Updated: Oct 10, 2020
Seven months ago, I hated living in Monterey, California. It’s a little city on the central coast of California, and is widely regarded to be one of the most visually beautiful places in the country, along with the surrounding areas of Carmel and Big Sur. The climate is perfect. It’s a little pocket of coolness surrounded by very hot surrounding areas, but never too cold even in the winter. Shops line the downtown area and the nearby Cannery Row, the perfect kind of place to hang out with friends and run amok in. The problem was, having lived there for just shy of a month, I didn’t have any friends to hang out with. And, once school started, I frankly didn’t want any. After the first week there, I was convinced there wasn’t a single person there who could possibly match the friends I had in the place I moved away from (Carlisle, Pennsylvania).
My attitude was surprising to my family. In my younger childhood, I was always known for being the one who took our moves the best. I always went into it with a kind of adventurous optimism, ready to make the most of the next place. This move was no exception at first. I spent the whole drive across the country brainstorming how I was going to take advantage of this new place, academically or otherwise. But once I arrived and school started up, that optimism was crushed. It felt like every single aspect of my life had been downgraded from the last place I lived.
It took me a while before I finally started to realize why I felt this way. I was viewing everything in Monterey from the lens of how it compared to Carlisle. Carlisle had one of the best cross country teams in the state. Monterey didn’t even have a cross country coach. Carlisle had a beloved Shakespearean theatre department run by some of the kindest individuals I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. Monterey had a small scale theatre that the community didn’t bat an eye at (at least as far as I knew at the time) and was run by someone I had a… less high opinion of. Carlisle had a large population of military kids. Monterey High School has a few more than ten. These are just a few of the comparisons I found myself making at the start of the school year, and all it served to achieve was make me hate the place I currently lived and make me miss the last place I lived. It felt like my interests didn’t fit at my new school. I felt like I was so happy in Carlisle that no other place could really live up to it. Carlisle was “the place” to me. I was trying to fit my life in Carlisle into the community of Monterey, and that obviously didn’t work because the two were different, just like all towns are.
My struggle finally brought to me a realization. Comparing the area you used to live to the location you live now can seriously damage your view of the new place. It’s unlikely that one school will have all the same programs and the same quality of programs as another school.
From my own experiences, I know how difficult it can be to come to a new place and feel like I suddenly have to abandon my passions because the opportunities I had in my previous place weren’t offered in my new place. I’m no final authority on how to properly adapt to new environments, but the way I see it, there are two ways a military brat can to work with everything I’ve just talked about.
The first is to try new things. Every school won’t have the same programs, but nearly every school has some group of activities that are really popular with people and are thus well established within the school and perhaps well-funded. So, go ahead and try and take advantage of what the new school has to offer! If your new school doesn’t have a field hockey team, consider trying lacrosse. No swim team at your new school? Maybe try running track. Every school has activities that students put a lot of time and energy into, so go ahead and get out of your comfort zone!
As I said before, my previous school had a truly incredible cross country and track/field program. When I found out how small the running program was at my new school, I was indignant. But soon, I learned about the school’s aquatic program, and how much time and hard work was invested into it. So, I (begrudgingly at first) agreed to go to a water polo open pool. By the third session, I was hooked, causing me to do a complete 180 and join the water polo team. It was unlike anything I had ever done before, but in hindsight, I’m so happy I joined. Try and take each move as an opportunity to discover new passions.
The other way to adjust to a new town and a new school is a better option for those who don’t want to forsake their passions just because they move. If there aren’t any clubs or programs you enjoy, then create them! If activities attracted a following at your old school, then it’s likely all you need to do is show people in your new school what those things are all about. My old school had a really good program for Shakespeare. That’s a pretty rare thing in a high school, so I wasn’t surprised to see that my new school did not offer the same thing. I felt like people would really appreciate what I had to offer, so I started a club focusing on Shakespeare’s works. Starting new things is a great way to develop leadership skills, and starting a club on your own is easy if you just have a purpose in mind.
Some kids love moving, others hate it with a passion, but I don't think any military kid will say that there aren’t some seriously hard parts about moving. What’s important is that you can find the best way to take advantage of what your new place has to offer, while also trying to bring what made your old town great. Sometimes things just don’t stick, and that’s alright. But it never hurts to try.