When I was preparing to move to Copenhagen for four months for my study abroad, I spent the better part of the summer sitting in a fluorescent-lit room at a grey desk clickety clacking through mundane tasks and imagining the exciting life I was about to lead in this chic European city.
I would spend my days sipping on cappuccinos and snacking on pastries while having cozy conversations with my supercool new Danish friends. I would bike through the city with ease, discovering all the coolest nooks and crannies. I would hop on a plane every other weekend to some new city to explore. Generally, I would live a carefree life with the happiest people in the world.
When I arrived in Denmark, I quite literally found myself at the drawing board. What I had neglected to consider when building up my abroad life was that I was, well, studying there. I had signed up for an intense pre-urban design program and therefore ended up spending many of my would be cappuccino drinking, bike riding, and galavanting hours sitting in the studio working on my designs. My life ended up being not that different—and in fact a little more difficult—than my life as a student in DC had been.
It seems like every time I’m preparing to move to a new city, I create these grand stories in my head titled, “What My AwesomeCrazyBetter Life Will Be Like.” I always see it as this huge reinvention—as if moving allows me to not only leave a city behind, but to also completely reinvent myself, leaving behind anything about my life or myself that I’m ready to be rid of. It happened when I went to Copenhagen, it happened a year later when I temporarily moved to San Francisco.
And it most certainly happened a couple months ago as I prepared for a move to New York: a city with the grandest expectations of them all. I envisioned myself going on interesting dates with all sorts of men like the women in Sex in the City. My weekends would be jam-packed with partying as I visited all of Stephan’s hottest clubs. I would meet some of the most interesting people in the world, and spend my time doing creative things with them.
Needless to say, in the two months I’ve spent here none of this has even begun to come true. What I neglected to consider, yet again, is that I would largely be living my life as usual—going through the same daily motions I had gone through in DC. I would still have to go to work everyday, and still be exhausted after working probably-too-many hours. I would still have to find time to take care of myself—get food, do laundry, get sleep, maybe get some exercise.
But moreover, I neglected to consider that some of the core things about myself would not magically change upon arriving in a new city either. I would still be the girl who would often rather spend a cozy night in eating and drinking with friends than going out to a club. I would continue to have times when I’d rather get intimate with a good character in a book than get acquainted with a potential new suitor.
Moving alone doesn’t change your life. It can be so easy to feel like a change of location will cause a massive re-invention, but in reality the reinvention can happen anywhere, but needs to start from inside you. Hauling all your stuff across the country won’t initiate the changes you want to see in your life—you have to initiate them, constantly, in your thoughts and actions.
So now I’m back to the drawing board yet again, figuring out how I can integrate myself into a new city and a new life on my own terms. I’m learning how I can meet people and build meaningful relationships without having to be the party girl. I’m coming to terms with the fact that I don’t have to be doing something wildly cool at every second of every day in order to be living a cool life—plenty of those moments need to be spend doing everyday things, and that’s okay.
And I’m realizing that, the things that I want changed about myself, I have to be the one to change them—New York won’t do that for me.
Yes, living in a new city can be an exciting way to give yourself new opportunities for change and growth. But you have to show up and take advantage of them.