New beginnings can take many forms: a job, a marriage, or in my case, a move. They’re bookends to tell grandchildren about and the hellos and goodbyes that we feel deserved a Hollywood score.
Like any story’s climax, a new beginning is a place full of pitched emotions. There’s joy and there’s terror. But if you’re interested in packing your whole life into the trunk of your car, here’s the Do-It-Yourself manual on how to survive with a story to tell.
Value relationships: Social and professional success demands an ability to constantly meet, impress, and retain new people of a certain quality. You’re about to be a stranger in a strange land, so you need to learn how to do this on your feet, at any time and at any place. Practice it. Master it. Everything else is secondary to this.
Be good to people now: Your future friends depend on your present friends, so treat people well in the years before you leave. They’ll remember it and provide you introductions to people who they judge to be approximately the same quality as you.
So if you want your colleague to introduce you to her knockout cousin who’s a junior attorney in Seattle or her uncle who produces movies for Steven Spielberg in Los Angeles, act that way.
Do everything you can do to get a 2nd Date: Most decent people will take a half-hour of their day to meet a stranger who’s drifted into their life. The hard part is keeping them around.
Take scrupulous mental notes on every person you meet. If you think you’ve met a friend or a business contact, find any excuse to call or email them about something they specifically told you interested them. Connect this to a reason for a social meeting, suggest a date, time, and place (all three! It’s imperative! No one is going to meet you half way!) and even if you get a no, you’re on your way to making a friend. Why? Because most people who turn you down will invite you out another time as quid pro quo.
A majority of second dates will turn into cordial relationships: people who will at least thoughtfully respond to your emails; and a not insignificant minority of them will become real friends. So follow-up and have plan a ready.
Be the first person everywhere: Forget what you learned about “fashionably late.” You’re new in town and you know no one. If you come late to the party, you’ll find a room full of people already surrounded by the friends they picked. They’re in their comfort zone and you’re not going to break though. So get there first before the scene crystallizes.
If you’re the first in the door, the host has no choice but to get to know you, invest in you, and introduce you to people who might interest you. If the host is lousy, you’ll still catch other early arrivals who don’t have a group of friends yet. They’ll get to know you to abate their own sense of social awkwardness. It works every time.
Avoid the past and tread lightly in the future: You are very actively running away from your past so do your best to forget it, at least for now. You need to live in the present and that’s a tough thing to do.
In the best of times, the present is the scariest place to live because it’s full of questions like “do I need to go to the dry cleaner?” “do I have my umbrella?” or “is that due Friday or Monday?”. But by quitting the life you know, the stakes of these questions will be much higher and so will their accompanying discomfort. Your doubts will shift away from the trivialities of misplaced objects and towards existence itself.
Unfortunately, the only way to overcome this internal friction is to put one foot in front of the other and keep walking. So stop looking into that archive you keep with all the happiest moments of life you’ll never relive. That’s how you lose time and build discomfort.
Spend your money: It may sound counter-intuitive now but the strain you’re about to put your psyche under will need relief. Indulge in experiences, edible, physical, or intellectual, but avoid retail therapy. Look for new tastes, sights, and places and you will do much to stay focused on the adventure of your new beginning and not the uncertainty that comes with it. You’ll find that instant pleasure is a palliative that can keep your doubts and fears at bay. It’s a tactical retreat but a helpful one.
Accept helplessness: Helplessness is a natural feeling and when you’re living your new beginning, you’ll need to go ahead and accept it. That’s because your destiny is out of your control. You can work your tail off, but at the end of the day, you’ll need the help of others to pluck you out of the sea.
Some people will want to help you because they were once like you. And some will want to help you for no reason other than the goodness of their hearts. The point is that you need to get comfortable knowing that a lot of this is out of your hands.
Avoid hopelessness: The day will come when the decisions you have to make are so jarringly imperfect that you will do anything in your power to avoid them. This is when you’ve allowed yourself to be hopeless. You will lose days, maybe weeks to fears that begin in reasonable circumstances and spread like cancer to every corner of your thinking. Navy SEALs spend months in cold water learning how to beat this feeling. It’s part of all of us – and let me tell you – you’re headed into some cold water. Defeat it staying by staying in the present.
Resilience, Resilience, Resilience: Get ready to spend a lot of nights with a pint of ice cream and a six-pack of beer. In truth, your undertaking isn’t that different from the campaign you waged two Christmases ago to trade-up from your cubicle to an office but the strain of conducting this one without steady employment or the safety net of anything or anyone you’ve ever known is going to magnify life’s gravity to blackhole proportions. Whole galaxies could snap under this strain.
So look, salvation will come and go. That’s part of life. You just have to bounce back quickly because your heart will be broken over and over again and you’ve got no time to spare. All of this is your problem that you made, so take responsibility and keep walking forward.
Draw strength from your struggles: Remember, you’ve taken an extraordinary step by beginning this journey. Ninety-nine percent of human beings would never take the risk that you have. Fear and loneliness will try to erode your confidence, but don’t let them. Remind yourself in the silence of sleepless nights and lonely days that you’re a special person and that the same gravitas that led you on this journey is what will take you across the finish line. It sounds easier than it is but at the end of the day, this confidence is what will carry you when everything else fails.
And if that doesn’t work, then just don’t be an idiot. Death Valley is no place for basecamp. So it’s die here or just keep walking.
So just keep walking.