I am a 19-year-old, newly-out lesbian who is moving to NYC for college, and I am scared shitless. I?ve lived in SD all my life. I am so nervous I?m sick to my stomach a lot now. I leave in a month to start summer school: I?ll be in a dorm in a city where I know no one. Why did I think I could do this? I felt so brave last fall, now I wish I could undo it all and just stay here and work at Burger King.
Leaving for the (really) big city
I am graduating from my Master’s program next month and I am terrified. I don’t have a job, I have big student loans and I sure don’t want to go back and live with my parents in New Mexico. What do I do now? How do I not freak out? I’m gay, so how do I find a job where they’re not all homophobes?
No job, no money, no plan
Dear Gentle people:
Congratulations to you both. You are both completing chapters of your life that you can each be proud of: finishing high school and a Master’s program, respectively. Approaching major life changes usually brings up anxiety. What comes next is unknown, and for most of us, that’s pretty damn scary.
Change is a two-sided coin: excitement and fear, you can’t have one without the other. But, let me share some ideas on how to minimize your anxiety and maximize your enjoyment as you both make major life changes.
Stay in touch with people who love you: phone calls, Emails, text messages…continue the relationships you have that bring you love and comfort. Eventually, you’ll have new relationships to replace them with, but for now, allow yourself “cling” a bit to the people you know.
When you meet new people (in the dorm, at a new job) be open, friendly and – most importantly – keep your expectations low. These people may not be forever best friends, but they may be compatible enough for you to hang out with (for now).
Surround yourself with objects that have meaning for you and bring you comfort, e.g., photos, art, knick-knacks. As much as you can, make your new dorm room or office cubicle your own.
Normalize your fears, e.g., talk with other people who are in the same boat. Realize that you’re normal to feel this way and that every other person in your situation is scared too.
Become your own cheerleader. I know, it sounds corny, but who else is going to encourage you on a daily basis? If you feel like you’re going to puke before going to your first class or first job interview, calm yourself with something like: “I know I’m nervous, but it’s okay. I’ve done new things before and always got through it. I can do this, even though I feel shaky.”
Reward yourself for doing something difficult. It’s behavior modification and it works. I don’t mean buying a new Mercedes or a $2500 Gucci handbag; how about something affordable, like a movie or a gelato or a nice meal somewhere that won’t bust your budget. One client of mine takes a bubble bath and has a dish of strawberries by the tub that she nibbles on as she soaks. Not very expensive, but she feels like she’s living in luxury when she rewards herself that way.
Expect setbacks. Nobody goes into anything new without falling on their ass now and then. If you were perfect, you’d be an enlightened being (and if you are, why are you Emailing me?). I recommend treating yourself like you would a beloved child who’s learning to walk. If she/he walks a few feet and then falls down, you don’t say, “Is THAT the best you can do? That’s pitiful.” Instead, you’d praise the child for what she/he DID accomplish: “That was great, I know you can do it again, so come on, get back up and let’s do it again.” Treating yourself kindly after a setback will get you a lot further in life than berating yourself. It may sound counterintuitive, but try it and see.
A little specific advice to each of you: your new college undoubtedly has an orientation program for new students. Take advantage of it and connect with other people new to NYC. You can hang together and help each through all the newness. And to the gentleman who needs a job and wonders how to find a gay-friendly place, why not consult your college job placement service, your instructors, your faculty advisors, fellow students, the campus LGBT student organization, etc. Just because your program’s almost over doesn’t mean you have to totally disconnect from your support system at school. Your college’s Alumni Services may also offer you help getting a job with gay-friendly employers. You can also talk with the wonderful people at San Diego’s LGBT business center: the Greater San Diego Business Association (www.gsdba.org or 619/296-4543).
Congratulations to you both: may you live well and prosper!