Grownup Firsts: Moving Away

There are so many milestones along the way to becoming a ‘grownup’ — a first job, moving away from home, renting an apartment, having a serious relationship, buying a place, becoming a parent (on our mind these days, see here and here!). I was recently invited to attend a class at Society of Grownups [You’re a Grownup (Don’t Panic)] that had me thinking about these milestones and how my values and goals have changed as I’ve grown.

For me, moving away from home was a formative experience, and each place I landed taught me so much about myself and the world. As much as I loved Boston, I chose to go to Montreal for undergrad — besides being a great city, it was a place where I knew absolutely no one, and yet could come home on the Greyhound bus if I got really homesick. (Both huge pluses at the time!) Montreal was an amazing place to be a young adult, and I had such a wonderful time there. I ended up bouncing back and forth from Montreal to London and France, spending more than 12 years away, before making my way back to Boston a few years ago. Moving home after so much time away was enlightening in it’s own way, as I then was able to experience Boston as an adult, and now have the opportunity to stay here and feel really invested in a place.

Here are a few things I learned along the way.

Starting from scratch (again and again). There is something both intimidating and liberating about not knowing anyone. There are no expectations about who you are and how you will act, and the sense of anonymity is so freeing. That definitely can be coupled with loneliness, but going through the process of starting over is also a great chance to meet new people and reconnect with your true self.

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The Montreal skyline.

Finding nice people everywhere. Anywhere you go, there are nice people to be found. Moving to a new place is a great chance to get to know a whole different crowd of people, hear their stories and perspectives, and build new friendships.

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Visiting with friends in Vienna.

Figuring it out. It can be tricky to be the new kid in town. Especially when moving to a new country, even the most basic of tasks can feel like a puzzle — for example, how to set up a cell phone which requires having a utility bill which requires a phone number to set up (true story)? I remember looking up banking vocabulary nervously before our appointment to open an account when we had just moved to France, to which my husband said ‘don’t worry, we’ll muddle through.’ And we did! Gaining the confidence to put yourself out there and try is such a great lesson, whether it’s an activity you haven’t yet mastered, attending an event on your own, or trying to express yourself in another language.

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Making it an adventure. Certain bills have to be paid, and dinner has to get on the table, but if there are extra funds available beyond that, there are many choices to be made. Saving for retirement and goals like down payments is important, but so is enjoying life, seeking happiness, and making space for adventures (a perspective from the Society of Grownups class that really resonates with me). When I was in London for a master’s program, I had no extra money. My outings were only to student pubs with specials, and I typically saved my bus tickets for when it rained (which happened often enough!). I had a great experience, and really explored the student side of London, but there was certainly a lot of the city and surrounding area that I missed out on. When my husband and I were living in Paris we had more flexibility in the budget, and decided to prioritize travel in Europe as we knew we wouldn’t be there forever. We were able to do many short weekend trips with a bit of planning, and they are among my favorite memories of our time there.

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At the Vatican during one of our weekend trips.

Deciding to invest. Before moving back to Boston a few years ago, everywhere we lived was connected to a university program or a short-term visa. I was starting to crave some more permanence, and the ability to put down roots and let them grow. There is no set end date to our time here, and it feels so nice to know that we can really get to know a neighborhood, allow new friendships to bloom, and have a community here. Our next (huge!) adventure is to watch our daughter grow and see Boston through her eyes!

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This post is sponsored by Society of Grownups, a Brookline-based initiative offering classes, events, and financial advice to help navigate being a grownup and encourage conversations about money, happiness, adventure, and personal values. Check out their classes and more here.

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