I’ve always loved moving to a new city where nobody knows me, and I don’t know anyone.
Though there is a lot we can learn about ourselves when we have no one else to rely on, it can also take its toll on our mental well-being.
About six months before the pandemic, I moved to Dublin, Ireland on my own, sort of on a whim. It was supposed to be an adventure. I always wanted to live in Ireland, I’d just ended a relationship, and my work at the time needed someone overseas.
The first six months were great: I joined a coworking space and met people there, I was on dating apps, and I was always happy going to things on my own like comedy shows, gigs, the movies.
But after a while, it can get…old. You tire of only having social plans that require you to be “on.” It takes so much time to really get to know people and develop those friendships. And yeah, comedy shows are great, but when you get told you have to sit right at the front because there’s no space for “single” people at the back, and then you get roasted for a night, it can lose its magic. (It was kind of funny, to be fair.)
And then, the pandemic hit, and I found myself completely alone, living in an attic bedroom, without friends or family nearby to lean on.
When I met my ex at the peak of this difficult time, it made sense then that he and his life became my whole world, because I just didn’t really have much of a world on my own—and the world was literally shut in lockdowns.
I’ve always moved away from home. I moved away for my undergrad. And I moved away again for my third year abroad. And then I travelled, and then I settled back home for a little while, but something never felt right, and I had that itch again, which was when I decided to move to Dublin.
Now, I’ve recently made another move to London, United Kingdom to start a master’s. I’ve only been here a week, but already, the air feels different. My sister lives here and one of my closest friends I’ve known since middle school also moved to London, and I have housemates who are also students, and so far, we really get along.
For the first time in years, I actually have set plans on a weekend! I know if I’m upset or if something bad were to happen, my sister is only a 45-minute tube ride away.
I don’t have to question whether the people I’m spending time with like me—something I often felt after interactions with new people in new cities.
Now that I’m settling in here, I don’t even really want to go on dates. I’m not in a rush to meet someone because I’m not trying to fill a space in my life.
I didn’t really understand this before, when people would say you have to have a full life on your own before meeting someone, because I always thought I did have that. I always had my “own thing” going on, and yet it still felt like something was missing.
And I’ve finally realized what that missing piece was: close friends and family.
We need people in our lives who will build us up. People in our lives who we can call on, no matter what.
We need friendships where we gain something from the interactions. Where we feel energized and excited, not drained and exhausted.
We need people who support us and who can ground us. People who love us for who we are regardless of superficial things like how we look or what we do for a living.
I didn’t realize I was missing this until now. Until I went home this summer and spent time with my longtime girlfriends and family and remembered that this is how it feels to have people who just get you. Until moving to London.
I love living away from home, discovering new cities, but I need this other part of my life just as much. And I’m so grateful that now I get the best of both these worlds.
Romantic love doesn’t seem so necessary, at least not right at this moment.
It would be nice, one day. But I’ll be approaching it from a different angle now that I do feel like I’m building a full life, on my own, surrounded by people I love.
Check out a few of Naomi’s other pieces on travel, leaving, and finding home: