic Mexican food (nearly – but not totally – impossible on the East Coast)
- A legit old-fashioned diner (cuz yeah)
Step 3. Subscribe to the local newspaper. Yes, I know: The what? Who reads a newspaper anymore?! Uh, people who are cool, that’s who. Mike and I both grew up in newspaper homes, we started our careers as newspaper reporters, and I’m telling you. There is no better way to learn about a new community than to read that community’s newspaper. After a year in this state, I’ve got a pretty good grasp on the politics of the area, I’m totally pissed about certain funding issues, and I’m excited to explore a couple of up-and-coming areas. All thanks to the newspaper.
Step 4. Drive around. A lot. When we were house-hunting, we drove around a ton. If we saw a “for sale” sign in a cute neighborhood, we wrote down the address and looked it up. All the driving and online research eventually comes together and you end up with a solid understanding of the general neighborhoods and areas that appeal to you.
Step 5. Meet your neighbors. When you move into your new home, go out of your way to chat with the folks you see around you. Developing a good relationship with your neighbors quickly makes your house feel like a home.
Step 6. Embrace what makes your town special. In Phoenix, we embraced the natural landscape (hiking! amazing sunsets! year-round sun!). In Bethlehem, we embrace history. This town is the site of America’s first decorated Christmas tree. (How fun is that?!) It’s an old steel town, which this Cleveland girl loves, and it has reinvented itself into a city full of art and music and opportunity, all while never forgetting its roots.
I think that last one is the most important. You have to be curious. You have to seek out the positive and celebrate it, take pride in it. Every place is special; it’s up to you to figure out why.
Oh ALRIGHT, I have to get a little sentimental. Just for a second. Because here’s the thing. When we were in the middle of Moving Insanity, when we’d been here for a month and Mike still hadn’t landed a full-time job, I stressed and I worried and I stressed some more. Lots of folks told me to try not to dwell on all those ifs. That one day soon, everything would fall into place and I’d be able to look back and wish I hadn’t stressed so much.
Well, everything did fall into place. Beautifully, actually. But you know what? If given the chance, I wouldn’t go back and take all that stress away from myself. Because what I felt was honest and real and, frankly, it was warranted. It was a really freaking stressful time in our lives. Having felt that stress, having given up a place I truly loved with a hope and a prayer that I would love the new place at least half as much, having so much change and so much uncertainty surround us all at once … it has made me appreciate where we are today.
Not a day goes by that I don’t think to myself how much I love our home. Every single morning that I drive Ryan through our neighborhood to his preschool, I marvel at the loveliness of our town.
I feel lucky that things worked out so perfectly. Because it might not have. That’s a fact. The past year has been the ultimate crash course in How to Appreciate the Little Things.
We know we made the right decision. Knowing it was the right decision doesn’t erase any sadness or stress we felt in the process. It just makes us that much more thankful to be in the place we’re in now. One year later. Settled, content and confidently calling this place home.