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I’m a real adult now.
It’s weird. Right now, I’m feeling nostalgic about the days I spent kicking ass at beer pong, staying up playing Super Smash Bros until 3am, drinking coffee only for the pleasure of it, rolling out of bed 10 minutes before class starts and still making it on time, and group texting friends about where the next big house party we were going to hop to was at. It’s weird because that was my life just three months ago and it’s not my life anymore. Now, the thought of drinking on a weeknight makes me cringe, I have a hot bedtime of 10pm (sometimes earlier), I drink coffee out of necessity to stay alive at work, wake up at ass crack of dawn (5:30am), and text my friends to congratulate them on buying a house, getting engaged, and having a baby.
I guess I became mature and responsible or something like that.
There’s this stigma attached to the implications of what your life must become after you walk across the stage and receive your degree. You’re expected to instantaneously pull your shit together. You’re expected to have a plan of what you’re going to do with your life. Many of us recent graduates cling to what our life was before those implications dawned upon us and pretend the real world doesn’t exist. I’m guilty of that. For a month after graduating from Texas A&M, before moving to New York, I became a nomad and lived on my Texas friend’s couches. Every day I slept until noon and every night was a new adventure. I was living the ‘good old days’.
Reality pile drove into my face as soon as I moved to New York. All of the things I had been procrastinating on took urgent necessity. I had to get a full-time job, start my graduate school onboarding course, find a place to live, and rebuild my life.
I was left questioning why I had ever decided to leave College Station. Why didn’t I just go to graduate school at TAMU? Why didn’t I just get a job in Texas? I began having rose colored vision about my time down south. I was homesick.
In short, I was coping with change the same way most people cope with it; I wasn’t having any of it. I did what I had to do though (and bitched my whole way through) and I got a job, prepared for graduate school, found an apartment, and slowly started rebuilding my life. And as I pulled my life together, I slowly started to understand why my life in Texas had come to an end. I understood that I chose Syracuse for its plentiful opportunities. I understood I didn’t get a job because the field I’m passionate about requires me to have a graduate degree. I’ve started making new friends and finding new ways to spend my time. Things are just starting to make sense again and I’m not quite as resentful.
And eventually along with accomplishing my adult things, I gained an adult routine. And I got to say, I love being able to fall asleep before 11pm. It sounds boring, but now I understand why “real” adults do it.
This is the second time I’ve moved across the country and I’ve found some similarities in my experiences of assimilating into my new homes. I’ve found the ways I successfully coped with the change and the ways I rather epically failed at coping with the change. Whether it’s moving, a break up, or career change, here’s a list of ways to cope with BIG changes in your life:
1. Understand that each day will be easier than your last
The first week after the change will be harder than the second week. The first month will be harder than the second month. Even the first year will be harder than the second year. It is crucial that you understand that the passage of time is critical to adjustment. You will not adjust overnight, but with time you will find a new routine, friends, and hobbies – a new way of living. And you will find happiness in this new way of living. I lived in Texas for five years and I wasn’t totally about it until my 3rd year in. It just takes time.
2. Go through the motions
Initially, it’s going to be tough. You’re going to have to do things you don’t want to. For example, giving stuff back after a breakup or finding an apartment to live in a new city, but just get those tasks done. By going through the motions, you’re creating a foundation for your future.
3. Complete immersion
Immerse yourself in your new situation. If you have just moved, go to a local attraction with a local friend. If you’re invited to something, do not say no because it’s beyond your comfort zone. Just go do it. If you’re newly single, enjoy the single life and go out with your friends (and don’t be mopey when they talk about setting you up).
4. Find your people
Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert or an introverted extrovert, find new people. Friends will bring you entertainment, create an emotional support system, and to be frank, distract you from missing your old friends. They won’t replace your old people, but they will make your life fuller and better-rounded.
I got to give a shout out to my first new friend in Syracuse, Jessie. We’re the only two “new” adults in our office and he’s the only one who gets my millennial lingo and South Park references. Without new friends like Jessie, I would be forced to endlessly reflect upon the dope times I had with my Texas friends and eventually, that becomes too much and just destroys all good vibes.
5. Balance the old with the new
When assessing your new life situation, take note of what your old comfort zones were. How did you usually spend your time? With who? By taking note of what used to make you comfortable, you can find new zones of comfort. I’m not saying being out of your comfort zone is a bad thing, but being out of your comfort zone for an extended period of time can be taxing. For example, before I moved I spent many nights with my friends at bars. Now in my new life, I’ve invited my new friends to join me at local bars. You’d be surprised how easier assimilating will feel once you feel comfortable.
As wise as my above advice may have seemed, wisdom can only be gained from a series of successful and failed experiences. So here’s what you should NOT do when coping with change:
1. Find refuge in one thing
When going through a transition, a person tends to cling to one particular thing that makes them happy in their new life’s situation. It’s usually something that brings them back within their comfort zone. However, having only one escape can havr catastrophic consequences if you put all of your time into it and don’t find numerous things that make you happy. This is because if you lose that escape, whether it’s a friend you hang out with all the time, a new hobby, dating someone new, you will find yourself back at square one and lunging for the life you had before the change. So when starting new, make sure to continue to push yourself beyond your comfort zone, so that you don’t put your eggs all in one basket. Basically, you’re being proactive.
2. Let your feelings win all the battles
If it were up to me when I first moved back to New York, I would have impulsively bought plane tickets back to Texas every weekend because of how homesick I was (and still am). I did end up caving and buying plane tickets for two separate weekends this fall, but those are the only battles I allowed my homesickness to win. If one was to let emotions win all battles, they would hinder their ability to assimilate and immerse into their new life and halt all progress towards finding stability and comfort again.
3. Make your past your identity
Do not allow yourself to only talk and think about your past self. The change in your life happened for a reason and whether it was for better or for worse, you’re a different person now. Plus, clinging to the past only alienates those around you.
4. Allow yourself to be lazy
You’re going to want to avoid doing the things that will help you through the change and that’s just L-A-Z-Y. Just get up and do it damn it. Stop pitying yourself and allowing for time to slip by via Netflix binging.
Again, I learned my lessons through living through them. I’ve let homesickness get the best of me at times. Sometimes when I’m looking for plane tickets back to Texas, it feels dirty, like texting an old flame and I know it’s wrong. However, life moves forward and the new always replaces the old and eventually I’ll move on from my old flame and decide to build a fire in Syracuse because I’m a real adult now damn it.