4 Things I’ve Learned from Cross-Country Moves


My career path has taken me from my home city of Philadelphia, to rural Central Pennsylvania, to a small town in South Carolina, to the bustling metropolis of Chicago, IL. I have lived in places where it’s taken me about 5 minutes to get to everything, and other places where I’ve navigated both underground, public transportation and winding highway routes. Each time I have moved, I’ve learned something about myself. Since recently moving to one of my absolute favorite cities for what I know will be a nice, long while, I’m prompted to reflect on some of the things I’ve learned due to those cross-country moves. If you’ve recently moved, or are considering moving, here are a few lessons to look forward to:

  1. How Badass & Resourceful You Can Be
    I haven’t been known for my belongings. I’m still at the place in life where my worldly accumulation of goods, furniture, artwork, etc. is slim. Most of the time, it costs more to move my belongings than what those belongings were even originally worth. This means that with each move, I’ve started over in more than one way!I came to Chicago with a few bags of clothes and the credentials I needed for work, but not much more. Many of the belongings I did have (books, kitchenware, art, etc) were in Philadelphia, and wouldn’t be moved to me for quite some time. In addition, there was the matter of furniture (both the buying and the moving). I realized that none of this would be done quickly, but I literally networked my way into a comfortable home. Through joining groups and lists, I had access to others in my proximity who were selling their used furnishings or original artwork at discounted rates. I rented a U-haul and took it across the city, finding friendly faces and willing arms in my network to help me move heavy furniture wherever it needed to go (since I picked up furniture at separate times, hiring movers wasn’t the most financially responsible move).It’s easy to think about all of the things you should be doing, or the things you haven’t done yet when you move to a new place. However, the things you have done will show you just how badass and resourceful you are. Leasing a new place, making it comfortable, finding a new doctor, going to events to make new friends, researching the best price for auto repairs in your new city, learning new transportation routes, all require a certain amount of confidence and badassery to do in a place that you don’t call “home”, and when you realize that, you should celebrate it!
  2. How to Accept Help
    My moves across country have all had this in common: I knew about 0 – 2 people in that place prior to moving. This meant that when I had to rely on friends to introduce me to their networks & friends. It meant that when I did know someone in the area, they became my primary “translator” to help me get acclimated. This meant that when I knew absolutely no one, I had ask colleagues & coworkers, or neighbors for their assistance. For someone who is as type A as I am… this was no easy lesson to learn. It is one thing to accept help in a professional sense; there are already structures in place that make that possible and fairly easy. However, accepting help in my personal affairs was an experience that really stretched me.I remember one occasion that I picked up a bed and a table from a local family. I was going to arrange for a mover, but there were 2 people that I knew in the area who agreed to help out. However, when the day come, both had emergency situations to attend to! So, there I sat in a U-Haul, with a bed, and a table…trying to figure out how I was going to move the items from the ground floor to the second floor of my building. All the moving companies were closed for the evening and I needed to have the rental truck back in approximately 3 hours. As I began to despair, a neighbor walked up to the truck.I’m a city woman… born and raised in Philly. So, someone “walking up to your truck” isn’t immediately interpreted in my mind as salvation or assistance (though when I lived in a small town in South Carolina, this was often the case because most people in town knew each other). I mustered all of my discernment to decide whether or not the situation was safe, and after a short exchange (that included taking down license plate numbers – Mama didn’t raise no fool!), they offered to help me move the items into the building. Though I only had them move the items into the second floor lobby (because… safety… and too many episodes of Scandal & Law & Order), I realized that there would be moments where success in my next task would have to mean accepting the help of others.
  3. How to Navigate Various Cultural Contexts
    In one of the institutions I served, student affairs work meant also having a rudimentary understanding how various hunting seasons impacted programmatic attendance and / or residence life policies. In another institution, I needed to understand how students from various neighborhoods understood their city & the university’s impact on the city. In another, the expectation of a well placed ma’am or sir was just another part of life (though my identity as a woman of color and lack of trust in traditional gender roles made the practice too dicey for me to consistently engage in). The work that we do and the life that we lead is always situated in a sociocultural context. Moving to different states, countries, geographical regions, etc. allows us some great time to get used to various cultural contexts. It allows us time to see how these contexts impact the way we live our lives. In just a few years, I learned to identify the veracity of a sound by someone describing it to me in comparison to “a bellowing cow in a hailstorm” or the “whoosh of a city train”.
  4. How to Listen to Your Gut
    You become strangely in tune with yourself as you move to a new place, if you sit through the initial discomfort of it. It’s not elusive or incomprehensible: moving provides you with new scenarios to respond to… and with space to figure out what your responses mean. Moving allows you a new perspective, different things to pay attention to. For example, I can discern the feel of a neighborhood I am in by looking at the streets & sidewalks, the stores / type of stores / lack thereof… I took these things for granted in my home city.  I think that the opportunities to pay attention to your new scenario and your internal processes, ultimately develops your intuition, your “gut sense”.It’s not a magic sense, but one that has developed as I have developed as a person. It’s a sense that carries me through each move. It was the eery feeling I got in a rural shop that alerted me to the fact that I was being followed. It was also what reminded me on what to do for my immediate safety in that scenario. It is what helps me find cool, new places, or spark conversations with kindred spirits. Moving has a way of putting you in touch with yourself and your own intuition, with plenty of opportunities to practice using it.I cannot say that each move has been a fantastic and dazzling display. There have been quite a few hardships along the way. But those hardships have schooled me and in some ways, transformed me, into a more courageous, sufficient, and open human being. The cross-country moves were the conduits for those lessons!

How about you?! Are you thinking about moving, or will you be embarking on a move sometime soon? What are you excited about? What are you anxious about? What are you hoping to learn? If you’ve recently moved, what would you add to this list?


Image Credit: Corners & Crannies London, https://app.deathtothestockphoto.com/

Originally posted on jadetperry.com

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jade Perry is a freelance writer and higher education / student affairs professional. She is a two-time alumnus of the Pennsylvania State University, receiving a B.A. in Integrative Arts and an M. Ed in College Student Affairs. She regularly contributes to online publications such as HeedMag.com, ForHarriet.com, while maintaining her home site Jadetperry.com. Her mission is to offer information, ideas, & counter-cultural narratives that will empower readers to thrive and to creatively challenge systems toward greater levels of inclusion.

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