Feeling left out feels awful. When you feel like you don’t know anyone and that no one cares about you, it is incredibly isolating, lonely, and overwhelming. Being a part of “something” is a desire of the human condition. Madeleine L’Engle addresses this concept in the novel “A Wind in the Door.” In her book, each part of creation has a name. If the name is taken away, it loses it’s identity. Having your name taken away is akin to death.
Feeling like no one knows your name can make you feel non-existent. That’s why it is very important how we view interconnectedness. If you have never been a very proactive person, more than likely you are struggling with adjusting to your move. Uprooting from your previous support system (local family, church family, school family, work family, community, etc.) means that you will now be entering into a place without a built-in support system.
Divorce, having a child, losing a loved one and changing jobs all rank up with moving as severe causes of stress. In my counseling practice, it is not unusual to encounter clients with depression who have moved. Being new to this area can be daunting.
Common Mistakes Made by Newcomers:
1) Waiting to get involved in your community until “things settle down from the move.”
2) Waiting for others to introduce themselves first.
3) Waiting to find a church.
4) Comparing your new community with your past one.
5) Trying to “force” your new surroundings into what your old one was like.
Fortunately, some people make the effort to include others and are adept at it. But this is not always the case. Becoming a part of your new community probably means you are going to have to work at it. How do you get “plugged in?”
Ways to Overcome Being the Disconnected:
1.) Start meeting your neighbors the week you move in. So you’ve got boxes everywhere and the yard is a mess. Everyone understands that moving is not something that happens magically. (More than likely they moved into this neighborhood and had a similar experience.)
2.) At every event you attend, make it a point to walk up to others and introduce yourself. Talking to people you have never met can be intimidating, but if you do not make the effort it is possible that you may not meet anyone. (Others can be just as nervous about talking to others as you. Be the first to diffuse the situation.)
3.) Go to church your first week. You are not necessarily making a commitment to the first church you visit, but you can make a commitment that you will find a new church family.
4.) Make this new place a new start. Avoid “writing off” the new school, new job, and new community just because it does not operate the same way.
5.) Look for what this community has to offer. Just because you are in a new place does not mean that it cannot be good for you. Yes, the old place may have been great, but there can be great DIFFERENT things that this new place has to give. Learn what is great about this place!
You may have been moved in for a while and may feel down that some of the above (or all of the above) have not happened. That’s okay. You can make a commitment now to go ahead and get these plans in motion.
Questions to Ask Yourself as You Get Started:
How can I get to know my immediate neighbors?
What type of church am I looking for?
How can I get involved in my church and my community?
How can I get involved in my school?
What are some of my (and my kid’s) favorite activities? How can we get involved in these in this new place?
I (Laura) am reminded of a story I read in Guideposts about a woman new to an apartment complex. One day not long after she moved in, she hears a knock at the door. A friendly face introduces herself and invites the new woman to a neighborhood party. Grateful for the invitation, the woman expresses her thanks by saying that it is hard to get to know strangers and that this woman has made it easier. The woman who invited her smiles and tells her that she in fact is new to the neighborhood too and she felt that this would be a good way to meet everyone. (Many suffer with social anxiety.)
This story provides two different approaches to being new to the neighborhood. One is more passive, the other more proactive. Consider what you can do to be proactive.
Being able to empathize with others is a very important social skill. Learning from your own experience of being new will help you to feel for those who are new that come after you. You can take what you have learned from the “new” experience and make others feel welcome.
If You Are Having Difficulty…
If you are having difficulty with your move and feel that it has gotten to the point that you are having difficulty functioning in your daily activities, you may need the encouragement of a counselor. A counselor can help you to work on any social anxieties or adjustment issues that may arise from your move.
Here’s some practical advice:
1. Find a counselor who is a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC).
2. Join a group or reach out to a ministry (all of these are free) – Celebrate Recovery, GriefShare, DivorceCare, or Stephen Ministeries.