What I’ve learned almost 4 years after starting a new life in Charlotte

Yesterday I signed the paperwork to renew my lease for my fourth year in Charlotte. It’s hard to believe. In so many ways I feel like Charlotte has always been home, but I also have such a clear memory of sitting at Wegmans (shout out to fellow Wegmans junkies!) with my mom crying and worrying about whether this move was the right thing for me.

Spoiler alert: it absolutely was, but there have been hard moments and learning moments and dozens of frantic calls home along the way. Here are a few things I’ve learned after picking up and moving 600 miles away from home and starting from scratch in a new city:

Finding your people takes time

I met some of my best college friends within just a few weeks of arriving on campus at Syracuse. Turns out real life is different. Meeting new people is hard, and meeting new people you actually want to spend time with is even harder. I think back to the people I was spending my time with when I first moved here, and while a few are still close friends, for the most part they were nice people who I had little to nothing in common with. I remember getting frustrated about my friend situation when I first arrived in Charlotte. I had such close friends from college, why couldn’t I replicate those relationships?

Now, almost four years later, I’ve found people I really click with. I feel like we truly understand each other and contribute equally to the friendship. It’s normal to need some time to find those people when you’re in a new place. You don’t usually meet your soulmate on the first date you ever go on, and you may not meet your best friend the first time you talk to someone new in yoga class. It’s not a “you” problem or a “your city” problem. Just give yourself a chance.

You’re stronger than you think you are

You don’t think you can kill the bug, make new friends, put together the confusing dresser, take care of yourself when you have the flu, or deal with a broken air conditioner on your own until you have no other choice. Then you do it and you’re like, “Damn. I’m a badass.” And that feels awesome. You have it in you, trust me.

Go in with an open mind

When I moved to Charlotte I swore I hated country music and sushi and could rattle off a list of things I would never try. Now I crave sushi weekly and stood in a torrential downpour to see Luke Bryan and am always down for an adventure. Turns out life’s a lot cooler when you give things a shot. You might hate it, but maybe the Philadelphia Roll is your favorite thing and you never would have known otherwise.

There’s always going to be an excuse about why you can’t do something. Don’t use it.

I kept coming up with reasons about why I couldn’t move. Why I couldn’t show up alone to that networking event. Why I didn’t want to try a dating app after my relationship was over. Finally I realized that there will always be some creative excuse about why you can’t/won’t/shouldn’t do something that scares you. Do it anyway.

I’ve also learned that you have to give yourself the freedom to be really, truly happy. Don’t worry about how it looks on Instagram or Facebook. Don’t worry about whether your mom will have something to brag about when she runs into your high school classmate’s mom at the grocery store. Worry about how it feels to you. Are you happy with your choices? Do you like what you’re doing? That’s what counts. Life your life authentically. No filter needed.

Photo: Rob Lahser/Charlotte Observer