If you’ve ever moved anywhere, you know how hard it can be, objectively speaking.
Finding a new job (if you moved without one), finding a new place to live, and getting a new driver’s license can all be tough tasks. And finding a job during COVID-19 is no walk in the park either. I heard of a friend with a college degree who got rejected from an ice cream stand.
Finding an apartment requires proof of income and, it seems, a decent personality. Acquiring a new driver’s license requires patience at the DMV and two fingers to cross while you wait to see how horribly your license photo turned out.
These are all hard. However, what has proven to be the most difficult since I moved to San Diego from Vermont are the intangibles.
It’s the feeling of walking into a new grocery store and realizing it takes two hours to shop because I have no idea where to find the extra firm tofu. Difficult grocery trips are accompanied by small wins when I realize they have a “Buy 1 Get 2” deal on Annie’s mac and cheese.
Making friends in a new place is even harder, especially with COVID. I am grateful to have both of my sisters within a 30-minute drive; they have made this move so much easier. Feeling at home in a place I’ve never called home is easier when Chloe hosts sushi dinner and we can safely gather outside because, of course, it’s 70 degrees in February. For that, I am grateful.
I thought I was ready to leave Vermont. And I was.
Being in Vermont during the long winter in the midst of COVID would’ve been difficult. I Facetime my best friend, Hannah, and she tells me about her afternoon plans to go sledding. I picture her squeezing in a sled meant for children and inching forward until the snow propels her downward. I can’t let myself picture things like this too much because then I’ll miss Vermont, and more so, Hannah. But, of course, I let myself miss Vermont because I am a sucker for a good cry.
And then the guilt. Guilt for crying over not being able to sled with my best friend when I should be so grateful that I can go to the beach in winter while my friends in Vermont are spraining their wrists on icy walkways and scraping frost off their cars.
But we’re all only human. I feel guilt and relief in the same breath. I tell my mom I’m not homesick as tears find their way down my cheeks. “I’m not homesick or anything.” My throat tightens, “I’m just not used to San Diego yet. I love it here, I really do; people are just so nice in Vermont and it’s a little different here.”
My kindness gives me away. People can tell right away I am not from around here. I am not trying to fit in and, honestly, I am not sure what that would look like.
While at the grocery store, a man looking for split pea soup in the to-go soup section can’t see it directly in front of him. I point it out and say I don’t blame him because there are just so many soups. He immediately knows I am not from here.
“Wow, you are just an angel. Really. Thank you so much.” We chat for a moment or two about split pea soup and kombucha. He ends the conversation by saying, “You really are so very kind. Very kind. Please be careful out there.”
I have told myself the same thing. Being a five-foot-one woman who sees the good in people before I ever have time to see the bad, I must be careful. Having my guard up is a skill I am still learning to master.
“How to Make Friends during a Pandemic when you’re New in Town but you’re also a Trusting Woman so you Must Have your Guard Up” will be my next blog post. If anyone has answers, let me know. Until then, I will be kind to people in an effort to make friends, and I will walk to my car at night while being grateful for the warm weather, with my keys clutched between my fingers pointing outward, in case someone chooses not to be kind to me.
My guard is partially up, like when people don’t know how to wear a mask properly and their nose sticks out. But I am trying. Baby steps.