WHEN I RELOCATED TO JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA...
It is hard to believe I relocated to Jacksonville, FL from Ventura County, CA over five years ago. Many would likely say "big deal" or "I have moved x number of times." But, you see, moving 3000 miles across the country is the scariest thing I have ever done!! Prior to living here, the furthest I ever lived from my parents was one hour away and that was while I was in college. I saw my parents and sister at least 3x's a week and for the most part my social life revolved around them.
After reading the previous few sentences...you might have thought I was young, single and adventurous. In actuality, I was young (32), married, had two very young children, a successful career and a history of making "safe" decisions. My husband had always wanted to move back to the east coast where he is from, but I didn't want to leave my family. However, we recognized we wanted a better quality of life for our children, one we weren't going to find living in CA. With that, we became one of those families read about in "parenting" magazines -- I left my fundraising career with a nice salary behind, my husband took a significant pay cut and we relocated to Jacksonville, FL. To say it was difficult would be a HUGE understatement. I remember crying to my mom after Day 4 -- "what have I done" and "can I come home."
Once I stopped crying and feeling sorry for myself, practicality set in and I realized I had to make a life for myself and my family. This is how I did it...and what I recommend to my clients who are also relocating to Jacksonville. But, really these ideas apply to anyone moving anywhere:
1. Get Involved with your Religious Community - I was never involved with the Jewish community while living in CA. I didn't need to be because I had lived within a 20 mile radius my whole life and already had my social circles. However, upon relocating to Jacksonville, this was the first thing I did. My son attended the Jewish Community Alliance aka JCC and I dove head first into getting involved. I volunteered on committees and offered to help out whenever I could. I was embraced by the community and will forever be grateful to the many people who helped me get situated when I moved to JAX. Getting involved with the Jacksonville Jewish community was not about becoming more religious, but reaching out to a group of people with commonalities.
2. Volunteer - In today's busy world, I know it can be difficult to find time to volunteer but this is another great way to meet people who have common interests. Think about your skill set and what you can offer to an organization. Or, is there a specific cause or non-profit you feel strongly about and have wanted to get more involved? In my case, I had five years of fundraising experience and so I volunteered with a Mom's group, Jewish Family and Community Services, as well as my son's school. All three were eager to have the extra help and were very appreciative of whatever time I was able to contribute.
3. Facebook or other social media - Five years ago, Facebook was not known to most therefore, this is not a tactic I used. However, many of my clients and friends have used FB as a means to reach out when they are relocating. I suggest posting something on your FB page about where you are relocating and ask your FB friends if they know anyone in the area they could put you in touch with. If anything, it is one more person to communicate with once you have made the move and someone with whom you have a mutual friend.
4. Say "Yes" to all invites - Once you have relocated and start to meet people, do whatever you can to accept invites to social activities, events, lunches, etc. When I relocated to Jacksonville, I was fortunate to quickly meet a group of women through different moms' groups and play groups. Many of these women had also relocated to Jacksonville at one point or another and were very gracious about including me. I accepted as many of these invites as possible even though it was sometimes overwhelming and tiring (telling my story over and over again). Once I developed a small-core group of friends I didn't feel the necessity to accept every invite that offered. However, it was through these different social activities that I met most of my closest friends.
5. Host Parties and/or meetings at your new home - Don't wait to be asked to host the next volunteer meeting or Bible study at your house -- offer to host as soon as the opportunity presents itself. I found by hosting playgroups and school meetings at my house, I felt people were able to learn more about me simply by looking at my photos and bookshelves. This opened up another avenue of conversation that otherwise may not have surfaced for some time. Six weeks after relocating to Jacksonville we hosted the traditional breaking of the fast on Yom Kippur. We had close to thirty people at our house amidst the boxes but our guests were all so appreciative of our invite and everyone had an enjoyable evening.
When I think back to that Sunday night when I called my mom crying, it seems like a different world. I often tell people: "If I can move away from my family, anyone can." While I may have grown up in CA amongst family and friends, I truly grew up once I made the move away. I have learned so much about myself and am much more independent than I ever thought. I have very close friends who are now part of my family. My social life revolves around my husband and sons and the quality of life we are experiencing couldn't be any better.
Although I will never forget the feelings I had when my parents dropped my sons and me off at the airport -- relocating to Jacksonville, Florida may have been the scariest thing I ever did -- but really, it is the best thing I have ever done!!!
- Erica J. - :)
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