Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Birmingham, sight unseen

Seven years ago we picked up and moved from Los Angeles (approximate) to Austin (approximate). We knew a bit about the area, having visited twice, and we had friends in town with a large extended family who embraced us and took us and became surrogate grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins for our children. This network laid enough foundation for us that was easy to get established in our new town. Not so easy, however, is moving somewhere completely unfamiliar with no one on the ground to orient you.

The family of a good college friend just moved to Birmingham, AL, for job reasons. She knows no one in the area and hasn't been in town long enough to find her way around. There are compensations that come with moving to a new place sight unseen: the ability to reinvent yourself (if that's what you want to do), the satisfaction of realizing that you can survive and thrive in an unfamiliar environment, the joy of having a nice big house in an area where homes are much cheaper than where you used to live (my friend moved from California; 'nuff said).

Still, self-reliance is a mixed bag. Being the strong one all the time grows wearisome. And that is why we have friends on the internet to give us the scoop. If you know anything about Birmingham, if you live in Birmingham, if you love Birmingham, help a sister out. Tell all.

Also, if you've moved to a new place sight unseen, share your tips for coping and thriving.


Anonymous said...

I used to have friends in Birmingham and visited there a bunch when I lived in Florida. Do you know what part of the city they are in?

Anonymous said...

I am a native of Birmingham.

TS said...

share your tips for coping and thriving.

Stouts, porters, IPAs and seasonals!

Anonymous said...

"if you've moved to a new place sight unseen, share your tips for coping and thriving".

I actually LIKED moving to the unknown. We moved to Corpus from Austin over the summer for my husbands new work life, I hadn't been here since high school, neither of us knew anything about it so we didn't have any preconceived notions. I wouldn't choose to move here, which kind of makes me glad we did. I'm desperate for adventure, what can I say.

I would say, to acclimate:

1)get busy making your house a home - it's the one place you'll find comforting familiarity in the face of all the newness, (I've achieved FAIL in this department, and it's stressful)

2) ask for a restaurant recommendation and then go, if you can, even if it's just for a drink. I don't know why, but this makes me feel like I know a place to go (other than church and the office).

3)Take a deliberately aimless drive in the daylight and identify a couple of landmarks. It makes a new place seem smaller.

4) Get a visitors guide, and ask a neighbor which are good spots and which are tourist traps (we're a coastal community, so it was helpful to know).

5) Make a pest of yourself at the neighbors until they invite you over for dinner. Not really, but it pays to know who is friendly and who might be polite but would prefer to be left alone. My favorite neighbors are the well intentioned nosy ones, so I'm trying to be like them.

I hope your friend has a terrific experience. I've never been to Birmingham, but I understand it's very nice.

Anonymous said...

Establishing a connection with the EWTN priests and nuns should be on the list of priorities. Down south, there is a monastery or two worth a visit in the Mobile area, as well as the beach.

Emily J. said...

I've only driven through Birmingham, but best wishes to your friend and good luck with your own move, Darwins! As a military family, we're on move number 8 or 9. We're in a little different situation because we don't have to pack everything, and we have a built in network of other military families, although we're just now getting to the point where we've been in long enough that we're starting to run into some of the same people over again. Sometimes we get a chance to visit before we move and sometimes we don't. The past couple of moves we've househunted for a weekend before moving because staying in a hotel room with six kids is not only not fun, it's illegal most places.

Usually after each move I have a brief period of despair that we'll ever make friends which dissipates after a few months and finally becomes a feeling that we have too many social obligations. Our first outreach is finding a parish and then getting involved in it. Once you volunteer for something, then suddenly you have all kinds of people coming up and talking to you and asking you to do other things. I also do things like take a long time about taking out the trash or sweeping the front step until a neighbor shows up and starts a conversation. Most places we've lived we've had one or two neighbors who really like to share their opinions. We have yet to move away from a place and not feel sad about leaving it and the people we've met.

Amy Welborn said...

Please tell your friend if she has any questions to email me or friend me on Facebook (write a note so I know who she is)

Amy Welborn

I like it a lot here, but it's a very spread out city (like all cities) and each area has a different character. So it's hard to generalize.

Just tell her to avoid 280 as much as possible! But if she's lived here for more than a week, she's probably already figured that out.

Anonymous said...

Just found your blog!

Moved to Texas from Ca about 17 years ago. The one thing that stands out that I did "wrong" was to fight the move. I was leaving the only place I ever knew. All my family and friends were staying there. The weather, the scenery, the food. DO NOT fight the move! Accept it as a new adventure! Achallenge that will stretch you in ways you never thought of.
It sounds like even though you have no one there, you really already do! The people who employed you. The realtor will help you find your new home. The parish you will attend.
Peace to you!

Anonymous said...

I've just recently found your blog (through Conversion Diary) and am furiously reading through the archives, but thought I would comment on this since the nature of my husband's job (Diplomat) ensures that we move every 3-4 years (we're currently in Beijing):

My best advice is to walk, walk, walk. In my experience there is no better way to get to know a city than to walk.

And accept any and all invitations you get for the first two months. Even when you don't want to. Even when you're exhausted from unpacking. I've found that if you don't do this, you miss a window of opportunity to meet new people and see new places.

(Very much enjoying your blog, btw!)