When Trevor and I were in college, my friends and I would tease him because he would relentlessly coordinate group lunches with our entire friend group. So every day, without fail, a group text would come to all our phones: “lunch at the ROT, 12:00”
It’s pretty endearing isn’t it? He’s so social and inclusive. And he is, but as I got to know Trevor more, I learned that his incessant need to eat with people went beyond his desire to socialize. He really hates eating alone. So much in fact, if no one was able to join him at the designated lunch spot, he just wouldn’t eat.
I think having a quiet moment to ourselves with no-one to distract us from our own inner workings can be daunting for anyone, especially us extroverts. And you didn’t come here to hear about why you should eat alone, but hear me out.
My biggest life-changing moments have typically all happened in that dreaded season of loneliness after moving somewhere new. In fact, if you have a relocation coming up and you know a season of loneliness is ahead, count it as a valuable asset to your self-development. One that not everybody gets to experience. If you’re moving by yourself, this applies allthemore.
When my husband and I moved to Aiken, SC from Virginia we were freshly married and beginning our adult life together. Trevor was accepting a pastoral position at a church and I was stuck in Green Card purgatory, ineligible to work or leave the country for and unknown amount of time.
This was probably the easiest move we will ever make in our lifetime. No kids. New job for Trevor, no job prospects for me. Besides all the change whirling around us, there weren’t too many different factors to consider.
But it was still hard. We had visited town once, and never heard of it before the job interview. We came in the heat of August, and I told Trevor, “We. are. not. living. here.” But God had other plans, and we learned to suffer through the heat of an Aiken summer.
We had no family or connections in town. Trevor’s family was 3 hours away, our friends in VA were 6 hours away, and my family was a whopping 16 hour drive (and an international border that I currently wasn’t permitted to cross) away.
And even though I remember the loneliness and fear vividly, I also look back on that season fondly.
Moving to a new place with no connections is an opportunity for adventure. I was forced to try new things, visit new places, meet new people, and essentially create the life I wanted to live without any familiarity influencing my day to day decisions.
I grew in so many different areas at this time in my life, but one amazing life change came out of my post- move lonely season:
I had no friends (yet). I had no family nearby. I had no familiarity with the friendly baristas in town. I was essentially invisible to everyone in this place.
Aaaaaaand my current immigration situation meant I was ineligible to work, so I had literally nothing to do all day while Trevor was working.
At the time, I had just finished my teaching degree, and planned to begin applying for teaching jobs once my Green Card came in. At first, that time seemed really far away- probably a year away (but who knows with immigration- am I right?) But as the months went on, and I became aware that I was getting closer and closer to beginning a career as a teacher, I was… dreading it.
What the? I loved my education classes. I was pretty darn good at writing curriculum and lesson plans. And I love kids. But the more I saw teaching creeping from the future into my present, the more that pit in my stomach grew. And one day I realized, “if I hate this job before I even start it, what will years of working it do to me? Do to my students? Do to my family?”
So one of those lonely days in a new town where I knew no one, I decided to change the trajectory of my whole life. I would not be a teacher. But who would I be? What would I do? I didn’t know. It took many more long lonely days to figure that out as well- but I thank God for that season of loneliness to finally get to know myself.
Before this season of loneliness, I had been mindlessly walking down the path of least resistance. My beloved grandfather was a lifelong educator, I loved working with children, and I was able to imagine myself as a teacher, unlike other career paths I had considered… like a lawyer, or marketer.
It was an easy decision, and I gave very little thought to whether or not it was what I wanted to do. Or if I was skilled in the right areas. Or if there were other skills and passions that would go unused in the classroom. I didn’t think about any of this. I just did what I felt was right at the time, and day by day made decisions that got me to this pivotal point.
And now I had no people around me to influence my thoughts on myself. I had no day-to-day activities to distract myself from addressing the tiny voice shouting from my gut, “you’re going the wrong way!!”
The lonely season after making a move was the beginning of a complete upheaval of myself. My sense of self was demolished and slowly built back up in a way that felt much more authentic to me. And I feel confident that it would have taken me so so so much longer to find my way onto the path that I’m on now if I hadn’t had that season to myself after moving.
Moving alone, or feeling alone in a new place is hard. I’m not trying to ease the sting of that. But you have no idea what kind of new ideas and passions can arise in yourself when the voices of everyone else go silent. If moving has brought you into a season of loneliness, I encourage you to embrace it. I can’t wait to see what comes for you when you do.