New Kid In Town

Rosemary Cope, an WLC/EAP counselor, talks about adjusting to a new job and a new city for the many employees who move to Nashville.

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Rosemary Cope:  Welcome to this edition of the Vanderbilt Health and Wellness Wellcast.  I'm Rosemary Cope with Work/Life Connections.

Nashville remains a very popular city to visit and to relocate to.  Many Vanderbilt employees are new to the university or medical center as well as to the city.  My colleagues and I hear all the time about difficulties making the transition, especially if you are single, and it is in the middle of a pandemic.  In the best of times, moving is stressful and exhausting.  Under pandemic conditions, the transition to a new home can be deeply disorienting and isolating. 

Research has linked social isolation and loneliness to higher risks for a variety of physical and mental conditions; high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depression just to name a few.  On the other end, people who engage in meaningful productive interactions and activities with others, they tend to live longer than their counterparts.  They show elevated mood levels and feel a sense of purpose.  As hard as it may be to meet new people during this pandemic, Miriam Kirmayer, a clinical psychologist, and friendship expert, points out there is an upside to looking for friends right now.  Lots of people are feeling lonely.  People are more open about the experience of loneliness and more aware and open about their desire to make new connections, she said.  This could be a time to put ourselves out there and be transparent about our desire to make new connections.  It is even harder to explore a new city. 

In Nashville with music themes, music venues, shops, restaurants closed or offering limited hours, you may have not found any of those favorite spots that make a place feel like home.  Nashville is a beautiful city.  You can go by the river.  You can walk the greenways, enjoy the lakes or the parks, but aside from the grocery store, one employee related that she has yet to create any rituals.  Where are the cool places?  If I ever have a friend visit, where would I take them?  I don't know she mused.  Here are some suggestions to find connections as you make the transition to Nashville and Vanderbilt life. 

Say yes to everything.  You will probably want a few of the following life essentials in your new city; some friends, a BFF, maybe a romantic partner and a job of course.  You will not find these by sitting at home, ordering take out and watching Netflix.  Get out there.  Go to everything people invite you to.  Joint local Facebook groups in your new community and engage in the forums.  Be a tourist in your new hometown.  Remind yourself, you are on a mission to find these life essentials. 

Ask to be setup on friend dates or date dates.  Welcome to the way grownups make friends.  Ask your friends in your old city if they know anybody in the new city.  Ask your family if they know anybody who might be a nice pal for you.  Scour Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and whatever other social media you are on to find out who from your network lives in town.  You might be surprised at what you find.  Look for friends on apps like Bumble BFF but watch screen time as it can also be isolating. 

Join organized groups from nonprofit volunteering to kickball leagues.  Even if you do not consider yourself a joiner, joining something is a way to meet new people.  Look for hiking, cycling, or jogging meetups or start with a hobby or a faith-based community and find a group to sign up for.  There are also employee resource and affinity groups on campus to join the like-minded people.  Even better find something find something you have never done before, but have been interested in.  Being a beginner is a great way to connect with other people who are also beginning.  You feel awkward.  They feel awkward.  Bingo.  Maybe a new friend. 

For your first six months, think about staying somewhere comfortable.  You are in a new city.  So, it is all strange and unfamiliar.  You do not know where CVS or the grocery store is or who your best pal will be.  You do not know the good neighborhoods from the okay neighborhoods.  You do not know the secret side streets to cut around traffic, which we all need these days.  You do not know the cool bars, the cool restaurants, or where the best farmer's market is.  So, instead of adding to the stress, I encourage you to consider staying somewhere comfortable for your first chunk of time while you get used to your surroundings.  Wherever you land, make sure you make it feel like home.  Unpack those boxes.  Put the things up on the wall.  Surround yourself with things that are comforting to you. 

Give yourself a year to acclimate.  Any time you start thinking, OMG this was a huge mistake.  I was so stupid for thinking this was a good idea or I am never going to like living here and I am going to die alone and trust me, it will happen.  Remind yourself that things are still in transition, moving is hard and you’re giving yourself until you have a year under your belt before making any overarching judgements on the move.  Don't forget about your friends and your network from your former city.  You have it easier.  You left.  I have always believed that the mover has it easier than the person left behind.  You are out exploring a new city.  You are having new adventures.  You are learning new things.  Your old pals are in their same routine and probably missing you.  Don't forget about them.  Try to keep in touch.  Go back if you can and visit from time to time.  Yes, it will be hard.  You are not sharing all their day-to-day adventures and even a small-time difference can be awkward, but soon enough things may be able to fall into place. 

Finally, do not be hard on yourself.  But if you continue to feel overwhelmed, consider calling the Work/Life Connections EAP to talk confidentially with a counselor about your concerns. 

Thank you all for listening.  If you have a story suggestion, please use the "Contact Us" page on our website at