Taking a Grande Jeté into a New City

Updated: Nov 11, 2019

My first trip to Mt. Hood upon arriving in Portland

Moving isn’t easy. Whether it’s for a short duration or it’s a permanent relocation, picking up your life and going to a new place comes with challenges. The move that I am personally talking about is only temporary but has had a large impact on me. The fact that I was going to be in Portland for three and a half months during my summer break meant I would have to integrate into the city and into it’s dance scene. I was coming off of having my extremely rigid schedule of dancing non-stop for classes and performances, working at the library and as a tutor, constantly studying for finals, and finishing up my participation in extracurricular activities. My life was so hectic I didn’t really even have the option to decide what I was doing next. Going from that to a new city where I knew no one and had no clue as to what I would be doing in my free time was… difficult to say the least. I didn’t know what I was doing and no idea how to start figuring that out.

One of the bigger obstacles I saw myself facing was not knowing where I was going to take dance classes. I couldn’t take this time off of dancing and expect to jump back in when my classes start in the fall, nor did I want to. This was a part of my life that I needed to stay constant. It was intimidating coming to a new city and having to figure this out. I had grown accustomed to knowing everyone around me, both in my studio years and my college career, and that was a big safety blanket for me. Even though there was the transition to college where I didn’t know everyone, there was still set classes I was taking and the decision of where and when didn’t fall to me. All of a sudden this decision was on me along with every other change that accompanied my move. I tried to do my homework and look up different places I could take classes but I felt overwhelmed with the options.

I think this is a common problem for people who are moving. You have your old life and are set in your ways. You have a set routine and a list of favorite places to go and favorite things to do. You also have your friends, and possibly family, that you’re leaving behind. At least, this was everything I was leaving. Granted this isn’t a forever change as of now but my graduation date is quickly approaching and pretty soon this will be my new, and very permanent, reality. So how do we transition from a life we know to starting from scratch?

Coming to Portland meant I needed to start making active decisions about my life. Where am I going to buy groceries? How am I going to meet people and make friends? Where am I going to take dance classes? How much can I push the speed limit in Oregon without getting pulled over (in Michigan it’s about 5mph on back roads and 10 on highways)? These were all things that for the most part had set answers and outcomes during my last life transition into college. My conclusion as to how to find the answer to all of these questions, was to just start doing stuff.

I joined social media groups, downloaded the Bumble Friends app, sample shopped at different grocery stores (I really can’t believe you Portlanders can exist without a Meijer, a staple Midwest grocery chain), asked my White Bird coworkers about where to take classes, researched online local dance resources like Dance Wire, and followed the flow of traffic to find Oregon drivers speed as much as, if not more than, Michigan drivers. None of this was easy and it definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone as someone that doesn’t like to go to things alone, but it’s been worth it.

A picture I took of the Division St. mural during my first week here

Reality rarely matches up to expectations and this experience has not been an exception. I expected to have an amazing summer filled with new friends, new experiences, amazing road trips, great dance classes, and nonstop fun. This wasn’t completely wrong, but it definitely wasn’t all right. I have met some great people, taken engaging dance classes, and seen some beautiful views that I couldn’t get anywhere else. But I also have spent my fair share of time alone, in my rented windowless bedroom, feeling lonely and stressed out about my current situation. It takes time to feel at home in a new place and I expect to finally start to feel really comfortable here right as I’m preparing to leave. And that’s okay.

My advice for combating the overwhelming dread that can accompany a move is simple in nature but daunting in execution.

1. Reach out to your friends, family, and the professional community of your old town. It will be surprising who knows who despite them being across the country from one another.

2. Ask for recommendations from anyone you meet in your new city, Usually moving is because of a new job or opportunity, so ask your coworkers like I did.

3. Just start doing things! Join local groups, take fitness classes, attend events, and put yourself out there.

4. Actually talk to people when you go do those things. I have a big problem with keeping to myself in social situations.

5. Keep some stability in your life during your move. If you’re a runner, then keep running. I’m a dancer so I kept dancing. Finding commonality and keeping a resemblance of what your life looked like in your old town is comforting and makes the transition easier.

The changes that accompanied my move to Portland had a larger effect on me than anticipated. I have had some of the best days of my entire life in the short time I’ve been here, but I have also had my fair share of difficult days. I’m still trying to find my footing sometimes but I know I am growing so much from this experience. If you’re moving soon, best of luck and find a really good grocery store.

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