I recently moved to Alberta. I know, you’re shocked. I hadn’t told anyone at all, let alone write about it on this blog dedicated to the move.
For the most part people were happy for me, they were sad I was leaving but generally excited for me making a change and getting out of my rut. Others were not so helpful when I told them about me uprooting my life and moving over a province. It’s not that they said it was a bad idea or that I shouldn’t do it, it’s just that they had a less than desirable response. And worse yet, these responses were unhelpful.
Using these reactions, I thought I’d write some do’s and don’ts of how to react when someone tells you they’re making a big life change. Of course this is based on if you think your friend is doing the right thing, by all means if you think they’re making a horrible life choice you need to speak up. A real friend might be mad at first, but any rational human will realize you’re only saying that because you care.
(For the most part, the people who made the stupid comments or had bad reactions to my news that inspired the Don’ts on this list were acquaintances or people I don’t know well/know me well, so it’s also easy to write their opinions off)
- DO be happy for them. They’re making a huge change in their life and need support. They might be freaking out inside or second guessing their decision, they need you to be supportive of them.
- DO remind them that this is a good thing. Look, no one makes a huge life decision on a whim. There will be sleepless nights, lists of pros and cons, and every imaginable outcome will be considered. They made their decision based on these facts and their emotions, but they might second guess themselves. You need to remind them that fear and anxiety are liars, that they made a rational decision and it’s only fear that is trying to stop them.
- DON’T make it about you. If you take anything away from this, this one is most important. I’ve made big life changes a few times in my life… going to university, moving to Italy, etc. And every time I’ve made these big decisions that required me to step out of my comfort zone, take a risk and usually move away from wherever I currently am (and typically feeling stuck, sad and bored), there’s always been one “friend” that says something completely selfish like “you’re leaving me?” or something to that effect. Even after you explain how it’ll be good for yourself and how staying in the same pattern is making you depressed, they want you to know you should not do something that’s good for you because they feel left behind. To that I say Fuck Them. They’re not friends. They don’t care about you or your feelings. This is your wake up call that they don’t care about you beyond what you can do for them. Every time this has happened, I’ve used this “life change” as some lame excuse to lose touch with them. Cut these people out of your life. They obviously don’t want to help themselves or you, so you don’t need them.
- Don’t harp on the negative. Like I said, these kinds of big changes require thinking and research. Someone who tells you their big news doesn’t want you to go all Debbie Downer on them. Moving isn’t going to solve everything and there will be roadblocks, but don’t keep throwing those roadblocks in their face. You think I didn’t realize that I’d be here without a job? Or that I wouldn’t have the basic knowledge that Edmonton (like most of Canada) is in a recession? People are happy to talk about their plans and are happy to take your advice for dealing with the negative aspects of their big change, but don’t harp on it. Don’t pull out studies and statistics. Offer help and positive reinforcement.
- DO offer help. The hardest part about moving to another city, province, country or planet is you don’t know anyone. Finding jobs or making friends is often about who you know, so if you know someone that can help your friend out in their new city, offer to connect them via Facebook, LinkedIn, email, phone, Twitter, Google+ (god forbid) or whichever of the 1 million social media platforms is your favourite. Not every link will end up in employment or friendship, but it is appreciated.
- DON’T mock them. I was upfront with people about why I was moving and that Vancouver had become too expensive to live in. This is a well known fact to people living in Vancouver and countless think pieces have been written about it. Upon hearing about my move, an acquaintance said condescendingly “what are you going to do now, write a Georgia Straight article about how rent prices drove you out?” No, but I will write a blog asshole.
- DO tell them how you feel. This is different from what I said above about being selfish. A lot of my friends were sad I was leaving, but they also thought this was wonderful for me. They saw I was stuck and becoming too comfortable where I was, so this was a welcome change. They acknowledged my potential, that I didn’t seem happy or challenged anymore and how scary this step was, but told me they were proud of me. Then they said they’d miss me, because that’s what friends do. They want what’s best for you even if that means your friendship may change a bit. This kind of support was most helpful because sometimes you need someone else to acknowledge the leaps you’re taking and even the cold hard truth that you are unhappy. Besides, these people are also smart enough to know how quick of a flight it is between Edmonton and Vancouver. And with most of my good friends spread out across the country (and often throughout the world), I’m used to spending time with the people I love on Facetime or text. Distance ain’t a thing when you’re real friends.
Welp, I hope this has been helpful. And full of cheesy quotes! Pack it away in the back of your mind because I hope something here may come in handy some day.
Anything you would add to this list? Leave it in the comments!