4 Ways to Ensure You’ll Never Love Raleigh
I’ve been on a few newcomer Facebook groups recently and the amount of people struggling to even like, much less love, their new hometown of Raleigh is heartbreaking. I can’t imagine what it feels like to pack up everything you own and move to the Triangle only to immediately doubt your decision, worrying that your new city might not actually be “the one.”
But I’m also seeing patterns – actions newcomers are taking repeatedly that will make it very hard for them to ever start putting down roots in the City of Oaks. Feeling at home in a new city is a process, filled with as many emotional ups and downs as any relationship – and it requires the same amount of work.
So, in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, let’s look at four things you can do to ensure you’ll never love it here – with the hope, of course, that you’ll do the exact opposite and finally feel at home where you live.
1. Have Unrealistic Expectations
When we first start dating – or after our first painful breakup – many of us create a list titled “Things I Want in a Partner.” Those lists can be loooooong. And then we fall madly in lifelong love with a person who has maybe 1 or 2 qualities on the “must-have” list. Surprise!
We do the same thing with cities, creating spreadsheets of all the specific things we need in the “perfect” city we will call home – low crime, good schools, great weather, affordable cost of living, friendly people, etc. We narrow the list of cities, make the big move to Raleigh (or wherever), and sit back ready to live happily ever after!
And then expectations meet reality: Raleigh has good schools, but they’re a confusing maze to navigate. Raleigh has low crime, in some areas more than others, like any city. Raleigh has great weather, until a dusting of snow clears the grocery shelves and shuts down the city. Raleigh is affordable – to some – but that is slipping away by the minute and it’s increasingly hard to buy a home here. Raleigh has friendly people, until you meet your first true jerk who cuts you off in traffic.
In other words, Raleigh is pretty much like several other places you could have chosen to live. Some of your expectations will turn out to be gloriously true, others will slam up against reality. When that occurs, you have a choice: Focus on the original expectation and how Raleigh fails to live up to it (“We should never have moved here!”) or accept that no place or person is perfect and look for the good.
2. Forget Who You Are
Many people convince themselves that a geographic move will transform their lives. New city, new you! Some call it “geographic healing” or a “geographic blank slate” or a “life do-over.” The thought is that moving offers you the chance to start over, releasing you of all the failures, disappointments or hassles you accrued in your current city. “When I get to Raleigh my life is going to be wonderful!”
But as the saying goes: No matter where you go, there YOU are. The way I interpret this phrase is that you bring your whole self with you to the new location and will not magically transform into someone else the minute you set foot in a new city. All of your problems will not be solved. You will not become more outgoing, more involved, more connected, more wanted, more purposeful or less burdened just because you’ve changed geographic locations. And that’s not the city’s fault.
I do believe you can change who you are by changing where you live. In one study cited by the author Gretchen Rubin, 36% of successful changes in a career, relationship, education, addictive behavior or health behavior were associated with a move to a new place. But it doesn’t happen without effort. You have to discover the ways that your new city can bring out the best in you.
Think about who you are, what you want and what you left behind in your old city and take action accordingly. If you’re single and looking for love, don’t rent an apartment in the North Raleigh suburbs where you’ll mostly meet families.
If you’re a runner or outdoorsperson, locate yourself near Raleigh’s parks and trailheads – we’ve got a ton of ‘em – or join a local running club. If you hate to drive, center yourself in Downtown or North Hills or the Village District or another place where you can walk to shops and restaurants. Raleigh is a sprawl, but there are little oases of walkability in certain parts of the city.
If you’re lonely, find a group to join or a place to volunteer – there are many listed on this website. If you felt disconnected in your old city, what specific actions will you take to connect here? You are who you are, and you can happily be that here.
3. Wait to Be Wooed
It takes two to fall in love. Raleigh woos its residents with free attractions and museums, amazing parks, world-class restaurants, diverse concerts and events, helpful services and more. That love remains sadly unrequited if you sit at home watching Netflix or playing video games or chatting online with friends from your old city.
Don’t wait to be wooed or welcomed. Make the first move. (Yes, it can be scary!) Download the Raleigh Onboarding Planner and create a plan for how you’ll connect with Raleigh and the Triangle. You are here for however long you are here – why not at least try to start putting down roots before you decide to break up with the city?
Say hello to a neighbor and ask them for a restaurant recommendation. Shop local and if the store owner is around, let them know you’re new here and ask them to tell you about their shop. Connecting to a new place is all about stepping outside of yourself and outside of your comfort zone.
4. Obsess About Your Ex
Have you ever ruined a first date by talking too much about your ex? Ever let someone special get away because they couldn’t compare to your “first love?” Obsessing about your last city will only guarantee that you never fall in love with your new city.
It is only natural to feel homesick for the places and the people you left behind. Feel that pain for a short while and then release it, don’t coddle or encourage it. That was then, this is now. You are pioneering a new life adventure – embrace the journey!
Just as you would with someone you’re dating, let Raleigh be Raleigh. Nothing good will come from comparing Raleigh to the place you moved from. It will never have the New York-style pizza or bagels you remember, the wide-open skies that captured your heart in the West, the buzz and singles scene of a big city, the friendly people you remember from your hometown.
But if you stop comparing, stop judging, stop longing for the past – and open your heart and mind – the city’s charms may begin to reveal themselves to you. And you just might be surprised when you unexpectedly start to fall for them.