Sunday, February 1, 2015

A Big Move: In the Beginning

Here is something I did wrong in our big move. I went to work immediately, for long, long hours. I don't think I left my office before 11:00 pm for the first two weeks. This means that by the time our boxes arrived, I was well into putting out fires in the office, and "settling in" was something that was an after-thought, done late at night or on weekends during naptime. This is one of many reasons why our house never felt like ours.

But as the years have passed, Zach and I have spent a lot of time talking about how we would do "the beginning" differently if given the chance.

You see, in the beginning, everyone knows you just made a big move. They assume (and expect) that you will need to do things related to the logistics of this major life change. There is grace for leaving the office early or coming in late. But after about 6 months, even though we still felt like we were in the early stages of moving and there was still a lot to do, everyone else seemed to have forgotten, and assumed that all our settling was done.

So. If we could do our big move over again, here is what we would recommend doing in the beginning (ie: within the first 6 months or so):
  • Establish your health professionals network immediately. Find a primary heath physician and do your new patient appointment (to this day, Zach and I still haven't done ours here, which is absurd). Choose a dentist, and a pediatrician, an ob (especially important, as I learned, if you end up having a baby in your new place) and have all your previous records transferred over. Also important- Zach has a chronic health condition that requires specialists, and I felt like our move here really set back his health because it took us awhile (a year- cringe) to do the research to find a really talented expert to help him. Now don't get me wrong- this is a huge pain. But it is much easier to explain to your new boss that you have your new patient appointment and need to leave early the first few months than it would be for me now, three years in, when, as far as my boss is concerned, I am practically a local.
  • Handle your cars. We waited until all our Oregon car "stuff" (licenses, license plates, registrations) expired to handle it, meaning that over the course of the first two years here, every few months we had these moments of panic: "My driver's license expires tomorrow!" or "We need to take the car for its smog check RIGHT NOW!". Do yourself a favor and just do it when you arrive.
  • Go to your new city's Town (or City) Office (or Hall) and find out all the licenses, fees, and expectations. Being clear here that you moved from far away will help. Example: our city here in Massachusetts has a fee for each car you own. We had no idea. Didn't pay it. And only found out when collections called us (over a $20 ticket!). In the craziness of moving, $20 bills from the city for your car can slip through the cracks. Also, this is a way you can learn city expectations. For example, having never lived in snow, we did not know that shoveling the (city-owned) sidewalk in front of our house was required within 24 hours of snowfall or face a ticket. We found out the hard way when a police officer came by our house and told us we would be issued a fine. He took pity on us when we explained we had moved from the West Coast and it was our first winter, but you can imagine what would have happened if we had gone to California for Christmas without knowing this law. Turns out that even when you leave the house, you are responsible for getting those sidewalks clear, a logistical annoyance we weren't prepared for.
  • Pick one thing to be "yours". Here's what I mean. When I first got here, one of the things I most missed about Oregon (don't laugh) was that in Oregon, it was illegal to pump your own gas. I loved that! I never had to get out of my car in the rain. And here it was so much worse, when you're dressed for work and there's 12 inches of snow, or 90% humidity. So once I found a gas station near my house that had full-service attendants, I decided that it would be *my* gas station. And now I know the attendants and it reminds me of home and I love it. Small convenience, big psychological impact.
  • Paint your house. Even if you love all the colors that are already there, paint one room. I speak from experience- your home becomes yours when you put time and care and energy into it. And hang your art. 
  • Find the closest Starbucks. And if you move somewhere with lots of snow- find the closest Starbucks with a drive-thru.
I think the beginning really is the hardest part, but what I feel we've found is that the beginning set the entire tone. Had we done a better job of saying "yes, this is our place and we will make a happy life here!", I think all the rest would have been easier. 

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