Being Open and Adaptive

Now this is something I could bang on about forever. There is so much to talk about when it comes to being able to adapt and respond to change, but I like to try and keep these posts short and…. sweary. So let’s have it.

Animals have to adapt for survival. Humans are no exception to this. Soz. If we don’t adapt to our surroundings, we won’t live to our full potential and it would be a very boring, one dimensional life. If you simply refuse to adapt to different surroundings and people, that just makes you a bit of an asshole to be honest and you’ll struggle to succeed working & coexisting with human beings on planet Earth.

I’m not saying change who we are as people and all our beliefs and values wherever we go to suit other people (on the contrary holding on to our values is the best thing we can do) but we have to be willing to adjust and respond to create good conditions for ourselves and others.

So here’s my two cents on adapting to new places.

In my experience, it generally takes up to 4 months to settle into a place and really gather your surroundings and start to adapt to where you are. It takes about a year to really feel like a part of the community and less of an outsider. And 2+ years to call a place home and feel part of the furniture.

Now, this is pretty subjective and every experience will differ, whether it’s a new job, new town, new country… So here are some factors to consider:

My first major experience of all this adapting business was pretty drastic. It was moving from England to Kansas! The home of Dorothy, country music, cowboys and hunting rifles, a million miles from Harrogate Towns Posh Paws and Tea Rooms. My neighbour went from an wrinkly old ex politician, to an actual meth lab. So how different the environment is will determine how much adapting you’re going to have to do. Moving down the street is not going to take 2 years to resettle…. moving across the world next door to Walter White perhaps might.

Secondly, I was 18 when this first move happened. I was young, I’d never even moved house before, never changed schools, I was pretty inexperienced with adapting to new locations at this point. So determining factor number 2 is previous experiences… practice. I’ve since done a LOT of practice with changing jobs, countries, football teams etc many many times.

The people around you matter immensely. If they are kind, helpful, welcoming and willing to openly accept someone new, that makes the whole palaver a lot easier. I was fortunate enough to have an entire soccer team and a great coach help me adapt to Kansas life, as well as the natural friendliness and warmness of Kansas people in general. But not everyone in the world likes to make it that easy. I’ve worked for a couple of assholes before and needless to say their staff turnover rate was HIGH!

Factor number 4 and probably the most important factor, being open-minded. If we go in with an already determined set of beliefs about the place, the people, the experiences we think we’ll get, we are setting ourselves up for failure. My first week in Pratt, Kansas I remember calling my Mum and saying “Mum, I hate this place. There is NOTHING here. I’m so bored. I want to come home.” She told me if I still felt the same in six weeks, I could come home… Well 6 years later I was dragged out of Kansas kicking and screaming and will always consider it home.

But instead of going into a place with either a) unrealistically high expectations or b) negative expectations, we should go in with an open mind and think “ok what can I learn from this place, what can I learn from these people and how can I get the most out of being here”. We open ourselves up to much more positive experiences and from there an easier ride to adapting to what’s around us.

The final factor in helping to settle into a new environment is finding your “thing” or “constant”. What I mean by that is, no matter where you end up, find the thing that will always bring you happiness. For me that is late night walks. Before I moved to America I would always go on walks up and down our lane, headphones in, Disney music on, looking at the stars and just daydreaming (is it still daydreaming if it’s at night? 🤔) I’m not bullshitting you here for a soppy moment, I genuinely do this. Wherever I go, WHEREVER I go, you will find me doing this, it’s just always given me comfort knowing no matter where I am, or what’s going on, I can do this one thing and feel home. It helps me connect to a place. And on these walks I always find a spot I call “my spot” and it’s my go to place for when I need it. But your constant could be anything, drawing, singing a certain song, meditating, running, doing 5000 burpees (not that anyone would find comfort in that) but whatever! Just something you can do anywhere, by yourself, that will just help you feel a little bit more peaceful and less alienated… and preferably beneficial to your life i.e not smoking meth wherever you go.

What motivated me to start writing this blog post was a comment someone said to me recently which was “We haven’t found anywhere we’ve liked enough to stay”. I know this person has not yet stayed in a single place for a full week yet, so I’m thinking, bloody hell, you let me know when you’ve found a place to call home within a week pal. Ain’t gonna happen.

I think we focus too much on the obvious aesthetics (the beaches, the parks, the mountains, the things to do) to actually get to see the best bits of what makes a place, home. The people. The hidden street art. The dancing in thunderstorms. The lights down Santa Fe at night (is that a hint of “my spot”?! 😉) The 24 hour greasy Mexican place. The terrible night club that brings everyone together. The local gym that becomes a second home. Your favourite seat at the small Movie Theatre. The cashier that always asks about your day and genuinely cares. The busker in his usual spot. You don’t see all that good stuff within a week or even a few months. Give the place, and yourself, a chance to enjoy it.

I have both willingly and unwillingly lived places and being made to stay somewhere you don’t want to be DEMANDS for you to adapt. (No I’m not talking about my time in prison). Going from Walter White back to wrinkly ex politician was no easy task, but boy did it teach me some boring shit about adapting.

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