How to survive a long distance move
I moved out of my childhood home a year ago now. We moved in the day before my first birthday (my addition to the family was the reason we’d moved there), and we stayed there for the next 16 years. It was a gorgeous, somewhat quirky, four-bedroom house in the countryside, a five-minute walk from where our beloved Kate Middleton lived until she married Prince William. Outside of my window, there were fields for miles, with horses and trees and small woods with a stream running through our garden — add a good cuppa and it was the English fairytale. When I was around 6 years old, my parents started to become very unhappy, constantly arguing, but because I was so young, their unhappiness is all I really knew. It didn’t make it easier; it just made it different from my older brother’s point of view.
My eldest brother, Sam, moved out when I was 12 years old to go to university 500 miles away (the distance of a certain Proclaimers song) in Scotland (the home of The Proclaimers), leaving me and my other brother, Jay, who I’ve have always been naturally close to, on our own to deal with “the kids.” In 2013, I was abruptly informed that all of us were moving out. Looking back, I should have seen it coming, after the years of screaming and shouting and pain, but I’d grown up with the fighting, so moving out just seemed like it was never going to happen. I found it really confusing, like, “Why now? It’s been over a decade of this so why now?” I’d expected the divorce, but I just never saw a move, which doesn’t make much sense; even when the divorce papers were signed and done, there wasn’t really a pang of anything in my stomach. At that point, we weren’t moving, it just kind of clarified that now, legally, Mum and Dad were unhappy.
My boyfriend and I had been together for for two years at this point, and we met when we were 11, so I remember my first thought being, “How are we going to do this?” and my second thought being about my 16-year-old cat, wondering if she’d survive the move with us. Awful as it sounds, when we finally did move, I regretted this being my first thought because what was actually the hardest was being so far away from my Dad. Sam (my boyfriend, not brother; I know — it’s confusing) and I are still together after 3 and a half years, Pousie (cat) is still alive, but my Dad is still 80 miles away.
I missed knocking that familiar rhythm on my bedroom wall right before I slept, and him finishing it off on the other side. I missed the late night chats on the end of his bed, and I missed being able to lean out of my bedroom door and shout “DAD — GOT A MINUTE?” and every single time, almost falling into the same rhythm, being met with an “ALWAYS.” All ties that were connected to that house were cut and once my Mum, brother, and I drove out of the driveway with our lives in a van, that was it. No going back. Dad moved into the local town where his parents lived, so I go to see him as often as possible, which is usually once a week. I’m incredibly lucky that Mum and Dad left the divorce grounds open so that I don’t have to see Dad on certain days; I can see him when I like and when it fits.
People would often tell me “There’s no guidebook for this, Beth,” and I hated it. There’s tomes for how to organize and pack and how much bubble wrap is too much bubble wrap (never enough), but none on the emotional repercussions of such a big upheaval. So here’s my two pence: It’s filled with odds and ends I’ve picked up in the last year and how it’s changed the whole foundations of my life. Although, if there is one thing that the other guides point out that is essential: Hangers. We forgot hangers. It’s the little things. Enjoy!
Create your own space.
This is the most important thing I did when I first moved. I was thrown into a whole world of the unknown. We were renting for the first time, so any major alterations were a no-no, and we were out of the countryside, so everything was different. “You’re not in Kansas anymore Dorothy,” seemed awfully close to home (can you feel the irony in that sentence?). You’re never going to feel happy anywhere when you feel like you’re keeping a seat warm.
Even if, like in my case, there’s not an awful lot of wiggle room in terms of decoration, it can be even more important that you make your surroundings feel like the represent you. I covered my walls in adhesive stickers and I created a room that mirrored more of who I am. I missed looking out my window and seeing the beautiful night sky and hearing the gentle, calming flow of the stream coursing its way through my garden. Now, I open it and I’m greeted with the harsh, unrelenting, urban street lights while I listen to the trains speed their way through the town. I had to make a kick-ass environment out of a somewhat less-than-colorful, beige one in order to feel like I belonged.
I realized that the more you fight the inevitable, the longer you’ll be miserable. So I took to the wonderful land that is Pinterest and made a temporary stamp. Plus, it’s a brilliant excuse to be scrolling through Pinterest for hours on end in pursuit of the perfect decoration for your new room… Let’s be honest, you’d be scrolling through Pinterest anyway so you may as well make it constructive.
Re-evaluate everything about your “plan.”
Soon after we moved, I became painfully aware that school isn’t right for everyone. I didn’t do as well as I should have done in exams. I felt like I’d let down my younger self. My dream when I was little was to be a leading astrophysicist; it still is. But, I decided to take a year out to allow all of the dust to settle and really figure out where I was and where I could go from here. I started an online Interior Design course and I decided it was time I took things down a notch. You don’t always have to do everything well. Sometimes you fail, sometimes you succeed and I’ve learned that that’s okay.
Mainly because of the environment I grew up in with constant financial concern, when I was very young I made a whole life plan about how much I’d save, the way I’d raise the money, the job I’d have, when I’d get married, how many children etc. I’d done everything by the book, so much so that I hadn’t considered what I’d do when so early on in this plan, something went completely wrong. I learned to believe that this wasn’t a failure. This was a lesson. It’s important to take time to re-evaluate, volunteer, babysit, walk, sleep, laugh, cry, and just be. You need to rip up the bricks that are on your path and set them down one at a time.
Pay close attention to friends.
If there’s one thing Mean Girls taught us — other than the fact that Tina Fey will always be my dream teacher — it’s that people change into people they never said they’d be, and you can lose sight of who your true friends are. When you move, it’s important to take as much as you give. If you’re the only one making the effort to get into contact and meet up and socialize (especially if you’re so far away), it’s time to take a step back and decide whether the people you’re fighting to keep in your life are actually your friends anymore.
Since my move, I’ve had to let go of someone who I always imagined being at all the important events in my life, and nothing can really prepare you for that. It’s so, so hard to let someone go when you cared about them so much and you looked out for them and had some of the best times with them, but part of life is accepting that people change and sometimes friendships run their course. I believe everything happens for a reason and in the same way people come into your life for a reason, people leave it for a reason too. Sometimes people really are a Regina George in sheep’s clothing, but you’re strong enough to pick yourself back up and fill these gaps with friends who fit you better, who embrace your weirdness and your quirks; you’ll be a lot better off for it.
Communicate with your family.
Families are crazy. They drive us insane, they make us mad, they make us laugh, they make us cry. They make us. They’re the only people you can count on to be there no matter what. There is not one single normal thing about my family, other than the fact they’re not normal. Having so much distance and maintaining relationships takes a lot of patience and understanding, especially in the first year. In fact, the distance can be needed at times — I love my Dad, but the distance has helped us gain a better understanding of each other and has given our relationship the space it needed to grow and mature, so don’t think of the distance between family members as an end to all the laughs and love, it can actually be a really positive thing if you let it.
On the other hand, if you’ve downsized to the extent we did, then some serious friction is around the corner if you’re not careful. Going from thirteen rooms in total with a huge garden down to five rooms in total in a two bedroom bungalow with three people and a cat living in it, tensions do run high.
As much as moving against your will can make you feel like the world is against YOU, the rest of your family is probably feeling the same way. Time, space, and understanding are key. Take it in turns to do the washing up, taking the rubbish out, vacuuming, etc. Sometimes, you will turn into a Hulk, set phasers to destroy, and enter into an all-caps RAGE, and you need to allow yourself that space to deal with the anger and sadness so that you can really enjoy and encourage the good times. These arguments aren’t a bad thing, and the rage and anger you’re showing isn’t always directed at each other. When you’ve just moved, you don’t really have time or space to express your feelings properly so everyone’s just a little on edge… Everything’s temporary — negativity can’t last forever.
Take time to understand what you’re worth.
Having such a looming sense of loneliness, without knowing it, gave me a chance to grow into myself. I didn’t have the direct influence of my friends and I wasn’t constantly being judged by people who didn’t approve of my wacky personality and because of this space, I no longer cared if these people did judge me. Moving has taught me to grow into myself — not an environment, and certainly not what other people are expecting me to be. You are your own person; you have your own thoughts feelings and opinions and they are just as important as anyone else’s. Putting your foot down and making decisions when you know what you want can be scary, but it’s damn empowering, and people will respect you for it and they’ll get to know you better. Having your own space so far away does give you somewhere you can turn off your phone and cut out the drama.
So much has changed in the last year; people who I thought were my best friends were horrible to and about me, people who I didn’t realize cared about me so much showed me they did by reminding me that this betrayal didn’t matter. My family is spread out and squashed together. I thought I’d be on track for an astrophysics degree and I’m not, but I’m determined to get that degree. I used to follow the crowd, I still have the most amazing friends who have very recently taken me halfway to an asthma attack because they make me laugh so much, and I just do do my own thing too. And, I’m good at it.
Bethany Huff is a fun loving, zany, freelance writer with a huge personality. Her favorite pastimes include writing, dancing and listening to music. She never stops laughing or smiling and will always finds the positive in everything. She laughs too loud, drinks too much tea and eats too much junk, but she wouldn’t have herself any other way.