In the new year, I will be embarking on a new chapter in my life. My husband and I will be moving from New York to California. As someone who suffers from anxiety and depression, this should be the perfect opportunity to use some of the coping strategies I’ve learned in therapy. But I’ve already hit a snag and I haven’t even begun packing: No one seems to be happy for me.
My oldest friends, all of whom I’ve known since I was a teenager, don’t have one good thing to say about our big move.
When I say, “I’m moving to L.A.,” people seem to think I’m asking them, “What do you think of Los Angeles?” It’s not that I don’t care what anyone thinks, but I’m not in the habit of consulting people about a place they’ve never lived or never even visited. From the unsolicited critiques I have received so far, it seems a great deal of people have very strong feelings about Los Angeles.
I told one friend, “I’m sorry I forgot to tell you, we’re moving to L.A. this winter.”
He immediately responded, “Los Angeles has its head just as far up its butt as New York City.”
How does one respond to that? “Well I guess you won’t be visiting us there either”? So far I’ve avoided my knee-jerk reaction, which is to be absolutely sarcastic: “Gee, I’m so happy I told you.”
Oddly, these same people were mum when my husband and I moved to Brooklyn eight years ago. It’s important to note that of the friends I’m speaking of, only one of them lives in New York City and he’s all but sitting shiva for us. He says he’s devastated that we are moving, and yet I haven’t seen him in almost three months.
The negativity is building up and it has me wondering with whom I’ve surrounded myself. How long have I been making friends with people who have an automatically pessimistic response to a very big, life-changing decision?
While the negative reaction to my move hasn’t made me doubt my decision, it has hurt my feelings. When I think about it and take stock, I’m forced to call my depression up to the front of the class. It slinks up slowly and carelessly. It’s much tinier than it used to be, just about three feet tall.
“Depression, did you go looking for pessimistic friends to mirror our own negativity?” I ask.
“Maybe–” my depression shrugs.
“Well that makes sense,” I say. “You can take your seat.”
The negative response from friends doesn’t make me feel more anxious about the move, but my depression takes a keen interest. It likes to accumulate reasons not to get out of bed in the morning. It likes to heap negativity onto my back when I really need to muster hope to move forward.
Misery loves company. My sadness is very adept at finding something to be sad about. That’s how it grows and grows until it can’t be ignored or surpassed.
I can see where I was probably more attracted to negative people, especially when I was younger. I gravitated toward wallflowers, non-risk takers, lovers of sarcasm with a cynical view of the world. I was looking for a George Carlin in a friend when I was a young adult.
On the other hand, at 30 I married my best friend, who’s an eternal optimist. He’s an outgoing, amicable man who lights up a room and isn’t afraid of change. Without meaning to, he’s taught me a lot about looking at the bright side and his optimism has rubbed off.
For every letdown, I try to think of something positive to look forward to. When I hear, “Ew, I hate L.A.” I try to remind myself that I love it. I’m finished with Northeast winters. I never intended to live in NYC for the rest of my life. I’m ready for something new. While the idea might intimidate some people, I’ve moved all over the country. I’m an old hand at this, and the older I get the more I know about what I want and need.
I forgive myself for being attracted to negativity and picking up the negative nuggets in life like they’re bits of gold. But if experience has taught me anything, it’s that things go my way more often than they don’t, without the approval or permission of anyone else. I won’t live a life defined by the fears of others — I’ve got plenty of my own to deal with.