Figuring out how to adjust
I wish I was better at dealing with changes. How cool would it be to get plopped into a new situation and instantly fit in? Or I'd even settle with being able to go through time without comparing your current situation to past ones.
I moved to Arizona back in August. Leaving D.C. was by no means easy, but it wasn't particularly hard either. I knew that it was time for me to get out of there, but Tucson was such a random pick, that I often find myself wondering if I should have taken more time to make my decision.
Before the move, I'd only been out here once, and that was just for a job interview. That tends to be how I make major decisions: with tunnel-vision. When deciding where to go to school, I only looked at different academic programs; after graduation, I jumped right into the first job I was offered; when deciding where to move this past summer, again, I focused only on jobs. In retrospect, it comes from a place of wanting financial stability and more prominently, fearing a lack of it.
The logical side of my brain insists that it all makes sense; it's not like I have a safety net to rely on if things fall apart. But part of me wishes I didn't have to think that way. Maybe I'd have an easier time adjusting to new places if I was able to take a more holistic look at the situation before jumping in. All the major changes in my life seem to happen so quickly, that I'm never able to pause and reflect on a decision until it's too late to change my mind.
Honestly, I don't think it even occurred to me that people were able to do that before I went to college. College was my first time being around people who seemed to never worry about expenses. Whether it going abroad, spending breaks from school on vacations or taking a gap year, it always felt like there was a unique independence that belonged to those who could afford it. The world was theirs to explore, while I felt trapped just trying to get by.
I always tell people I was lucky to go to the school I went to and receive the education I received, but that discredits the ordeal of getting there in the first place.
I've always felt like I'm forced to rush to certain destinations in life. In high school, the focus was college. It wasn't enough just to get accepted, there was also the matter of financial aid. There was never the question of a gap year or applying regular decision. The only option was to pick one school and apply early, as the school's advisor said that was my best change to leverage a better scholarship. While I chose the school myself, it still felt like I was forced to pick. Once I submitted that application and got in, that was it. There was no chance to look at other options.
In college, the focus was graduating and doing it in three years with two degrees. Granted, I took full advantage of the "college experience" while I was enrolled in school, but that end goal was always looming over me. While I relied on scholarships to cover most of tuition, a small portion was taken care of by my college fund. That fund had an expiration date of three years. To accommodate for that, I took every AP class I could in high school and entered university with a handful of credits. My entire time at AU, I never took an elective course, ended up dropping a minor in economics and never looked at study abroad options, because I couldn't risk having to spend extra time in school. At the time, I told myself it would balance out with grad school- that getting my bachelor's degree so quickly would just give me more time for higher education.
After graduation, I jumped straight into work. My first job actually started one week prior to the graduation ceremony, so there was no downtime to refresh after a stressful year. Simply put, that job was not sustainable. It was part-time, paid less than minimum wage and didn't really further my career beyond the title. When I was offered my first full-time position, I jumped on it. Before accepting, I'd applied to over 70 positions- this was the only one I ever heard back from. It felt good to be salaried, and for the first time I felt like I was able to breathe.
A year later, I was ready for the next role. That's when I was offered the position in Tucson. It's also when I learned how expensive moving cross-country is. I boxed and mailed or sold off all of my belongings in one month, while still working full-time. There was no way I'd be able to afford the move if I didn't work every day I was able to. My last day of work in D.C. was on a Friday, I flew out on a Wednesday and had my first day at the new job on the following Monday. To this day, that one week off was the longest continuous break I have taken since before graduation.
In Tucson, I jumped right in to work and kept that my main focus. I didn't spend much time going around the city or trying to make friends. That's one of the hard things about being an adult that no one seems to tell you: making friends is HARD. Since I stayed in D.C. after college, I never had to really worry about meeting new people outside of my already-existing friend group. Arizona was completely foreign to me, and it still feels that way. I'm used to being the youngest person in the room, but it can make it a lot harder to form friendships with co-workers. Just because someone will talk to you in the office, doesn't mean they want to spend their weekends hanging out with a 21 (now 22) year old they barely know.
This move feels like the first thing I've done completely on my own. There's no continuity between living in Arizona and anywhere else I've been before. Yes, my friends are still supportive an amazing, and my boyfriend is always there if I need him, but none of them are here. There's no one to talk to when my shift ends, or to help hold up the other side the shelf when I'm trying to drill it into the wall, and sometimes that's really frustrating. A big part of me wishes I had slowed down when deciding where to live and looked at where I had pre-existing connections or taken more time out to focus on adjusting once I got here, but I'm here now. Which is where the adjusting kicks in. It hasn't been easy, but it has gotten better. I still wish there was a way to snap my fingers and have this feel like home, but even if things were that easy, I'm not sure I'd be happy. My dad tells me to take it one day at a time, and I think that's all I can do right now. It feels like I'm rewiring my brain to not rush through things. Instead of focusing on next steps and where I'm going after my two-year contract is up, I'm trying to appreciate where I'm at now.