Moving to a new city as an adult is hard. Really hard. The seven years that I lived in Washington, D.C., before quitting my job and thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail were an emotional roller coaster, for certain; there were career ups and downs and falling outs with friends, but moving there was never hard. I arrived just as I started grad school, with the built in network that comes with it, along with a house full of roommates ready to socialize and go out on the town every chance they got (and personally, I was happy to oblige them and join). That was in my twenties. The move to Boulder, Colorado, on the other hand, was in my mid-thirties. And it turns out, though I’m aware that I’m blessed beyond measure to live in this wonderland, moving to a small city as a single woman in your thirties is not quite so… simple.
I would be lying if I didn’t say that I struggled for my first year here. I was in the throws of post-trail depression, mixed with seasonal affective disorder (3.5 months straight of fog and gloom in Western New York will do that to you), mixed with barely knowing a soul out here and missing my East Coast family, friends, and coworkers when I landed. But the copious amounts of Boulder sunshine healed my weary mind and broken heart, and I made it through to the other side where Colorado really feels like home now. Or, at the very least, Colorado’s mountains feel like home! And this is where I’d like to stay.
So, having struggled and made it out the other side, I have five lessons to offer that I learned from moving to a new city in my thirties, in case it may help any of you.
- You are stronger and more capable than you think. I’m not much of a crier, but I did spend more than one evening home alone, gulping red wine, and cursing loudly at the Wayfair furniture that I had to build myself (often with the wrong fasteners sent along with them). I found myself wondering why I couldn’t have moved somewhere closer to my dad (so he could do it for me!) or at the very least, why I couldn’t have had the foresight to find a handy (and handsome and rugged) boyfriend before purchasing build-your-own furniture off the internet. But you know what, I built that damn furniture (though not perfectly) and I have a lovely, cozy apartment to show for it that I’m awfully proud of. Keep working at the things that are hard, friends. If I can survive loneliness and build my own Wayfair furniture, you can conquer whatever stands in your way of happiness, as well.
- People are kind – let them in. When I arrived here and things weren’t immediately easy for me, I shut down a bit. I wasn’t my normal, friendly, chipper self. Someone was stern with me at work? I’d shut my office door for the rest of the day. Couldn’t find a climbing partner by aimlessly wandering around the gym? Forget it, I wouldn’t try again for another two weeks. You get the idea. I of course already knew this, but couldn’t seem to get my attitude to cooperate – you get back what you give. If you put good vibes out into the universe and keep your heart open to people, you’ll get back what you give tenfold. Once spring arrived (again, the seasonal affective disorder) and I woke up and looked around, there were kindnesses everywhere. I had a coworker offer to help deliver furniture to my apartment, a grocery store attendant begin to chat with me as if I was a friend every time that I went in, a transient tell me I had the most beautiful smile he’d ever seen, and on and on. I began to make friends at work and in life, I found a (great) climbing partner, and I began to recognize that people are just nice here. You just have to let them be.
- Elevation really does make a difference. This one’s for my hiking (and climbing and skiing) friends. I had heard that elevation could make athletic pursuits in Colorado harder, but having only been here for a couple of weekends before, I hadn’t noticed much. Once I arrived though, in possibly the best shape of my life I might add, I noticed very quickly that it, indeed, does make a difference. Even short hikes would wind me. I remember one specific hike that I went on with Carolyn, an old friend and regular Colorado hiking buddy, shortly after I arrived. By all measures, it should have been a decently easy hike for me. Only seven miles and 1,500 feet of elevation gain. But I hugged more than one tree for dear life as I gasped for breath on the inclines that day, insisting to Carolyn that I truly am fit!, and I’m still learning to take it slow on the high peaks. The mountains here will own you if you don’t respect them and the elements, and that means recognizing that it may take some time for you to get used to Boulder’s 5,600 feet of elevation, and that the climbs only go up (and the oxygen levels only go down) from there.
- Time marches on, through the good and the bad. My first couple of months here seemed to drag on forever. I felt alone and stressed and without purpose. Though I knew in my heart of hearts that I wanted to be here and that things would fall into place, it was hard doing the work and waiting for that all to happen. I thought spring would never arrive, and I thought I’d never make friends or feel settled or like I belong. But, as I try to remind myself in every tough situation, none of it lasts forever. Time marches forward, and things change. Unfortunately, this is true for the good things as well, but we won’t get into all that. The point is, I did make it until spring, and now I absolutely love it here. I’m still waiting on that rugged mountain man to show up, but otherwise, things have fallen into place. You just have to do the best you can, and keep on keeping on. You’ll get to where you’re going.
- Do not move somewhere new in winter! Especially when you’re too poor to ski. I’m about half kidding with this one. People are just less friendly in winter! Or friendly for less hours of the day! Or I’m just less friendly in winter. And skiing is fun. You get the idea. 😉
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