It’s that time of year again.
The time of year when so many of us pack up our lives and move for our spouse’s career. Any move can be stressful, but it’s an especially rough undertaking when you’re less than enthusiastic about your new location. Doctors’ wives are often in a unique situation in which we have very little choice about where we relocate to—thanks to the infamous Match.
So if you are finding yourself trying to settle into a new home after a disappointing move, you are not alone.
If I am being completely honest, I can tell you that I was more than a little disappointed when we saw our Match results in 2013. My husband, the soon to be doctor, and I would be married exactly a week after the Match ceremony and I had been hoping on starting our marriage out with an adventure. I had hoped we would Match somewhere new and exciting, somewhere outside of our home state and med school state of Ohio.
When we opened our envelope, not only did it say we would be staying in Ohio, but it was the residency was in the one city I did not get to visit on my husband’s interview trail. It was the one place on his rank list that I truly had overlooked and was not expecting.
Looking back, I shouldn’t have been so surprised. The program was placed pretty high on his rank list. Whether it was wishful thinking or ignorant oversight, I’m not sure, but when we found out we would be moving to Akron, Ohio I was shocked…and less than enthusiastic.
In the following months as we prepared for our relocation I became even more apprehensive. The city wasn’t ideal for finding a job in my field. It was a half hour closer to my husband’s family and 2 hours farther from my family. We were having trouble finding a place to live. The reasons to be disappointed in our new home just kept building up in my mind.
Then I realized it: I wasn’t really giving what would be my home for the next 3 years or more a fair shot. I was focusing on the negative and my outlook on our new hometown, as well as the opportunities it would provide, wouldn’t improve until my attitude did.
It is amazing to me to think that two years have already passed. I can’t tell you that it has always been easy or that I loved our new town in every moment, but I can say that I am very happy there now.
I want to share a few of the things that helped me deal with my disappointing move, as well as few things that—looking back—I wish I would have done from the start. I hope some of these tips can help someone else who is learning to love a new location after a move.
- Make your new location your home. In our medical journey, I have always said paraphrased the old adage "Home is where the heart is" because for me it is more accurate to say "home is where my husband is." While some days that may feel like I should make the hospital my home, it helped me to remember that our new town was home now. It helped me to quit referring to our last city as "home". I couldn’t start loving and thinking of our new location as my home if I was continuing to think of and refer to someplace else as my home.
- Make your house your home. We bought our home, a condo in a suburb of our new city. There is a lot of debate about whether buying or renting is better in residency. I can’t speak to which is best and think it is a personal decision for each couple, but for me it has allowed a lot of freedom to invest my energy and emotions into our house, making it our own. Even if you rent, I would suggest doing what you can to make your house feel like a home. If you can’t make big changes or even cosmetic adjustments to flooring, wall colors, etc., try to find the areas where you can make it yours. Hang your favorite pictures, go thrift shopping or yard sale-ing to find new pieces of décor or furniture that will help you feel more at home. For me, the more I could make my house, or things in it, into a "project" the more invested in and connected to it I started to feel.
- Go exploring. Safety first if you do this! However, I do recommend taking a good look around your new city. Find what it has to offer. Where are the fun places to visit like museums, the zoo, restaurants, etc.? Where are the best shopping areas? Are there any neighborhoods you would LOVE to live in if you ended up staying there long-term? What is downtown like? Is your city more white-collar corporate focused or blue collar industry focused? It is also helpful to know, but maybe not visit, where the more dangerous parts of town are. Getting to know your city helps you learn to love it. While a lot can be found out behind the screen of your computer, I suggest taking field trips and physically exploring when and where you can. Remember, stay safe!
- Get a pet. Okay, I know this isn’t for everyone, but if your personal preferences, living situation, and budget allow, I definitely suggest getting a pet. I’m a big supporter of dog rescue organizations, but go with what is right for you. A pet helps you by providing both company and something to automatically love about your new city—its where you got Fido/Fluffy/Benedict Cumberbatch! We rescued a hound puppy a year into our residency and it was the best thing I did after moving. It forced me to get out and go on walks in our neighborhood, which helped me meet a lot of our neighbors—the cute puppy as a conversation starter was good too. He makes me feel more comfortable when my husband is working late at night or all night. If my dog isn’t worried about that noise, it is probably okay. He keeps me company and gave me a purpose before I found a job in my field.
- Get involved.
What I wish I had done:
- "Borrow an Egg" I live in a very safe neighborhood. I wish I would have gone around to my nearest neighbors’ homes and introduced myself in the first few months of living here. I envision it like you see on the TV, with a 50’s style housewife bringing a pie to the neighbors and letting them know that she lives next door now. I don’t know if I would have brought pie, but I do know it would have been nice to get to know my neighbors early on, and just to know there was someone next door that I could come to in case of an emergency... or in case I needed to borrow an egg.
- Stay in town. This relates a lot to #1 in my tips, but I wish I would have spent more time staying in town early on. I went to visit friends in our last city pretty often in the first few months of living in our new city. I know many of you won’t have this chance because your move is much farther from your last city than mine was. I’m not saying to never visit friends either. I just wish I would have spent more time staying in town and getting to know my new home instead of keeping my heart so focused on our old town.
- Play pretend.
I hope some of these tips help you. If nothing else, I want you to know that you’re not alone. Many of us have been through a disappointing move. There is hope. I, for one, have come out on the other side, happy and enjoying our home. I hope you will too! And remember, even if you don’t end up loving your new city, you love your spouse and as long as you are with them, you are home.