When I was 18 years old, I moved from Seattle to Cleveland. WTF would I do that, you ask? Because like every other hardcore kid, I decided (for no particular reason) that my hometown sucked and that the answer was to move across the country without any real plan and about $800 to my name. And yes, of course a girl was part of the equation too. OF COURSE.
Sounds like a bulletproof plan, right?? It went just as badly as you would guess: I spent the next few years broke, directionless, and mostly very very miserable until I was finally able to find my way back to Seattle with my tail between my legs where I had to start my life over again. My friends were about to graduate from college, and all I had to show for the last 3 years were a bunch of stories about shows, graffiti, and fights. Oops.
I grew up in the Seattle suburbs (left) and moved to Ohio (right) when I was 18 because I “needed a change of scenery.” Real smart, huh?
You’d think I would have learned my lesson, but no— of course I didn’t! I had to make the same painful, stupid mistake several more times before I really learned my lesson. (“Hm, I know the last 6 times I put my hand on that red hot stove I burned the shit out of my hand, but maybe this time will be different…”) I moved to New Jersey, Cincinnati, and finally back to Seattle again before I finally learned my fucking lesson: MOVING DOESN’T SOLVE YOUR PROBLEMS.
The reason why moving doesn’t solve your problems is very simple: your problems aren’t because of the air, soil, and buildings around you or because of the zip code on your electric bill, they’re almost always because of YOU. Or more specifically, because of your thinking and the choices that you make.
“I thought I had outrun it. When I crossed the tracks. I thought I had gotten away. When it tapped me on the back. It followed me.”
You can move as many times as you want, but 90% of the time the problems will follow you, like one of those horror movies where they move out of the haunted house only to discover that the goddamn ghost followed them into the new house.
I don’t mean to sound harsh or judgmental here, I’m just keeping it real because I wish someone would have kept it real with me years ago. I’m most definitely not getting up on my high horse and trying to say I have it all figured out because I don’t— I’m telling you this because I don’t want you to make the same mistake I did, and cost yourself several of the most valuable years of your life.
A couple super common and specific situations where moving is almost aways a very bad idea:
TO BE WITH A GIRL/GUY. This is the most common reason why people move and almost universally a horrible idea. Here’s a preview of what usually happens: After a brief honeymoon period, the relationship gets strained because you took it from 0 to 100 literally overnight. Then you break up and you’re left sobbing and trying to pick up the shards of your shattered life. It happened to me and it’s happened to a zillion people I know.
You might think you’re the exception and that it will work out for you, but I can almost guarantee you that it won’t. You are not the exception. None of us are.
“I hate this town, it’s so washed up” – every 18 year old hardcore kid ever
BECAUSE YOU’RE SICK OF YOUR HOMETOWN/”WANT A CHANGE OF SCENERY”/ETC. Basically these are all variations on being bored and immature, and what’s really going on here is that you’re trying to run away from yourself. You aren’t happy with your job, relationships, state of mind, and you think that changing your surroundings will change those things. But it won’t, for all the reasons I outlined above.
If you have the “I hate this town, it’s so washed up” feeling and get the urge to move, pump the breaks! You almost certainly don’t need to move, you need to overhaul your thinking and actions.
If I had a time machine I would use it to go back to 1997 and go away to college at whatever school American Pie takes places at
WHEN MOVING ISN’T A BAD IDEA
Sometimes the grass really is greener elsewhere, and moving might be a very good idea. A couple specific examples:
- If you grow up in some backwater place like Cumberland MD or Lima OH but want to do big city things, especially things that are concentrated in a particular part of the country. For example if you want to work in entertainment (music, TV, etc) then it makes sense to consider moving to Southern California because that’s where most of the industry is. If you want to work in tech then being in SF or Seattle is likely a smart idea. High finance in NYC or Chicago, etc. As my buddy Steve Rennie says, you need to put yourself in the scoring zone and you’re not gonna start a career in TV from your mom’s bedroom in Arkansas.
- Going to school, especially if you don’t have to pay for it yourself (via parents, scholarships, etc). If you have the chance to go to an elite school, TAKE IT. Do not worry about losing touch with your friends at home because that’s going to happen whether you move away or not.
Note that the common thread in both of those scenarios is a very specific thing that can only be done in a particular place. No vague, abstract “maybe if I run away, things will be better somewhere else because reasons” crap— there’s a concrete plan.
- At some point, every hardcore/punk/whatever kid seems to consider a poorly-planned, cross-country move
- Your problems are likely to follow you wherever you go, because the problem is YOU
- A botched move can cost you several years of your life
- Do not ever move to be with a guy/girl, especially one you met online
- Do not move because you “want a change of scenery”
- Only consider moving when there’s very specific thing you can only do in that place, and even then think about it very carefully