As many of you know, I recently moved to Austin, Texas from my little suburban town in Connecticut. Although I have lived many other places in my life, none of them have actually been cities; and rarely have I ever moved somewhere to instantly have an apartment and a job and responsibilities.Usually I just had a backpack and a wide open schedule.
So this move has been different than any other; and as such, it has been teaching me things that other transitions have not.
For instance, for the last three days, me and my partner have spent most of our time in the 2 mile radius around our apartment. We have explored the shopping areas so that we could obtain groceries, and we have explored the Green Belt so that we can get our nature fix and let the dog run. These things are important.
And yet, part of me wonders why we have not yet set foot in the downtown areas that we were so looking forward to. The Alamo Drafthouse, the little coffee shops, the local music-filled bars. Why are we so slow with this process?
Then I thought more about it, after breaking my computer and having plenty of time to think instead of work, and I realized that it makes perfect sense. We need to get familiar with this small area before we can comfortably expand into the rest of the city and see what it has to offer. We have to nurture our roots, our home, our connection to our neighborhood. Then we can explore and know exactly how to find our way back home, and also know what our home actually is.
The reason I wanted to make a post about this realization is that I think it may be the same type of situation for any new area you are moving to- whether it be a physical move or a mental one. If you want to move beyond anxiety or depression, you have to take little steps. You have to have your eye on a goal, in my case, this apartment, and give it the attention it needs so that it becomes familiar. Once you have that in place, you can slowly expand to new territory. But when the heart of your new territory is in and of itself new as well, then you have to put a significant amount of attention on making it feel like ‘home’.
After all, you need to have a safe place to come back to when you are done exploring, right?
If we apply this feeling to mental situations, you can see it in terms of any goal that you want to accomplish. Maybe you are afraid of driving on highways, or perhaps you are anxious when in public. What you can then do is make one situation, for instance, driving on one little highway with a friend who compassionately helps you remain calm and can take over if need be. You can become familiar with that one thing, and then expand outward. Once you are familiar with it, you know that even if you choose not to drive on the seven lane highways in Austin, you can still drive down the little highway by your house in Connecticut. Little baby steps. Nourishing the roots along the way.
This is all basically to say that if you feel angry or frustrated with yourself for not moving fast enough towards your goals, it may make sense to take a step back and look at where you are. Are you trying to expand too quickly, or make a giant shift all at once? Is there any way to reduce the amount of newness so that you can actually accomplish your goal in little pieces, by making a little home in a new area of your psyche and building it up until it becomes familiar?
For me, it seems that this would be the key for any growth that I want to do. There are dozens of big and very specific fears that I have, and I am now thinking that it would make more sense to slowly work with them by making little comfortable areas in the new territories; much like this little apartment in the big city of Austin which I have yet to explore fully.