Have you ever thought it’s time to take a new direction, whether it be career or living arrangements, but been totally freaked out by the concept of change? Traditionally I am a girl who does not like change. I have a plan and I stick to it. However, as years pass me by, I have come to recognise that sometimes change can bring new unforeseen life enriching opportunities.
Having moved from Sydney to Perth four years ago I have learnt that a change really can be “as good as a holiday”. The move wasn’t part of my grand plan and as a result my decision to move came as a complete surprise too many. I could not answer all the questions, however the sense of adventure excited me so I overlooked the uncertainty and courageously moved on.
I landed hard. I was completely alone. The times of extended silence made me feel like my life had stopped. From coordinating a busy schedule with many friends in the bustling city of Sydney to complete silence, quiet streets and no retail trading on a Sunday! I realised I was completely underprepared for the emotional rollercoaster I’d embarked upon.
This change had thrown me. I was unfamiliar with the territory and most of the people I worked with were oblivious to my circumstances. I respected that my colleagues went about their day to day activities but deep down I was expecting more. Perhaps they would show me the best place to buy a coffee or maybe take me to lunch? It soon became clear to me that I’d expected others to fill the gap; I was waiting for companionship rather than actively seeking it out. I urgently needed to take action and which would require me to step further out of my comfort zone and much like Eric Carmen and Celine Dion I didn’t want to be “all by myself anymore”.
My journey, whilst tough initially, has been a success. I am now more confident and resilient and excited about the next adventure. Only next time I will spend time thinking about how I would cope with the changes to ensure a smoother transition. If you are thinking of a change, perhaps give some consideration to the following:
Learn to enjoy your own company
I admire people who are totally comfortable in their own space. People who holiday on their own because they are truly doing what they want to do. For me having a coffee on my own was not something I was accustomed to and it felt very strange.
With the benefit of hindsight, I am acutely aware that I have missed opportunities for friendship and company because I lacked confidence. Whilst walking up to a stranger and introducing yourself can be very intimidating, the benefits can outweigh the negatives. I can’t say I have completely mastered this, but I am trying and now ever so grateful for the friends I have collected.
Don’t judge, lead by example and be inclusive
Talk to people. Ask them how their day is going. For those of you who do not find yourself in this situation let’s work together to fill the gaps. Next time you see a person alone do your best to welcome them. Have a conversation and find out a bit about their story. You never know where it will lead you.
On my many trips to the Pilbara I have often observed residents eating dinner on their own. I’ve wondered, is this because they want to be alone or simply because they are alone? On my most recent visit I found the courage to ask a young lady if the chair next to her was taken. It wasn’t. After some awkward silence I introduced myself. It turns out that she too was alone and new to site. We had a lovely conversation and agreed that we would both actively seek company next time.
Be open to invitations even if it means changing your plans to go to the gym by yourself or trying something different. Apply the same advice we give to children who refuse to try new food “how do you know if you have not tried it, you might really like it?”
Join a group or a mentoring program
I have an amazing mentor. She has changed my way of thinking and opened my mind to endless possibilities.
On a final note don’t be overwhelmed by the prospect of a new adventure and don’t beat yourself up when it feels tough. Back yourself and be prepared to put yourself out there. In time change eventually becomes the new normal!
And Steel Heels says:
At Steel Heels a number of us have made the same or a similar move. And really struggled. And not because the landing place isn’t wonderful…. When you’ve lived in a transient city like London, Sydney or New York, you have Frank Sinatra in your head telling you that if you can make it there, ‘you can make it anywhere’ (Cass is not the only one with a soundtrack to her life!).
The reality is, transient cities have transient people, open and spontaneous people ready to make friends and share adventures. In a smaller, less transient place people are usually more settled; they have established friendship groups and established plans. Unfortunately, the new girl doesn’t usually feature.
Being more gregarious is a must and joining a group is great advice. We also recommend trying to understand the culture. What defines the city? I spent my first 12 months in Perth trying to source the best flat white and wondering where everyone was! It took me a while to realise Perth is not Melbourne or Sydney.
With fewer tourists, Perth is much more low key and enigmatic. Cultural events are always well attended but tend to be a bit under the radar. People travel to beaches uncharted by Lonely Planet, join clubs which are not promoted, and eat in secluded culinary hotspots. After 10 years of calling Perth home, its secrets continue to reveal themselves and I love to make new discoveries. Always happy to show a newcomer the ropes though!