Universal Mentors Association

When moving, the loss comes before the gain


As TW and I prepare in earnest for the big move, we’re running into something I noticed the last time we moved: subtraction comes before addition.

Over the last eight years, we’ve built a world in New Jersey. We know which dry cleaner to use, where the grocery stores are, which pizza is good and where to go for haircuts. We have a go-to optometrist, a reliable and nonevil dentist, and doctors with whom we’re comfortable. We know the roads we have to take. We have friends and colleagues here. I’ve even found a computer repair place that actually knows what it’s doing. All of those took time.

I’ve moved enough times to know that those will also be true in the new place. But not immediately. There’s an inevitable lag on both ends. In the time leading up to the move, we feel the coming loss of what we know, but we don’t yet know what we’ll gain. And in those first fraught weeks after a move, there’s an inevitable period of trial and error before routines start to establish. In those moments, the losses feel particularly acute because nothing has replaced them yet.

That subsides. When we moved from Massachusetts to New Jersey, we went through the same process. The first few weeks were particularly hard on the kids, since they were 14 and 11 at the time. Moving in midsummer meant leaving friends behind, but school wouldn’t start for several weeks. They handled it well, but I could see the strain. This time, they’re both out of the house—TB working and TG in college out of state—so that’s not an issue.

The move ultimately served them both well, as I hoped it would. They had terrific schools and friends, got to experience the Jersey Shore in the summer, and thrived. Later, when they were contentedly ensconced in our new home, I mentioned that the experience of having moved and survived would come in handy when they went off to college. They wouldn’t be quite as disoriented as the folks who had never moved before. They would know the drill.

In my 20s I moved a lot, as graduate students do. Those moves were hassles—no way around that—but they weren’t traumatic; I hadn’t built an attachment to any one place, and graduate school itself was supposed to be temporary. Going from one graduate student apartment to another was just part of the experience. I remember the move to college coming as a blessed relief; part of the experience of growing up where I did was wanting to get out. Even the logistics of moving were easier, given that I didn’t own much. The hardest part, often, was coming up with a new security deposit.

One surprise of a career in higher ed administration was how much moving is involved. Nobody told me that. Young admins, consider yourselves warned.

Part of the challenge this time around is sheer distance. Des Moines is over a thousand miles from Freehold, which makes it tougher to just drive around and, as we say in Jersey, case the joint. The internet helps, but it can only do so much.

Luckily for us, TW’s job is fully remote, so she can bring it with her. That makes a tidy solution to the two-body problem, at least in terms of work.

The good news is that we’ve been through this before. We’ve done the mental math. The equation balances over time, even if the subtraction part comes first. It’s just helpful to remember that among the goodbyes.


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