One year ago, I picked up my life and moved across the country to a town where I knew no one, and everything felt new. With my family more than 700 miles away, this was the first time in my life I had truly been on my own.
During the initial stages of getting used to my totally-unfamiliar surroundings, I was distracted by the shock-value of the whole experience. But it only took me a few weeks to stop and recognize my deeper feelings of anxious uncertainty: “What did I get myself into?" was a question I suddenly felt consumed by. "Did I make the right decision?” I'd ask myself constantly. Sure, I knew that my choice would ultimately be rewarding, but I wasn’t prepared for the journey that would come before that point.
Fast forward one year later. Today, I’m incredibly grateful I took that risk because it has taught me so much about life, myself and what I want for my future. I also realized that my realizations weren't necessarily a result of moving to a new place. Moving was a symbol for pushing myself into a realm of discomfort, so that I was forced to consider my priorities, my desires, my needs and so on. Some of the most profound journeys don't involve any physical travel!
So when you decide it's time to embark on or continue your personal journey anew, here are five ways to get started on the right foot:
1. Get involved with something.
Immersing yourself in something out of your box is a great way to tap into a deeper sense of your purpose. Too often, we feel "stuck" simply as a result of rehearsing the same actions and thoughts about ourselves in our day-to-day life. So dive into something!
If you have just moved to a new town like I did, I'd suggest doing this immediately. If you look up organizations or groups that you feel strongly about, chances are you will start to meet people that share those same passions. To spark some ideas, here’s what worked for me: Habitat for Humanity Young Professionals, Junior League of Winston-Salem, a kickboxing class and teaching Sunday school.
But this can also be an individual pursuit. Maybe you've always wanted to be a better cook. Maybe you've always wanted to learn to meditate. Whatever it is, finding a sense of "newness" in your life on a regular basis will empower you, and give you a sense of focus and passion.
2. Push yourself out of your comfort zone.
A huge part of personal growth actually involves finding a supportive community. Especially if you're in the place of wanting to start from scratch," you may be feeling the desire to make new friends, which undoubtedly can be challenging and even sometimes awkward at first.
As a person who thrives off my best friends’ support, this was one of the most frustrating parts of my move. But you can take steps to be intentional about your social life. Say yes to everything you are invited to, even if it’s out of your comfort zone. Yes, you may feel overly-friendly at first. But who cares? In the end, they could become one of your best friends.
3. Consistently plan something you can look forward to.
When we are on a journey of personal growth, even the littlest things can feel profound, and sometimes unsettling. After all, feeling "settled in" isn't typically associated with growth (though growth can certainly coexist with comfort).
But that doesn't mean your journey can't involve pleasure. It's important that you do things to let yourself know you care about yourself. When I had just moved, I immediately booked a trip home to Chicago to see my family. The trick was finding the right time, as I wanted to give myself a chance to be present, while also honoring my desire to give myself some comfort.
4. Appreciate the silence.
When I moved to North Carolina, it was the first time in my life I was forced to be alone for an extended period of time. I’ve learned that how you handle silence says the most about who you are as a person. Sitting in silence completely alone gives your mind a chance to unwind, and you can hear yourself think so clearly.
Self-inquiry almost always involves "being with yourself" in some way, which can be extremely overwhelming. Find things that make the process easier, whether it be a new hobby like painting or playing music. Be patient with yourself. Journal. Treat yourself like you would a friend, and appreciate the quiet time you have with yourself.
5. Nurture yourself.
Things aren’t always going to go according to plan in any transition. Be patient, kind and compassionate — because it will take time for everything to pan out. But in that awkward transition period, don’t be too hard on yourself and enjoy it! Use this experience as a time to be selfish and focus on yourself. What do you want to learn? What habits do you want to shed? Do you have new goals? Are there areas of your life you want to approve?
Realize your life is yours, and no one else's. This may feel like it puts the pressure on, but it also is a realization that gives you so much freedom. That kind of self-love and attention will help you become the best version of yourself. Onward!