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Moving

Why Moving is a Traumatic Experience

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Last summer we packed up and moved from New York City to Boston. It’s a move that’s been a long time coming–when I first moved to NYC I figured I’d be there for a couple of years, just to experience the city and exert some independence and all of those things that you think about when you’re 23 and single. I even told a friend that I was moving away so that I could come back–I’d spent my whole life in Boston until that point and in order to settle there completely, I needed some kind of different experience in my life. 

Fast forward TWELVE YEARS, a husband, and two kids later, and we finally relocated back home. I’d been anticipating leaving New York since my daughter was born five years ago. I knew we weren’t in it for the long haul of school in New York City (applying for middle school?!? what?!) and I wanted to get out while the getting was good. It took five years before we finally pulled it off. And though I was sad to leave the community we’d built in Brooklyn, I figured that this would be the easiest move ever. After all, I was coming home.

READ: And I Thought Finding a Kindergarten in New York was Hard

Looking back, I had a few warnings that the move wasn’t going to be as easy as I’d anticipated. I had a long talk with my friend who’d relocated from Brooklyn to Atlanta two years earlier. She kept saying over and over, “But you’ll have family around, so you’ll be fine.” A slightly loaded comment, but I didn’t really notice it at the time.

And then there was our pediatrician, who, at our last checkup in Brooklyn, upon hearing that we were moving, warned me, “You should know moving is one of the most traumatic events that humans go through–second only to death.” I just nodded and smiled and then retold the story to friends later and we all laughed. In fact, everyone I told that story to thought it was hilarious.

READ: Moving Once Again Amidst Madness & Excitement

But in fact, he was right. Moving is hard. It’s a trauma. Even when you’re moving back home, when you’re excited about the move, even when it’s a dream job for your husband and you’ll be closer to family and when you know it’s the best thing for your kids–it’s hard. Because it’s starting over.

My husband and I joke that what we miss the most is the take-out (because man, you can order anything and everything to be delivered to your house when you live in Brooklyn! And it’s ALL delicious, which is not always the case in our new suburban lifestyle) but that’s not it at all. We miss our community. We’d experienced life together with our friends in Brooklyn. We’d started with prenatal yoga together when our kids were still in utero. I babysat for their big kids when they were in the hospital giving birth to their new babies. We spent weekends away at the beach, out of the city. Our husbands went out for beers together. We’d gotten to the point that our kids were so comfortable with each other’s dads that they’d let them throw them up in the air. It takes years to build that level of trust with little kids. For a while after moving I couldn’t even call my Brooklyn friends on the phone—it hurt too much to talk to them and think about how much we missed that old life. Because we had to focus on the new.

READ: Moving to Israel Has Me Questioning My Helicopter Parenting

And we are. We’re working hard to visit the friends and family that we have in town, even when they live over 30 minutes away by car. I’m joining everything I can (Class parent? Check! Purim party planning team? Check! Volunteer at the book fair? Check! Family services at the synagogue? Check!) and so far, so good. We’ve met some wonderfully kind people and know that eventually this place will really truly be home. But it’ll take some time to get there.

My friend in Atlanta has been there three years now, and she says she still sometimes feels adrift. She still misses Brooklyn. Like my pediatrician said, we have to mourn the loss of our old life as we continue to create our new one.

READ: The Importance of a Good Pediatrician

This weekend my husband took my daughter ice skating and they bumped into three friends–two from her school, and one from our synagogue. He said that it was his first, “Oh, we live in Boston,” experience–that this is home.

A friend told me that you can leave New York, but New York never leaves you. New York will always have a place in our hearts, but Boston will become our home. It just takes some time.

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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