Friends are the only thing that kept Julie Zutz from going crazy when she moved from Minnesota to Boston and during the next 14 moves. An unofficial moving expert, Julie has crisscrossed the country in almost every direction for her job. She's been transferred from Minnesota to Massachusetts, Illinois to Georgia and, most recently, to Texas.
"The first six to 12 months is very hard," she explains. "That's where keeping in touch with friends keeps me from going insane."
Another veteran relocater, Amanda Stiver, says that her friends give her stability during the chaos of uprooting. "Knowing that life is going on far away means I can learn to cope where I'm at as well," says Amanda, a survivor of five moves.
Moving isn't just hard for women. Marty Henderson, who has jumped from Texas to Ohio and from Alaska to California in the last 13 years, says it can be a lonely time. "I know what it's like to move into an entirely new area and be alone," he says. "It is critical to maintain contact with family and close friends."
Even the experts agree. The Social Readjustment Rating Scale, based on research by psychiatrists Thomas Holmes and Richard Rehe, ranks a change in residence among the top 50 stressful life events one can experience.
Everyone intellectually knows that moving is tough, but the emotions often surprise them anyway, Julie says. People usually tabulate costs for the moving van and boxes but don't count the social costs. They are just as real and play a big role in finding happiness in your new surroundings.
So are you doomed to loneliness? Of course not, Julie says. But most of the work to maintain friendships will fall on you. It's not that your friends don't care about you. Remember, for everyone besides you, it's life as usual. You have to be the one to stay in their lives. So what can you do?
Moving Statistics for U.S. and U.K
5 — the average number of years between moves in the United States.
16 — the percentage of people who move every year in the United States.
56 — the percentage of moves in the United States that were local (within the same county).
19 — the percentage of moves in the United States from one state to another.
4 — the percentage of moves to the United States from another country.
40,430 — number of U.S. youth ages 10 to 19 who moved March 1999 to 2000.
18,441 — number of U.S. citizens ages 20 to 24 who moved March 1999 to 2000.
20 to 29 — age group in the United States with the highest moving rate
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, March 2000.
3.2 — millions of people that who change their residence every year in the United Kingdom.
Ways to reach across the miles
• Don't wait until you're settled to pick up the phone, Julie says. Call while you're unpacking, hanging up clothes or just feeling lonely.
• Send a text message. Even if you don't have time to talk or can't find your keyboard, your cell phone is probably handy.
• Write an e-mail, Amanda suggests. Once your computer is unpacked, attach pictures of your new place and share a funny misadventure.
• Use an instant messaging service provided by Web sites like America Online, MSN or Yahoo. They let you have real-time "chats" with multiple friends in different locations.
• Join a virtual community, Marty recommends. Web sites like MySpace and Facebook let you leave messages, share pictures, recommend movies and books and more.
• Use snail mail, says Amanda. It may be old-fashioned, but who doesn't love to find a card or letter among the pizza fliers?
• Plan a trip. Visit your old friends from time to time, and invite them to your home if they're in town.
Reaching out where you are
Keeping in touch is important, but making friends in your new locale should be a priority, too, says Greg Baker, who's survived four moves in the past six years.
Know that making new friends will also take a lot of work, Julie warns. People there, too, have their own lives and social circles. To break through, you'll need to take an active role in their lives, hobbies, views and interests. So how can we do this?
• Finding your local United Church of God congregation is a must, Greg says. Our shared religious beliefs are a huge blessing, giving us instant common ground. Find contact information at www.ucg.org/about/church.htm.
• Volunteer. It's a great way to meet outgoing, caring people and do good in the process.
• Join a club or organization, Amanda suggests. Whether cycling, kayaking, bunko or singing is your thing, you can find other people who share your passion. It's easier to strike up a friendship when you're engrossed in another activity and the pressure is off.
• Throw a party, Julie recommends. If you wait until your home is perfect, you'll never have guests. Invite your neighbors or others you've met and order pizza. Paper plates are fine. Who wants to wash a bunch of dishes anyway?
And if the new person in town reaches out to you, please extend your hand, Marty encourages. Better yet, invite him or her to join a group activity. Remember—that new person has likely left all of his or her friends and family behind. Your gesture will be greatly appreciated.
In the end
Even if you successfully keep in touch with old friends and make new ones, you'll still have lonely moments, especially during the first year, Julie says. "I don't know anybody who has moved who hasn't at some point upon arrival realized that their friends are there and I'm here and feels a little bit stuck, let down or lonely. It is a phase and it will go away."
While your friendships will probably change, the closeness won't, Julie says. She has friends she hasn't seen in years, who, when they talk, pick right up where they left off.
And don't hesitate to reach out even if weeks or months have passed, Greg advises. Chances are good that you both wish you'd done a better job of staying in touch, and your friend will be happy to get a phone call or letter. "I can't say I do it often enough, but I don't let the embarrassment of not doing it in a timely manner in the past stop me," he says.
Our Creator knows we need friends. And when it comes to making friends, we reap what we sow. If we want friends, we need to be outgoing and friendly ourselves. This is something to strive for whether we're coming, going or staying where we are. After all, we can never have too many friends! VT