In just a few weeks, I’ll be celebrating my one-year anniversary of taking up residence in Boston. At this time last year, I was packing away the fruits of my first 21 years of life, discarding the superfluous, and moving onto bigger and better things. Beantown was more than a new city: for me, it ushered in a concrete sense of independence, a slate as clean and clear as anything. I’ve never been a particularly excitable person, but something about this particular city–steeped in history and a distinct culture–made my heart swell in anticipation. Now that I’ve lived here for 12 months, I’ve learned quite a few things: about Boston and about life.
Plan your nightlife according to public transit. Unlike New York City, where subway system runs 24/7, Boston’s public transit only runs until 1 am (though it will begin running a bit later beginning this year). This means that you should plan your nights out a bit earlier, or plan to retire the after party to your apartment. You don’t want to be stuck paying for a 3 am cab ride…not that I’m speaking from personal experience!
Research vegetarian and vegan restaurants in advance. Although Boston is a bustling city, there is a surprising dearth of veg options. Downtown, where I work, we have a Chipotle and a restaurant that serves falafel, but not much else. In general, I can only think of two or three completely vegan restaurants in the greater Boston area. I’m not complaining–I’m grateful for what is offered, and I’m always happy to see a tofu dish on an otherwise meat-centric menu–but I was surprised that this city hasn’t yet embraced the changing food scene. In eating as in life, it’s better to do a little research in advance so as to not be disappointed later.
Don’t drive unless you have to. I come from Arizona, a state that boasts a large retired population (read: slow, methodical drivers) and I’ve therefore never felt that my life is threatened. In Boston, there are no driving rules. No turn signals, no speed limits, no cordiality to other drivers. I’ve never had the need or desire to drive here, but I’ve been in a car enough times to know that this city is notorious for terrible drivers. Life is more pleasant if you walk, bike, or ride the T anyway. Daydreaming while walking is much preferable to drifting while you drive.
Friends first, boyfriends second. It can be tempting to jump into a relationship upon moving to a new city. There’s a certain security and reliability attached, and having someone special to introduce you to a new area is pretty neat. But if things don’t work out, you’ll be left standing alone and vulnerable in your own awareness. Friends, on the other hand, tend not to come and go as quickly as romantic interests, and they’ll be able to offer a broader sense of community as you settle into your new home. So prioritize meeting friends over meeting new love prospects.
Don’t pressure yourself to immediately find a social circle… Even before I arrived in Boston, I searched for a ton of Meetup and Facebook groups that involved my interests: Spanish conversation, veganism, writing, jogging, etc. I somehow felt that, if I didn’t make lasting connections within a certain time frame, my life in Boston would be lonely and devoid of deep and meaningful relationships. These social meetings might be ideal for some individuals, but I find them to be a bit uncomfortable since everyone seems to also feel pressure to make fast friends. It’s okay to take time to find your niche, in a new city as well as in life.
…But don’t isolate yourself, either. After a number of failed attempts at meeting people in these types of groups, I felt a bit disoriented. The introvert in me wanted to hide in my room, but I knew that would guarantee me a lonely existence in Boston. So instead of attending random Meetup groups, I started spending time with my roommates. They happened to be musicians, so they introduced me to other musician friends. The key difference is that these relationships formed organically, and without the pressure to act a certain way or display a particular set of characteristics. And that made all the difference.
My time in Boston has certainly had its ups and downs, but I feel like a stronger, more capable person for making the cross-country move. If you happen to be moving to Boston–or any place, for that matter–remember to have patience. Be happy in the knowledge that everything in life is transient, and that you’ll soon find your place.
If you’ve relocated to a new city, what has been your greatest lesson?
More transitional stories: Desert Rose – A Story of Daring to Live
Ladder to the Moon – A Story of Starting Over
What I’ve Learned By Swimming with Sharks
Photos: Molly Lansdowne