Consider This is a column focused on how important elements of a woman's life look in single life and in marriage. This week, we're considering the experience of moving as single and married women. One single woman and one married woman have written essays, to be published on different days. On a third day, they respond to each other's experience. Read the married woman's essay here and their responses here.
In my life, I’ve moved twelve times (yep! twelve!). For various reasons throughout my childhood, we found ourselves frequently relocating, usually for my parents’ jobs. So I became very familiar with the slog of moving: the way that whenever you pack there always seems to be one more junk drawer, how much really fits into a moving van, the conundrum of not knowing what to do with approximately 587 empty cardboard boxes that float around for months after they’re unpacked. But I also found myself enjoying the adventure. I love new experiences, and after my family had been settled into the same place for about five years—after having moved every couple of years or so for my whole life—I found myself a bit restless. When would the time come to reset?
Thankfully, in my adult single life, I’ve had plenty of chances to reset and try something new. I’ve moved across the country for grad school, lived in a house with my brother, and lived in an apartment alone. I’m currently working through the logistics for my biggest move yet: a transatlantic journey. It’s not lost on me how much easier it is to move one person (even a person with an excessive number of books) than an entire family of six!
I’m not always the most chipper person about my single state. Like most single women I know, my feelings about singleness fluctuate, but generally I tend to think to myself that life would be a bit more fun with that special someone by my side. When I reflect on moving, though, I remember that there is so much I’m thankful for about this stage of life. Being single has afforded me so many opportunities to experience adventure and build new friendships through moving, and I’m truly appreciative of how easy it is to pick up and go when I’m flying solo.
Moving to foster community
Flying solo doesn’t mean that I’m alone. In fact, many times in my adult life moving became an opportunity to move closer to friends—and my friends were generous enough to help me with my move, too.
My most recent move, made possible because of my remote job, brought me to a small town near several close friends. When I got here, a group of them came over and helped me unpack (one of my guy friends organized my entire kitchen and left little sticky notes on every cupboard to indicate where everything was!) A friend who lives in the same complex brought over a bottle of champagne and we chatted over recently-unpacked wine glasses the evening I moved in. As I look back on all my experiences moving and finding housing, this is a recurring pattern: moving without a significant other forced me to fall back on my friends, which is really a hidden blessing. Whether I was living with a family during my graduate degree and babysitting for my keep or asking old friends from college to come and move a stupendously heavy piano, I found myself amazed by how willing people are to help, and how much it brings us together. Having to ask for help really helped me grow in vulnerability and strengthened my relationships.
I’ve been encouraged, also, by how welcoming and kind my neighbors are to me, and appreciate that the very fact of going in and out by myself every day provides lots of opportunities to strike up spontaneous conversations, something that might happen more rarely otherwise.
I’m also thankful that I’m not struggling to balance the needs, desires, and jobs of two separate people when I’m making moving decisions: it’s just me, making things pretty simple! This has opened up a lot of opportunities to travel near and far and pursue experiences that I might not have had otherwise.
The struggle of moving (and living) alone
It can be a challenge to face all these new life experiences on my own. For one thing, being the new neighbor on the block always puts you in a vulnerable position—and as a single woman, I often feel more vulnerable. I don’t live in the best part of town, and especially for the first few nights in my current apartment I hoped that anyone with ill intent would assume my tall, muscular brother was moving in with me. As I’ve adjusted to my apartment complex, I’ve gotten to know the neighbors so that I feel that I do have a support network.
But I also find that it is sometimes difficult to feel confident approaching my neighbors as a single woman. Without kids in the picture or a husband to be there if I invite people over for dinner, it can be challenging to connect to people in my neighborhood at a different stage in life. My security system may keep me physically safe, but it won’t answer the door for me late at night or tell the person blasting music in the hallway to quiet down. Adjusting to my community is a little slower as a single woman, and it involves just a little more of a sense of risk—even if those fears prove unfounded in the end.
It’s also very hard to go through the logistics of moving—from finding a new place to booking the moving truck—when flying solo. I’m not always a decisive person, and so sometimes I wish I had someone else’s advice to fall back on when making all these tiny decisions! Plus, moving takes a lot of brute force—from long days driving the moving truck to the many boxes I’ve hoisted up and down stairs, it would really help to have another pair of hands.
In my first apartment on my own, I built an Ikea bookshelf for almost an hour, putting bookshelves on upside down not once, but twice! At each wrong turn, I had to disassemble and start again. I was able to laugh at myself, but I remember wishing I had someone to laugh with (or at!) me, or better yet, someone to text who might be better with a screwdriver. Instead, I just had to continue laboring on it.
As I plan my next move, I’m a little daunted by the challenge that lies ahead. I’m moving to an entirely new country for me, where friends and family will not be simply a drive away. And while my single state in life is what is making this opportunity possible, I’d once again love to share this adventure (and some of the logistics) with someone. Thankfully, I’ve got past experience to remind me that new friends and community often lie just on the other side of the discomfort of moving day.
Do you have reflections on the moving that you'd like to share? Tell us here, and your response may be published by Verily at a later date.