J and I have been talking about the future quite a bit these past few months, hence my post about the Up in the Air Effect. These last two years have been fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants years. As a teenager, when I developed my idiosyncrasies for list making and obsessive organization, I also started thinking about The Big Plan. For me, The Big Plan was never about getting married or having children at a certain point, I was thinking more about what I wanted to accomplish with my career. I thought about being an artist, an actress, a teacher, a professor, a director, a writer, a singer, or being independently wealthy. (Alas, thus far, the last has not happened... yet.)
I planned my life accordingly around my career dreams. I took art classes at school and the local museum. I acted in plays and musicals. I volunteered working with children. I took AP classes that sparked my interest in college-level learning. I went to loads of movies which lead to a job at a movie theater. I wrote in journals and tried starting stories a couple of times. I wrote songs and performed once in awhile, too. Eventually I made plans to go to a university and I weighed the pros and cons of Illinois Wesleyan, Marquette, Twin-Cities, and Madison. I didn't know exactly which school I would attend, and when I got in to all four, Madison was the no-brainer choice. Once I made that choice, I knew would be there for at least four years. I decided to major in Education (seeing people teach was the only job I really, truly understood). I thought about becoming a professor, then I thought about becoming a high school History teacher, then I decided I didn't like high schoolers and I especially didn't like middle schoolers, so I would do Elementary Education. I declared my major in History sometime in there, too. I went through the motions, I made sure I was on track, I pushed myself to be two steps ahead of the game if possible, I worked my butt off for multiple jobs, I got engaged, I planned a wedding, I graduated, I planned a move, I got married, I moved two days later... and then everything screeched to a halt.
The Big Plan brought me up to 23 years old and I hadn't considered a life away from my comfort zone. Sure, I had dreamed of moving to New York City or San Fransisco, but I never thought I'd move for someone else. I always thought life would be mostly on my terms while working around the parameters set by work or school. I poured hours of work and dedication into the Elementary Education program to realize I didn't want to be a teacher in that way. I still believe the program has merit, but I spent years making sure I met the requirements to get in and then years exceeding within it that I felt as if I spent my college life working towards nothing. I didn't know what to do with myself after school. I especially didn't know what to do with myself in Miami.
Well, now I am here, but I don't know where I'll be going anymore and I'm not sure what I should be working towards. From 15 to 21 I knew those things, but now I need to learn to explore different paths. This can be hard on anyone, but I believe it is especially hard when you move to a brand new place where you have no friends, no family, and no professional network. A move is in our future again (when- I don't know), but it has me considering: what are the suggestions I would give someone else if they were moving to a new city? Thus, A Midwestern Girl's Guide to Moving (in no particular order of importance).
- Read up on your new city. Crime reports and maps will give you a good idea of where not to live. You might have to go ahead of time to find an apartment. It is worth the trip. Driving around and getting lost is a good place to start when figuring out where to make your home. You'll see and hear more important information in the real world than you would find online. If you are moving for a job or school, contact a future colleague and ask them where people they know live. Keep their considerations in mind, but don't be afraid to look elsewhere. (J and I live in a great neighborhood that was not suggested to us originally.)
- Consider the climate of your new city. I went from Madison to Miami. The Land of Snow to the Land of Snowbirds. I didn't have money to revamp my wardrobe, but you can bet I left my puffy North Face jacket where it belongs: up north. I had to buy shorts (I only had two pairs for working out). I had to buy a swimsuit (I hadn't owned one in years). I also made a Hurricane Emergency Kit for my new subtropic home (luckily I'm married to a meteorologist).
- Find your local library, stat! If you are bored, cannot find work, or broke, reading books from the library will occupy your time and your mind. Reading keeps your mind sharp, yet open. Libraries have community boards and you can possibly meet up with an interest group. (My local library isn't the best for this, but others are great for community outreach.)
- Volunteer. I tried to make a couple of volunteer connections before I found Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens. There I learned a lot about my community and the area's natural history from orientation classes. I found a position that works well with my education and crafting background. I get to meet new people. I don't hang out with them or even chat that much when I'm there, but they are interesting folks who come from all walks of life. (A few of them will serve as inspiration for great characters in a story some day!) Volunteering is good for your resume, great for you, and priceless for your community. One hour a month is probably thirty minutes more than the average person is giving.
- Get a GPS. You will get lost without it unless you have an uncanny sense of direction. I'm actually pretty intuitive when it comes to getting around, unlike some people I live with... (Don't tell my husband. He's been know to drive aimlessly and he won't stop for directions.) Getting lost can be fun and educational, but it is not okay when you are headed to a job interview, meeting, work, or a class.
- Make your new house/apartment your home. There have been times I have lamented, "Why could I not find a place like this in Wisconsin!" My apartment is pretty spacious and we worked very hard to make it as homey as possible on our budget. It was the first time living together where our things were cohesive (our office is a bit of a style jumble, though). We put up art and pictures. We bought candles. We moved the furniture for comfort and function several times. There are things about this place that are sucky, don't get me wrong. (What I wouldn't give for an in-unit washer/dryer, central air, and less bugs!) Yet, there are things about this place we will probably never have again. (Tons of storage space, two bedrooms for a reasonable price, and a beautiful neighborhood.) I love my apartment so much; it has been my oasis in this crazy city. Here I can unwind. This apartment is HOME even if Miami is not.
- Meet your neighbors. At first I considered going old school, making cookies, knocking on doors, and introducing myself. I soon learned that people in Miami have a mob mentality that is anti-social, rude, antagonistic, and suspicious. Doors are not held open for you; they are slammed in your face. Even native Miamians tell you this is a rude city. I was constantly asked where I was from because it was clear I wasn't from around here. I don't consider myself to be especially friendly or outgoing. In fact, I'm a bit of a hermit who likes to be left alone while in public, but I try to be nice. Now, I have had the pleasure of getting to know some people from around the world while living here and people who were born and raised in this city. There are only a few people up for the roles of the villain in my future books (oops- did I say that?). Interacting with people one-on-one is generally an okay experience here. I met my neighbors when it was natural: when we were both out and about. I know them all with one exception (and heavens knows I've tried with that one). We became pretty friendly with our downstairs neighbors. They were great and we would often exchange favors of watching each others pets. They moved to Baltimore and it was such a bummer because we lost those people we trusted. However, at least we had them for a majority of our stay here. People like them are valuable to you. Meet your neighbors, get friendly enough with at least one or two so that if something comes up (you need your mail to be collected, you get locked out, etc.) you will have someone to count on.
- Consider branching out online, but keep in touch with friends back home. I found out about the sites mentioned below a little late in the game. I tried to invest in some people my age here, but I eventually figured that I can focus my energy on my hobbies. Yes, sometimes it is lonely, but I'm never bored. Know that people will change (most likely you) and you will probably become emotionally distant to some people you had considered close friends in your past. There is a bit of an out of sight out of mind mentality with people my age group these days. If they can't "tweet" it to you or put it on your "wall", it's too much of an effort. I wish I could throw some people's phones in the toilet. 140 characters is not communication- it is merely supplemental! (But I digress...) I regularly e-mail a friend (an old neighbor!) who moved to Rhode Island for her husband's job. She's in the same boat as me. I try to call my girlfriends from the School of Education every few weeks to get the scoop on their lives. If I thought I had more time here I would try out Meetup and Grub With Us. Meetup is a website where you can find numerous interest groups. It costs money to make a group, though. I haven't found any groups in my area that really intrigued me (or J). Grub With Us is a site that connects food lovers to other food lovers at local restaurants. We thought we would try Grub With Us in our new city. (PLEASE NOTE: Exercise extreme caution when meeting with someone online. Meet in a group, in a public place, don't exchange personal information until you trust the individual explicitly, take a friend, and tell someone what your plans are!!! I am probably overly cautious when it comes to these things, but I'd rather be a safe, old hen than a dead, careless chicky.)
- Find a local newspaper or magazine. The local magazine down here is geared towards the rich and slightly famous. I can't afford the cafes and spas they suggest. However, the Madison women's magazine was an awesome resource and a great read. I learned about local shops, initiatives, and community events. The New Times down here is a newspaper that is more for my speed of life. We just picked up their big "Best Of..." issue. We tried out two restaurants already, but there is all sorts of info in it that would have been incredibly valuable to us when we first moved.
Now, about becoming independently wealthy...