Chronicling adaptation

A large part of why I wanted to start Sasha Scribes is to chronicle the process of how one person adapts to a new environment. It’s a topic that has always intrigued me as someone who had to fly across the ocean and adapt to a new culture and language as a teenager.

When I was 13, I immigrated from Moscow, where I was born, to the United States. My parents divorced when I started grade school, and my dad, who is a software engineer, became in high demand during the dot-com bubble of the late 1990s. So he accepted a job across the Atlantic Ocean and moved to the lands of always summer and humidity, aka South Florida.

I moved with my dad a couple of years later. Actually, I guess, saying “I was moved” would be more accurate. At that age, I did not really have the ultimate say of whether to leave or stay in Russia with all my friends, my mom and our cat Kuzia.

The memories get hazier with time, but I still remember my first day in the U.S. My dad and I woke up at like 4 a.m. We couldn’t sleep because of the jet lag and the time difference. My dad drove us to the beach to see the sunrise. He called my mom on his flip phone to say that we landed okay. I talked to her briefly.

The sunrise and the ocean made for a beautiful scene. But I couldn’t really enjoy the sight because of the extreme teenage angst I was feeling. I did not want to move away.

Immigration is a hard process – emotionally, physically, fiscally. I could not travel outside of the U.S. in the first three years, which meant I didn’t see my mom again until I was 16.

The first year was the hardest. I couldn’t speak English. Everything and everyone seemed so foreign to me. But I started making friends eventually. After two or three years, I felt completely assimilated. It’s amazing how quickly kids and teens can adjust to new environments.

When you’re an adult and you move to a new place, however, adjusting can seem more intimidating.

It’s like there is this vague societal expectation to settle and find our “own place” in life that starts to suffocate us. Whether that means marrying or finding the love of our lives, or reaching a certain career milestone, we usually work, consciously or not, toward reaching that set number of goals by a certain age.

Moving to a totally new place, whether it’s to another state, across the country or to another side of the planet, can throw off most people.

The move forces you to go back to the basics and relearn things you forgot you knew. It humbles you. It burns you. It makes you remember or realize what you’re made out of.

Driving toward the sunset on my cross-country road trip from Chicago to California in September of 2016. (Alex Shashkevich Photo)

I’ve been living in the San Francisco Bay Area now for half a year, and I wanted to take a brief moment to reflect on the past couple of months and document some of my thoughts about my latest journey of adjustment.

Here are some random points in no particular order on how to best approach adapting and moving to a new place where you don’t know anyone:

  • Finding friends is not supposed to be easy. Some of the greatest friendships are the result of time. So give yourself some time… but also don’t judge people after the first few seconds. It takes trial and error to find cool people who are worthy of your time.
  • Moving always comes with withdrawal, even if you’ve waited for this one move for years longingly. Missing places and people is natural. Allow yourself to feel sad. Nostalgia is a beautiful emotion… but don’t get lost in it.
  • Adopt a persevering attitude if you want to cruise through this adaptation process like a badass. This means try things and try things many times if they don’t work at first. Embody the best version of yourself because, hey, maybe you’re going to be that key evolutionary link that will take the human species to the next level. Being able to adapt is being able to evolve. Grab the change by its horns and ride it.
  • Know that it’s all going to be okay in the end. You may fall down once or a couple of times. But you will adjust. You will learn your new city and its people. You will learn that new language even if your accent will never be perfect. You’ll find unexpected shortcuts after you drive enough times on unfamiliar roads. And you will find or, better, build from scratch another community full of love and creativity.
  • So enjoy this journey, this newness and have fun discovering.

P.S. If you’re still reading this, thank you for coming with me on this journey of change. I’m honored to have you come here for the ride. Have any topics in mind I should write about? Check out my Contact page or just message me on my social media channels.

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