Last year a dear friend of mine, “Brittany,” moved from Salt Lake to Seattle. She cried every day for months before she left, and a year into it, still can’t shake the feeling that she wants to move home. Eight years earlier, this same friend moved from New York to Salt Lake with spite and bile. She was in exile; she hated everything about Salt Lake and just wanted to move back to New York. It took a good two years of her disliking living here, three years to tolerate it, and three more to fall in love with the city.
I can identify with Brittany; change is hard. There was a time in my life when living in a place for more than two to three years felt like a luxury, and honing my new-kid-on-the-block skills became more second nature than second thought. It’s easy for me to slip into old anticipatory feelings of displacement when I work with clients moving into a new town or neighborhood. There is a unique anxiety in moving that marries the sadness of loss, the rush of possibility and the absolute dread of failing to connect.
Recently, it was recommended that I read Melany Warnick’s book, “This is Where You Belong: Finding Home Wherever You Are.” Warnick, a lifelong serial mover, poses and attempts to answer this universal question: “How does the place we live become the place we want to stay?” Her ideas are based on documented research and her own personal experience. She surmises there is an art to moving and that putting down roots involves a certain skill set anyone can cultivate. Her solutions aren’t just for recent transplants and new homeowners; they are meant to help anyone looking to set down deeper roots in their community. Warnick suggests incorporating these 10 behaviors for building community, forging attachments and helping you love where you live.
1.) Walk more
Walk yourself. Walk your dog. Walk your kids. You’ll start to notice a few familiar faces along your route. Say hello; start a conversation. Never underestimate the power of a short chat at a crosswalk.
2.) Buy local
When you get to know a local business, they get to know you. And just like a morning or evening walk, you’ll start to recognize faces and care about the people who work and shop there. Never underestimate the power of a short chat in the produce aisle.
3.) Get to know your neighbors
Notice who your neighbors are: notice their ages and interests. Say hello; start a conversation. Ask what they like about the neighborhood, ask for tips; who doesn’t like helping a rookie trying to learn the ropes? Another great way to get to know your neighbor is to share something: a complement, a plate of cookies, a helping hand, a smile. Never underestimate the power of a short chat on the front lawn or over a fence.
4.) Do fun stuff
Step out of the gloom one activity at a time. Never underestimate the potential of a yoga-class friendship or a chance ski-lift conversation.
5.) Explore nature
Discover the natural beauty around you. Ask the locals where they like to go, then put on your hiking shoes, grab your bike or hook up your boat trailer. Never underestimate the power nature has to transform our mood and connect us to where we stand.
Whether it’s shoveling the walks for an elderly neighbor, volunteering at the local school or joining a local chapter of a non profit close to your heart, chances are you’ll meet like-minded people along your way and reep the emotional rewards of giving. Never underestimate the transformative power of giving.
7.) Eat local
Eating local connects you with where your food comes from. It also has the potential of connecting you with the people that made it, and connecting you with the people you share it with. Never underestimate the pleasure of a freshly-picked blackberry (or splitting a homemade blackberry pie)!
8.) Become more political
Can’t stand the politics of your new town? Traffic too busy on your residential street? Stop complaining and get to work. Chances are you’ll meet like-minded individuals and reep the emotional rewards of community service. Never underestimate the power you have to make a difference in your community.
9.) Create something new
Sweat equity has a funny way of eliciting attachment and contentment. Invest in your property or community: paint a bedroom, plant a garden, throw a block party (highly recommend this Salt Lake County Block Party Kit). Never underestimate the power of a creative high.
10.) Stay loyal through the hard times
Loving where you live takes patience. It means turning a blind eye to at least one, or many, things about your new home or community that disappoints you. It also requires giving the benefit of the doubt to your new neighbors and culture. It takes grit to not throw in the towel after one (or many) offenses. Stay committed to discovering the best in your new community. Never underestimate the power of staying the course.