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Susan Miller on Moving to a New City
After her 14th move and countless mistakes, Susan Miller landed in Scottsdale, AZ, with a mission. As she began to settle in and try yet again to adjust to a new city, she realized that by sharing her own experiences she could motivate others to explore moving as a catalyst for great new beginnings in their lives. From that idea, JUSTMOVED! was created in 1995. Now an international spiritual support and resource center, JUSTMOVED! is specifically geared towards helping women and families make successful transitions to new places. Susan currently serves as president and founder of JUSTMOVED!/N.E.W. Ministries (Newcomers, Enfolding, Welcoming). She is also the author of two books on moving: After The Boxes Are Unpacked: Moving On After Moving In and But Mom, I Don’t Want to Move! Miller shares her secrets on making the first 30 days of your move to a new city a success.
What advice would you give on how to best prepare for a move to a new city?
Make sure you say your goodbyes. There are a million books that will tell you how and when to pack your boxes. Say your goodbyes, whether it is to people or places.
Understand that you are going to grieve. Know that grieving is a process because moving is a loss. You are leaving everything that is familiar for the unfamiliar. You are going to go through that grieving process.
Any change has a beginning and an ending. A move has a beginning and an ending. Yes, there will be a lot of unknowns in this process, but you can get through by keeping a positive attitude and knowing there is an end in sight.
What do you think are the most common emotions associated with a move to a new city, and what is your advice on how best to overcome them?
We wear luggage tags when we move—emotional luggage tags. For example, we may be bitter because we may have lost a job and we are angry because we don’t want to move. You are going to deal with anger, resentment, loneliness and comparison. Comparison is also huge. [People] ask, “Am I going to fit in here?” and “Am I going to make good friends like I have back home?” All those feelings will overwhelm you, but know that is it OK to feel them. They are normal feelings. It is what you do with them that matters. Replace comparison with contentment. Replace fear with courage. Replace anxiety with assurance. Replace depression with hope. Replace discouragement with encouragement.
What would you recommend as the best way to keep a positive attitude during the first 30 days of moving to a new city?
Make every effort to get out…I always say, “Join up and join in!” These days, people knocking on your door with a plate of cookies are rare. So get out. In the first 30 days, you are overwhelmed with all the little things like finding a grocery store or the right dry cleaner. [People] drown themselves in these tasks after a move. Instead, be intentional about getting out to meet your neighbor or finding a church or synagogue that will help you build a support base.
What is often overlooked in the first 30 days of a move?
Stress overload factors! It is important to be aware of three key stress overload factors so that when they appear you will recognize they are common side effects of a move.
The first is the packing and unpacking process. Even if you have movers you are still going to have to put all the pieces of your puzzle back together in your own way. You are essentially packing and unpacking your life, and people often relive memories that are attached to their possessions. Understand that the physical and emotional process of packing and unpacking will leave you exhausted.
The second thing that ends up causing more stress than we anticipate is the adjustment. It is the little things that can cause us a lot of stress if we aren’t paying attention, like trying to figure out when the mail will be delivered or when the garbage gets picked up. It’s the little things that, when they pile up, can become overwhelming.
The third thing is comparing. We have a tendency to always compare our new environment to our old one. In our minds, we always remember the old place as being better. For example, we say things like “In my old town, the traffic was better or the weather was better.” The list can go on and on. It is important to be mindful of comparisons. Remember that it usually takes a year to balance out that tendency of comparison.
Who is it important to be during the first 30 days of a move to a new city?
Be who you are! A lot of times when we move, we are like a chameleon. We do anything to fit in. In my own personal experience, when I moved from Atlanta to Phoenix, I saw that everyone in Phoenix played tennis. I didn’t play tennis and I remember thinking, “Am I going to have to learn to play tennis now?”
Be who you are, and you will draw like-minded people. When a [person] starts to regain that sense of self by finding a place in a new world, that is a real turning point in the process. It happens by being honest about who you are when you’re out there building new relationships.
What would you describe as the typical phases people go through during the first 30 days of moving to a new city?
A lot of times people go through denial. You know you’re in denial when you will not get your new driver’s license or car plates because when you do, you know the move is for real. You might go through anger. For example, if you are single and you have to move to take care of an ill parent. Anger is common if the move was out of your control.
You might be depressed and sad because reality has set in and you realize, “Gosh I’m not going home tomorrow, and I don’t know any one here.” All of this is normal. You are not crazy. You are not weird. You will get through this, and you are part of the process in getting through it. What you DO is going to make the difference.
Get out and make new connections. Even if you are shy, give yourself a goal of starting a conversation with [a person] in line at the grocery store or drug store. It will start the process.
What tip would you offer on the best way to adjust to a new city beyond the first 30 days of a move?
Understand the difference between cherishing and clinging, because a lot of times we get those two words mixed up. We cling to those things and it becomes almost a luggage tag; it keeps us stuck in the past. Cherish the house or the job or the friends you left behind and cling to your values, your family and your faith. Cherish what was, but cling to what is and will be.
What is the belief you personally go to during times of change?
I am a strong believer, and I am a very Christ-centered person and believe that God is unchangeable. That is whom I go to. I believe that God is with us through all the circumstances in our life, regardless of change.
The best thing about change is…
…it broadens your horizons and takes you to another level of understanding people and life. It stretches you out of your comfort zone.
What is the best change you have ever made?
There are so many. My move from Atlanta to Phoenix is high on the list because it was the catalyst for my organization to start and the catalyst that got me to start writing books. Through that move came a life change that now touches women all over the world!
For more information on Susan Miller, visit www.justmoved.org.