An open letter to you courageous adventurers:

Dear friends,

I’m so excited for you! You, who are about to embark on a huge, life-changing journey.

I remember so well what it was like for me to be where you are now, about to pack up my entire life and leave everything I’d ever known. I remember such a mix of multiple complex emotions all at the same time… it wasn’t until much later, with much hindsight, that I was able to effectively process many of them. At the time I don’t think I fully grasped the enormity of what I was experiencing. Sure, I knew that it was a big deal to be moving to a new state for the first time. But I didn’t really understand how big of change it actually was, and I didn’t know how much it would also change me. Having now experienced new motherhood, I understand how the two events are similar in that regard… there’s no real way to intellectually and emotionally prepare for it, no matter how hard you to try.

There was the excitement of preparing to experience something new. And hope, about what it might bring. These were what I tried to stay focused on.

But there was also fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of not having a safety net. Fear of isolation. Fear of failure. Fear of regret.

And guilt. Honestly, there was more guilt than I cared to admit at the time. I felt guilty for abandoning my family, for being selfish enough to leave them behind. I was afraid that my choice would be seen as a rejection of them, that somehow they weren’t good enough or important enough to make me stay. I felt guilt about missing all of the birthdays and BBQs and camping trips. And when my grandmother became ill and passed away while I was living 800 miles away, I felt ashamed that I could not be there when it happened. Guilt still gnaws at me when I admit that there is a very real chance that something similar could happen to someone else in my family at any time, and I’ll still be here.

Guilt is one thing that I think I will always grapple with while I’m away from home. I still feel sad when I can’t be with my sister on her birthday. I really do lament that Jack will not have as many experiences with my family as he might if we lived there. I mean it when I tell my dad I wish I could go fishing with him. And like grief, it never goes away. But it does get easier to live with.

So, as someone who’s been there, here are a few things I want you to know as you set out.

It’s ok if it feels like it sucks for the first little while. Or the first long while. Moving far away is a BIG change. And allow me to be honest: a HARD change. The sheer logistics of moving and settling in can be extremely stressful by themselves. Then add to it all the emotional turmoil of leaving everyone and everything you know, and the emotional journey of the people you live with who are also processing this change in their own unique ways… it can be hard, no matter how prepared you think you are. And that’s ok.

You may wonder at times if you’ve just made a huge mistake. You may doubt yourself when things don’t go according to plan (which, let’s be honest, sometimes – maybe a lot of times – they won’t). You may begin to wonder if you’re strong enough to do this. Or begin to second-guess whether this place is really the best fit for you. Or begin to romanticize what home was like. At every turn, your friends and family may urge you to just move back. It could be so much easier if you’d just move back. But give yourself some time. Cut yourself some slack. You haven’t failed – you’re just adjusting and processing.

And just a few pieces of advice, if you want them:

Be kind to each other. A move this big is a huge change for each of you, and you will each process it in your own way. It will be easy to be short with one another, to become frustrated and eventually resentful. But remember that you need each other right now. Try to be patient and give each other some grace.

Orient yourself, and try to create some sort of routine – if that’s how your brain works best. Some people can thrive without routine, but I am not one of them. For me, things as simple as being unfamiliar with the grocery store and having to use Google Maps to find the post office made me feel scattered and stressed out. I took for granted the comfort of knowing where to buy a cup of coffee. But once I found where my regular places would be and had an idea of what to expect when I went there, I began to feel better.

Don’t isolate yourself. This was easily my biggest mistake. I am not a terribly social person by nature, and meeting new people is especially stressful to my introverted brain. But it’s necessary to make connections. Otherwise the isolation and loneliness will only add to your feeling of failure. I learned this the hard way when I found myself actually wanting to do something social and had no one to call. It felt absolutely awful to realize how long I had lived here and still hadn’t made any real friends of my own. I wish I had realized how worth the effort it would have been to dive in early to making connections… I think it would have spared me a fair amount of anguish to have not felt so alone.

Just like welcoming a new baby, a big move can feel simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying, filled with both joy and frustration. And it’s ok to feel all of those things. I hope you choose not to be ruled by fear or guilt. I hope you make big decisions with optimism. I hope this experience brings your family closer together. I hope you learn something about yourselves along the way. I hope you feel empowered and courageous for having chosen to do this. I hope you feel proud, because I am proud of you.

I hope you find what you’re looking for.

And if you do decide to come back, we’ll welcome you with open arms. No judgement. No “I told you so.”

Go forth! Good luck, and godspeed.

Much love,

-Jess

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