Stuck in the South

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Dear Hoopers,
I am surrounded. It seems like no matter where I go in my current city, I am surrounded by people so different than myself. I was born and raised in LA, and went to college at UCLA. After working a few years in LA, I have now landed a promotion in a large city in the south. While at first I thought this would be an opportunity to experience the south for its natural beauty and charm, I am awakened to the reality that this is not what I expected it to be. I won’t lie, I am picky. I have strong opinions about most things. I know pretty quickly what is good and bad for me, and this place isn’t. Unfortunately, I need to be here for at least a year before I can begin looking for another position within the company. I really like my company and believe it is one I can move up in quickly but I have to play the game right. How can I survive here?
-Stuck in the South

Dear Stuck in the South,
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A decade ago, I made the trek from the West Coast to the South for college. I cherished my experience in the deep south, and while I admittedly was living in a liberal arts college bubble, I made an effort to embrace and learn from the culture that surrounded me.

I moved to a few new cities over the next decade and what I learned is that adaption comes to some easier than others. I am more of an adapter. Regardless of where I am, I make a conscious effort to invest in the culture and people, even if I am surrounded by people who, as you put it, may be different.

However, sometimes adapting can be hard, even when you put forth the effort. When Ryan and I moved to Seattle for his postdoctoral fellowship I tried to acclimate, but I struggled. There is actually a term called “Seattle Freeze” that refers to a belief that it is especially difficult to make new friends, especially as transplants. We eventually found a solid crew of buds, but found it much harder than any city we had ever lived. And we’re social people! I especially felt this to be strange as a Northwest native.

Given more time maybe my heart would have changed, but Ryan felt it too. And that’s the beauty and the beast of relocating. Had we never spent a year in Seattle we would never have known how much we valued what we had left in Chicago. Life lessons come in all sorts of forms and feelings and sometimes, in our case, many moving trucks.

Life lessons come in all sorts of forms and feelings and sometimes, in our case, many moving trucks.


You started by saying you were excited by the opportunity and experience to move, so what happened to make you change your mind? It sounds like you are free to move so now the decision is do you want to stick out the job for a year? What flexibility will you have for relocation following a year?

If your job is worth sticking it out, I would consciously invest in finding outlets and hobbies to pursue. If you feel you just can’t jibe with the city you are in, life is too short. Go where you think you will be most happy and healthy. And as for having strong opinions? That’s not a bad thing. If you feel strongly or passionate about something take the opportunity to share your opinion with others, allowing there to be room for discussion and debate. You may actually learn a thing or two.

Dear Stuck in the South,
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Your future is up to you. While you may feel limited by your current situation, never forget that you can always choose a different job, a different city, a different life. However, there may be something important here for you to learn. I have also found myself in situations where something didn’t quite feel right. It was the wrong job, the wrong relationship, the wrong city.

But as I look back at those times, I also know that I learned a lot. A lot about myself and a lot about what was truly important for me. It was because of those times including processing through my own feelings of frustration and dissatisfaction that made me the person I am today.

At least a few times a year I can think back to my first job out of college as a research assistant. The job itself was bad enough with mindless, repetitive work, but it was the way my boss treated me that really bothered me. He wasn’t an evil person but his style and personality created a toxic work environment. I watched slowly as my colleagues were either fired or decided to quit because of the environment.

So while you can take off any time you want, remember that this city may become an important part of who you are, for better or worse.

-Dr. Ryan

I also learned a lot. I learned that I really cared about being a part of a good team and that building relationships with my co-workers was important to me. Not to mention that being in that job motivated me to work really hard so I didn’t find myself in that sort of a position again.

So while you can take off any time you want, remember that this city may become an important part of who you are, for better or worse. In the event that you do decide to stay in this city, I would encourage to spend time thinking about what isn’t working there. Is it political views, social structure, or something more? The reality is that any place can be a good place or a difficult place to live. It is up to you to make the best out of your time there.
-Dr. Ryan

Stuck in the South