Grow Like a Lobster: The Different Stages of Moving to a New City

© Erik Junberger @ flickr

By now, I have already lived in quite a few different cities – which means I already left quite a few places to start all over again. Although it gets slightly easier with time and maturity, moving to a new city is always a mental and emotional challenge. You have to organize even banal things in your daily life again and things that were taken for granted before might not be that easy anymore. However, the hardest part is that leaving a city you usually leave a lot of people, places, things that you love behind. Of course, the process of settling down in a new city is always a very personal experience and not everyone goes through the same emotions. However, these are the different stages I usually experience – continue reading to find out what this has to do with the growth of lobsters.

Before Leaving: “Why am I doing this to myself?”

For me personally, the time before I actually leave to move to a new place is always the worst. Probably because so many things about the new life I am going to start soon are still a big mystery. And because this is always the time I appreciate all the things in my current place even more. In this stage, I sometimes deny that I must have had a good reason that made me decide to leave. Like in that episode of “How I Met Like Your Mother”, when Marshall wants to quit his job and Ted wants to break up with his girlfriend and in the very moment they are about to do so, they can’t because suddenly they remember all the good moments they had. I especially experience this at night, which is probably related to the oppressive power the dark has on our minds, as I already stated in my post about how to deal with being homesick.

The first time I left a place to start all over again somewhere else was when I was 19 and left my hometown to move to another town for college. Even though the new place was only 3 hours in train away (which now seems a stone’s throw to me), this was probably the biggest step I ever made, because I didn’t know about the stages I would go through yet. From then on, moving was not that much of a big deal anymore, even though the following times I moved much further away from home. But then I already kind of knew what feelings I would have to expect.

Arriving: “It’s not so bad.”

Once you arrive at the new city or country, you will probably find out that things are not as horrible and frightening as you might have pictured them in sleepless nights before. You will find out that you won’t drown in the unknown, but that you are usually able to swim, able to figure out everything you need for your new life. Your new room, apartment or house will become your new shelter that you feel save in. Your street and your job, school, university, whatever you went there for, will become your new routine and comfort zone. Your neighbours, colleagues and fellow students will be your new social environment. Even though it might be different and not as comfortable yet as your old place, you managed the first step.

Euphoria: “This is awesome!”

After that, the moment will come in that you actually remember why you decided to move to the new city – or if it wasn’t your own decision to move there, you will now find out, why things are good the way they happened. The initial anxiety and homesickness will now become euphoria. You might not even want your old life back anymore, because what you have now is much better. This feeling might occur when you had your first night out with new friends you made or when you had your first big success at work or university. Or when you discovered a new hobby and new sides of yourself you had not known about before. Or maybe you fell in love with someone you met in your new surrounding?

Awakening: “Oh no, I’m all alone!”

When starting all over again in a new city, at the beginning everything is too new and exciting to leave time for fears and worries. But when the euphoria fades, often a moment of crisis occurs. This may happen when things calm down a little and you have more time for yourself again. Maybe there will be a weekend that none of your new friends has time for you and you feel bored and lonely. Or you get sick and staying in bed for a few days gives you the impression that nobody is there for you. In this cases, you easily forget that this moments happened in your place as well without you being too concerned about them. If you want, you can try some of my tips that help when you’re homesick, but all in all there is not much that you can do, but accept the feeling and being aware of the fact that it will pass. And that one day, this will might be the place you call home and that you will long for when you’re somewhere else.

Grown Like a Lobster: “I can’t believe I’ve done it!”

Once you overcame the moment of crisis, you often feel happier, more relaxed and balanced than you ever did in your old place. Well, I’ll tell you what happened by answering the initial question about what this post has to do with lobsters. During my yoga teacher training in India, one of my teachers showed us this wonderful Youtube video. In this video, Rabbi Dr Abraham Twerski explains, why the way lobsters grow is crucial for our own personal growth. A lobster is a soft and vulnerable being in a rigid shell. The shell doesn’t grow when the lobster grows. At a certain point, the lobster starts to feel uncomfortable in a shell that has become too small. When this feeling becomes too strong, the lobster leaves the shell, accepting that he will be soft and vulnerable for a while until his new shell has grown.

So now that you finally feel absolutely comfortable and at home in your new place, you might have these moments when you reflect and you can’t believe that you’re here, you manage your life and you’re actually happy with it. For me this feeling always arrived at some point – when I left my hometown for college, when I moved to Spain for my semester abroad and when I moved to Dublin for my first real job after I graduated. The feeling sometimes occurs now that I’m on the road, traveling through South East Asia, and I’m sure it will also be there when I move somewhere permanently again: “I can’t believe I’ve done it. I moved here and I my life is here now. And it was a good decision.” Congratulations, little lobster, you grew. Your shell became too small, you made yourself vulnerable by cracking it and now you grew to be a bigger and stronger lobster. Of course, this growth doesn’t necessarily have to happen because you move to a new place. It can happen in any situation of you leaving your comfort zone making yourself vulnerable and therefore ready to grow. Warning: The new shell you are currently growing won’t be the final one. You will probably have to crack it again at some point, because you probably won’t stop growing in near future.