I’ll openly admit that moving twice in less than a two-year period was certainly not in the plans for my partner and I. My partner really dislikes moving, so we had planned to stay in Kansas for a minimum of five years. We bought a house, settled in, and even paid off our mortgage.

Well, best laid plans…

As we all know, sometimes unexpected events (hello, pandemic!) or unique career opportunities can cause us to re-evaluate and change direction. When an unexpected situation like this is placed in front of me, it always helps me to focus on what I’m learning from it. By naming what I’m learning, I’m also able to more clearly see how I’m growing through these kinds of unexpected situations.

Here are some of the lessons that I’m taking away from moving twice in less than two years:

It’s okay if your original plan didn’t go as planned. There are some situations where a new plan is actually going to be better than the old plan and it’s important to stay open to that. As much as I loved the people that I got to meet and work with at K-State, I know that my new role is going to help me learn and grow in some really significant ways.

But don’t let that stop you from making a plan. There was a lot about our short time in Kansas that worked in our favor when we decided to move again. For example, paying off our mortgage made it a LOT easier to work through purchasing a new house in our next city. We can never know the future — we don’t have crystal balls — so keep setting goals and working toward them even if you don’t know what’s coming next. 

Sometimes things will be a little chaotic, and that’s okay. Moving can be a little — okay, a lot — complicated. Getting the timelines right, having a bunch of your stuff in boxes for extended periods of time, not knowing where to find things, and that feeling that you are hemorrhaging cash to pay for all the moving expenses… well, it’s all completely normal and part of the process. Recognizing the chaos for what it is and just going with the flow can help it to feel less out of control.

Focus on what you can control. Making extensive lists always helps me when we move. I can see what has been completed, what still needs to be done, and keep track of future items that I don’t want to lose sight of. Lists also help me to have better communication with my partner so that we know who is completing which tasks. There’s a lot that you can’t control in a move, so focusing on smaller details that you can control is helpful.

Don’t settle. My partner and I knew that it was an ambitious goal to find a house that we liked, that was in our budget, and that fit our moving timeline in the middle of the pandemic. However, we decided from the beginning that we didn’t want to settle. We clearly outlined our priorities for the new house, our budget, and our ideal moving timeline. We had back-up plans just in case, but in the end, we got just what we wanted.

Feel the feelings. It was a hard decision for us to decide to move. Leaving our Kansas house, which had been our safe port in the storm of COVID, came with all kinds of emotions. Plus, saying goodbye to my Kansas colleagues was also an emotional process. It’s okay to feel a sense of grief as you transition away from one thing and toward something else that’s very different. It’s also okay to feel excited about what’s to come.

Have a plan for the first few days/nights in the new house. I knew that we’d be emotionally and physically tired by the time that we actually arrived in our new city. The weeks leading up to the move were very full. In the case of this move, we stayed in a hotel our first couple of nights in town, but we got access to our new house almost immediately. I made sure to pack bed linens, towels, and other immediate-use supplies in the car so that we had everything we needed and we knew right where to find it.

Get your creature comforts ready as soon as possible. We closed on our new house on a Friday and we had the internet hook-up, the television install, and someone coming to measure for new carpet the very next day. Scheduling things like this to get our regular parts of life back up and running as quickly as possible always helps me to feel more comfortable with making a big geographic transition.

Keep old routines in place and start new routines right away. I have a pretty strong routine for my morning pages journaling that I rely on to help me process big life changes. One of the routines that I’m looking forward to reestablishing is getting back to morning walks. Since our new house is right across the street from some trails, I made a plan to start this new routine right away to make it part of the new experience of living in our new city.

These are just some of the lessons that I’m taking away from my recent moving experiences, but I know there are a lot of others that I’ll be able to reflect on over time. How do you process a big life event and the lessons that come from it?