How to Move to a New City: 6 Lessons after 1 Year In Nashville

This week marks one year of living in Nashville. Wow, even just typing that feels surreal.

discover TN sign

For both of us, this is the first time we moved somewhere where we knew no one and had to start entirely from scratch. We had to find a new church, a new group of friends, new work opportunities, new grocery stores, new restaurants, new coffee shops, etc. On the one hand, the changes have been invigorating. My inner explorer treasures each little gem whether it is a great farmers market or a fun hike or a tasty cappuccino. On the other hand, the truth–so easy to forget– about moving to a new place is that it is exhausting and emotional. Both of us feel like the move was the right decision, but we can’t say we’ve loved every minute. We have, in fact, felt frustrated a lot of the time.

Despite the ups and downs of this new city roller coaster, I can’t deny I learned a lot. With this blog I try to chronicle tidbits about creativity and learning, so in that vein, here are some lessons learned which I hope fortify you through your own migrations:

  1. Say Yes. 
    Remember that Jim Carey movie, Yes Man? The gist is this guy wants to improve his outlook on life so some happiness guru tells him to say yes to everything he is offered. He ends up living a whirlwind life of adventure and risk. Though he eventually realizes that “no” sometimes is the best word, “Yes” still opens doors. When in a new place, around new people, saying “Yes” more often, or at least slightly more than your instincts tell you, can be healthy. Not everything you try will change your life, but you never know. One of the best examples of this from my last year in Nashville was trying out the Design Thinking meet-up group. Last fall, the group met at 7:30am, and I am NO morning person. I was very ready to blow it off. After all, I wasn’t convinced it would be “my kind of thing.” But that attitude, I knew, would never help me meet new people or find more work gigs, so I wrenched myself out of bed and made my way across town. Since that first “Yes,” I’ve been an eager attendee every month, relishing the creativity exercises and group interactions. The monthly event has also enhanced my professional network more than any other conduit, and even led to my gig with Edible Nashville (Thanks, Colin!). ‘Yes’ works.
  2. Discomfort is temporary. Treat challenges like a scavenger hunt.
    Puzzles are fun. Traffic, loneliness, and paying $4 for a cup of tea are not. When presented with frustrations, we have two choices: we can wallow or we can get creative. Unfortunately, I must confess I have done a lot of the former. Trust me, it doesn’t pay. Therefore, treat each aspect of discomfort as something you can overcome. It is all temporary; it’s only a matter of time until you discover a faster route, find a friendlier group of people, or locate a reasonably-priced cafe.
  3. Space Matters: hang up some pictures.
    Because of the Nashville population boom, we really struggled to find a decent place to live when we first moved here last year. God provided with our first apartment; it was clean, well located, and relatively cheap. Even so, we knew we would only be there for a little while because of its small size and lack of sunlight. Knowing it was temporary, we could easily have gone for the whole lease without hanging pictures or buying a table. But we didn’t, and in retrospect, I’m really glad. The transition to Nashville was hard enough on its own. By hanging up some pictures and purchasing comfortable, functional furniture, we achieved a sanctuary. Cramped as it may have been, we made a home, and it did wonders for our troubled spirits.
  4. Food matters: find some comfort food to make you feel at home
    If you are a glutton like me, this goes without saying. But I know there are people in the world who can forget to eat a meal, and while I can’t fathom such a thing, these people might also require reminding that some good food really stimulates warm fuzzy feelings about a new place. See last week’s post on Top 5 Nashville Food Moments.
  5. Start it yourself. 
    If there is something you want to happen but isn’t happening, you might just have to do it yourself. One of our biggest frustrations from our first few months in Nashville was the difficulty in finding a small group Bible study. I was shocked to visit church after church and not be invited to a single group. Some people looked at us like we were weird for asking. (NASHVILLE CHURCHES: step up your game! Honestly.) When we finally landed at the church we now attend, it turned out that there were almost 50 people in their 20s-30s who likewise felt disenfranchised and lacked community. I told them flat out that the best way to make friends was through a weekly study. I felt like Angelica from Rugrats demanding that the games go a certain way. “My house, this wednesday, be there and I will make cake.” Twelve people showed up the first week and all of them have been coming ever since. Clearly, we weren’t the only ones with this need, so it really paid off to get the ball rolling myself.
  6. Ask Questions
    Curiosity makes the world go round. You can’t expect to improve your attitude until you become more curious about where you are, how things work, and how you can participate. Where are your favorite places to eat in Nashville? Have you been to the full moon blue grass jam? Where are the good hiking spots? Where do I find a decently-priced couch in this town? Is there a Harold’s Chicken Shack in Nashville? YES THERE IS! Good things come from asking questions.

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3 Comments

Filed under Life, True Stories

3 responses to “How to Move to a New City: 6 Lessons after 1 Year In Nashville

  1. Natalie

    Your insights are perfect! Your writing is heartfelt, informative, quirky, whimsical, all at the same time. That’s the Emily I know! Love the Wednesday study. Love you. 😘

  2. Think of yourself as a very special import… you bring the continents, states and all the people you touch with your zest, closer to love because you arrived… 360 baby!

    Here’s to your 720…

    Look out Nashville…

    Emily’s got a whistle and she is ready “blow” this town away!

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