When I was nineteen, I left my small town with a population of 260 for the biggest city in the United States: New York City. A lot of people questioned my decision — and just as many tried to convince me it was the wrong decision – but I felt it was a gamble I needed to make. I didn’t know anyone in the city, but I felt like NYC was where I needed to be to network in the literary community and learn all I could about being a writer. Years after earning the degree that brought me here, I believe the choice to relocate was the right one for me. If you’re debating whether or not to relocate for work or school, ask yourself these 6 questions before buying your plane ticket:
1. Can I afford it?
Evaluate your financial situation and assess what costs will be associated with living someplace new. If the cost of living is higher, do you have money saved? If you previously relied on public transportation and the city you’re relocating to doesn’t have a system, is it within your budget to buy a new car? Will you be able to sustain your standard of living, and treat yourself every once in a while?
When I relocated, I had to defer my education for a semester to earn money for my move, especially since I was moving to a (much!) more expensive city. But when I finally made it, I didn’t have call anyone to beg for money or deprive myself of the occasional treat because I made sure I had plenty of money saved. Don't just save to survive, save to thrive.
2. Do I have a support system?
At some point after your move, you’ll wonder if you made the right choice. You might wonder everyday. Adjusting to a new place can be extremely draining, so it’s important to have someone you can turn to when you feel like breaking down. Your support system doesn't need to be in the city you're moving, but they need to be reachable when you need them.
My support system was my parents. Although they were far away, I spoke with them on the phone every day. When I felt unsure of myself, they always pumped me up. Your support system could be an encouraging group of friends, a partner, or your siblings – anyone who will be your friend before you make new ones in your locale.
3. What challenges might I face, and how will I navigate them?
Try to think through problems before they happen. Imagining the worst-case scenarios and their solutions will make you feel better prepared for the move – and keep you from being blindsided by misfortune. Of course, you can’t imagine every possible outcome, but taking preemptive actions toward things you do anticipate can help facilitate a smoother transition. For example, if you’re worried about not making friends at your new workplace, check out social gatherings in your new town to scout for potential friendships.
My biggest fear when I moved to NYC was getting lost. Though I wasn’t able to avoid this misfortune completely, the dozen-odd GPS tools and maps I downloaded on my phone made the consequences far less serious than if I had to find my way around completely unassisted.
4. What is my timeline to adjust?
If you go through with the move and feel miserable, how long are you willing to accept feeling that way? It’s important to have this in mind before you make the big move. You should have a plan for the chance your boss is intolerable or the job causes you way more stress than you imagined.
5. What am I prepared to give up?
If you live alone where you are, are you prepared to live with roommates in a new city? If you have a significant other who isn’t coming with you, can you accept the possibility of breaking up? Make sure you’re mentally prepared to make certain sacrifices.
I gave up seeing my family as frequently to move to a new state, but it was a sacrifice I considered before the transition. Early consideration of the sacrifices I was making made me less regretful once I got there, and allowed me to make peace with the situation early on.
6. What do I have to gain?
Having a concrete goal in mind helps make losses seem worth it. Beyond just taking a job or attending a university, consider how what you gain from making this move will impact your life overall.
For me, I valued education and finding a strong literary community. Even on my worst days, I was propelled forward by remembering that I was fulfilling these desires.
Kayla Heisler is an essayist and Pushcart Prize-nominated poet. She is a contributing writer for Color My Bubble. Her work appears in New York's Best Emerging Poets anthology.