I’ve Moved 11 Times. Here’s the Biggest Lesson I’ve Learned

A woman and a man putting items into boxes in preparation for moving.
Photo by Cottonbro Studio on Pexels.

One of my friends recently mentioned that she’s had 26 roommates in her life, a statistic that I found both striking and non-surprising. Between college, grad school, and the nature of life for many people in their 20s (friends are like family, and pay is low; sharing an apartment with a handful of peers makes sense), I can see how my friend accumulated such a collection of housemates. 

Her data-sharing prompted me to tally my number of lifetime roommates (excluding my family of origin and my children), and I totaled an unimpressive 10. A much more significant statistic for me is my move count. Excluding brief summer housing stints, I have lived in 11 buildings and six cities in the past decade-ish. Again, this number is hardly surprising, as many people move around a lot in their young adulthood while they settle into careers, relationships, and life priorities.   

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But even as moving is expected at this phase of life, I’m struck, when reflecting on my experiences of switching homes and cities, by my memory of the difficulty of each relocation. I’m not talking about the physical act of packing all my things in boxes and loading a UHaul (though to be clear: I find this process 10 out of 10 on the tedious and stressful scale). Rather, I mean the emotional impacts of moving challenged me during every one of those 11 moves. 

While I was eager and excited to embark on new adventures each time — none of these moves were forced upon me or driven by unfortunate circumstances — I also remember finding each move to be grief-inducing. 

At the times of the moves, I recall being perplexed by my sadness (I had exciting reasons to be moving! The new places were often upgrades!) but looking back, the grief makes sense to me, and here’s why: Just because something is primarily a “gain” doesn’t mean that there aren’t “losses” alongside it. 

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For instance, I lived in two different apartments throughout my three years in graduate school, and it was truly thrilling to say goodbye to my practically windowless, non-air-conditioned attic bedroom in the first, and to say hello to the sun-lit and hardwood floors of the second (not to mention the in-building laundry, basement storage space, and proximity to a subway stop). 

And yet, even with all the upgrades of the second place, there were elements of the old building that I was sad to abandon, including the well-designed pantry nook and the easy bicycle parking. Even if the good of the new place outweighed that of the old one, there were still aspects of the first apartment that I missed. 

This has been true of every single move I’ve made. Most recently, I was delighted to transition from a house with no yard and a porch on the verge of caving in, to a home with a big yard and two lovely porches…but I miss our downstairs laundry room and the two-block walk to our church on a weekly basis. 

Here’s the bottom line: I strive to live in the kind of way that seeks good in any circumstance, an approach that has served me well as it has led to an overall sense of contentment in life. It’s really great that my appreciation for Victorian architecture outweighed the annoyance of a micromanaging and hostile landlady in what was my favorite apartment of my 20s. But the cost that comes with finding the good anywhere and in anything, however, is that there will always be losses when changes are made.

Considering this reality — that with every gain comes some loss — I can see that it applies to areas of life other than moving, including switching jobs and experiencing life milestones. In the moments of the loss, it can be easy to become focused on the sadness, even if it’s just in the form of being confused by sadness in the face of something that should be exciting.

It’s helpful to remember that feelings of loss are a normal aspect of life — especially if you are a person who is inclined to seek the good in any situation — because it can make the feelings less overwhelming as it normalizes them. I’m grateful for the fact that many moves have taught me this lesson. 

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Teresa Coda is a writer and psychotherapist in southern Pennsylvania. Find more of her writing at teresacoda.com.