I vividly remember sitting in the minivan with my dad on the drive up to my first day of sixth grade at the (seemingly) giant middle school. As we rolled up for drop off, I suggested, "Hey Dad, what if we just turn around right now?" I launched into a fairly convincing case for why I didn't really need to go to middle school, and how entering the workforce at an early age was not the worst idea. Shockingly, I lost the argument and ended up standing at the front door of the school with a shiny new backpack, cool new pencils, and a sense of terror. I didn't know a soul.
I made it through middle school, but the case remains that the only times in my life I've felt that particular brand of fear is when I'm starting out in a new situation: middle school, the first day of college, the first day of studying abroad in Ireland, and the first day of my new post-grad job. Most recently, my dad dropped me off again, but this time it was in a new state, a new apartment, and for a new school when I started as a graduate student at the University of Arizona. And you know what? As much as I've grown and changed and hopefully matured over the years, it was just as terrifying as when I was a brace-faced little sixth grader, alone and afraid to walk into middle school.
So if you're completely terrified to move to a new place, uproot your twenties, start a new job, buy a new house– that makes sense. Terror is how we know that we're on the right track. There simply is nothing as transformative and important to your character growth as being afraid or uncomfortable in some way. In the moment, it's awful, but when you come out on the other side, you'll be a little wiser and a little stronger and a lot more confident.
Whether you're starting a new job, taking a new class, moving to an entirely new place, or just encountering a social situation with unfamiliar people, it's important to familiarize yourself with that feeling of being scared and doing it anyway. I remember walking out of a meeting during my first month in Arizona when it hadn’t gone as well as I expected, and thinking "So when I moved here, I basically signed up to be somewhat uncomfortable every second of every day." In a new place, everything is different. Eventually, time will pass and you’ll cozy into the warm feeling of a new routine and wonderful friends–but growth, both mentally and spiritually, takes time.
So for those looking to take the plunge into something new, here are some of the lessons I've learned from being uncomfortable. Have I completely figured it all out yet? Not quite, but every day I’m less scared and more determined– and that’s half the battle.
T A K E C A R E O F Y O U R S E L F
Maybe you don't know a single person in your new geographical vicinity, or maybe you are just trying to survive the social and technical dynamics of working at a new company. Regardless of what your "new" happens to be, splurge and make time for tiny joys. Treat yourself to a manicure or spend $4.00 loading up your frozen yogurt with cheesecake bites and strawberries (or maybe that's just me). You are the only one that can really take care of you, and if it's something you know will make you happy, give yourself permission to be an adult and do it.
B A N I S H S O C I A L F E A R
I consider myself an extrovert, but there is something very grounding about being somewhere and realizing that even if you wanted to text someone to grab coffee, you literally don't know one single person in that area that you could. Starting fresh and walking into a room of new people means that you're back to playing the game of first impressions, both them and you. If at any point you realize your palms are sweatier than normal and you’re a little nervous, make the conscious choice to annihilate that fear for good. Strike up a random conversation, participate in small talk whether you love it or hate it, and make a genuine effort to know and learn about another individual in that room. Suspend all judgment. Do not stop for a second to think about social hierarchies or if you're talking to the right people. Sometimes, the most sparkling hidden gems are the ones you never in a million years you thought you'd be friends with.
S T A Y A C T I V E
My saving grace in this new place is my running club, which gives me goals that are non-academic (or non work-related, depending on where you are) and keeps me moving while being in company of other people– what a win-win! Find something physical that will motivate you, or just go outside and shake up some endorphins for half an hour.
T R U S T I N Y O U R P U R P O S E
When I uprooted my life from my friends, my family, a job I loved, and a cute apartment in the city, it was strenuous to say the very least. And even today, I still have moments where I wonder exactly what I’m doing here and who in their right mind thought that I was smart enough to handle a program of this level. I could not make it through every single day of constant intellectual stress, social anxiety, and new challenges without knowing that this isn’t my plan for myself, it’s God’s. You are where you’re meant to be for a reason. There is something you will learn from this that will make you stronger, and girl, God only gives you as much as you can handle. So take the fear He gives you, turn it into something beautiful, and make that fresh start as uncomfortable as can be. It will be worth it.