How to Handle Being the New Kid On the Block

When I up and moved my life to Nashville, I was quite optimistic and starry-eyed.

After spending 24 years in the same city, surrounded by the same close friends, all of my immediate and literally most of extended family, I was ready to spread my wings and go on the adventure of a lifetime!

Looking back now, I’m surprised that my reasonably cautious self was so oblivious to the impending emotional challenges that I would face.

Being rather outgoing by nature, I had never experienced trouble in the social sphere. I was often the type who would help the newbies feel welcome in a group, or the one who wouldn’t mind talking to the person sitting in the corner. Thus, I didn’t quite know how to handle the shock of moving to a city where I knew almost no one, and had almost no social connections.

The tables were turned, and I quickly found myself to be the awkward newbie I never thought I'd have to be. 

Feeling emotionally vulnerable and devoid of a in-person support group has been difficult as I’ve started to take root in Nashville, but thankfully, the Lord has given me the opportunity to learn (or start learning) some huge lessons!

If you are facing a similar situation as I am, I hope you are able to be encouraged by some of the things I’ve learned about being the new kid.

1. Sometimes you just have to let your emotions 'do their thing'

I am so thankful that until moving to Nashville, I had never experienced significant feelings of loneliness. Sure, travel had often taken me away from my family and friends, but I always knew I was coming back eventually, so I was able to cheerfully venture abroad.

Feeling intense, prolonged loneliness for the first time can be disturbing and frightening. Sometimes, it seems like you are carrying a weight with you that you can’t get rid of. This is especially challenging in a society that says you “deserve to be happy” and that if you feel any emotions that aren’t...well...happy, then something’s wrong and you need to find a solution right away!

One of the biggest things I have learned is that emotions have to run their course.

You can’t wish feelings away, and if you focus on them too intensely (even if you think you’re trying to fix them), you might end up fixating on your loneliness in an unhealthy way.

I’m learning (often the hard way) to put my emotions in their proper place, focus on things that I am thankful for, and to invest mentally and emotionally in the new relationships that I am developing.

The Bible encourages us in Philippians 4:8 to literally set our minds on good things. Interestingly, this passage doesn't tell us to focus on removing negative thoughts, but urges us to train our thoughts to go in uplifting directions. Practicing thankfulness and emotionally investing in others will actually help build new, positive feelings!

2. Embrace awkward

I will never forget the favorite catchphrase of a friend of mine: “Embrace awkward!” she would say with a smile, looking down on me from her 6’1” perspective, a physical trait she had learned to appreciate after years of insecurity about her height.

Growing up in Tampa, I’d be the stranger at a social gathering about once in a blue moon, but I could deal with it. But, now, as I’m facing the reality of being a stranger at every social gathering I go to (outside of my church small group and classmates) it’s giving me a new appreciation for people who don’t seem to make friends easily, or find it hard to navigate new social environments.

I mean, who wants to be seen as desperate? Honestly, it's been quite humbling. When I meet a new friend that I immediately "click" with, I get excited...and then scared that they'll see me as a clingy, needy weirdo. "But you don't understand...I really need friends and you are really cool and down to earth and I think we could be really good friends and LET'S GO TO COFFEE RIGHT NOW." Think that'll fly?

I'm learning to take risks in the form of new friendships.

To invite that girl I just connected with to come over and have chili. To go up to that random person at an EP release party and ask them how long they’ve been studying at Belmont. To stay after church and talk with that young mom when all I want to do is beam myself home and have coffee with a friend that I don’t have to try to understand because we already know each other inside and out.

Making new friends is sometimes painfully awkward, but as my tall friend would also laugh, “Some of the most awkward things result in the most cool outcomes! I mean, think about childbirth! Seriously awkward, but you get an adorable baby out of the deal!”

For the record, If you share that example with a new acquaintance, you may creep them out, so maybe just keep that one to yourself. :)

3. Remind yourself that new relationships take time, patience and vulnerability to build.

Some of the best friendships I have are the result of years of getting to know someone, spending time with them, crying with them, arguing with them, and fortifying the building blocks to a solid relationship that will last a lifetime. I am so blessed by these friendships, and although many of these were (physically) left behind as my U-Haul rolled out of Tampa, I am enjoying the new friendships I am forging with some incredible Nashvillains (Ha. I love that word.)! 

Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither are new friendships.

When I first moved, I remember lamenting to my mom, “But I don’t want to make new friends! I’m happy with the ones I already have!” I had left my community in Tampa, and my courage with it.

However, I am learning to open myself up to new friendships, and invest the time needed to enter into a new community. It’s scary, risky, and requires a big dose of vulnerability, but it’s been so worth it.

Yes, moving to Nashville has brought some insane challenges. But it’s allowed me to grow emotionally in ways I would have not expected. Although it’s been hard to adjust, I’ve been blessed to have met some incredible friends who have been very kind and welcoming. I’m excited about deepening my relationship with my new friends, and look forward to digging my roots into the rich soil of the Music City community.

What about you? Have you ever had to face adjusting to a new environment, and if so, what did you learn?

Your friend,

Sarah