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Find your usuals.

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 HANNAH

I'm a writer, author, and online educator who loves helping others build intentional lives through the power of habit and meaningful routines.

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BY CHELSEA JORDAN

I wouldn’t align myself with the Joanna Gaineses of the world, but I know a thing or two about making a new place feel like home. 

Having worked in the housing industry, I’ve watched hundreds of people move in and out of spaces. As  they’d load up the dollies and measure out the perfect picture height, I’d be nostalgically reminded of why I chose to work in the field: I’d had my fair share of new cities and new apartments but the settling-in never got easier. So, I sought to give others the experience that I couldn’t seem to give to myself.

My first big move was to New York for college. The whole family came to help me unpack and set my bed on unsteady risers. Once the “Sex and the City” poster was hung and the bulk supply of ramen was taken out of its packaging, they were ready to go. I escorted them to the car in the loading zone, preparing for an emotional goodbye.

The drama queen in me was sorely disappointed when they hugged me gingerly, buckled themselves in, and said “ta-ta!” through the rearview mirror.

It was all so…hasty.

I swore I was ready for the independence but there I was, standing in a parking lot, ankle-deep in a thick puddle of fear. I was lost and alone. I mean, seriously lost. I felt totally incapable of getting back to my dorm.

When I did eventually find my way back, I buried my face in a multi-color pillow sham and told myself the lies that I’ve ended up reciting to myself every time I’ve moved since:

I’ll never find my way around.

I’ll never make friends.

I’ll never get used to this.

This place will never be better than the last. This place will never feel like home.

Let’s be real. Getting acclimated to a new place has its honeymoon moments, too. Strolling the aisles of HomeGoods, the road trip playlists, and the hopeful promise of a new adventure is enough to make your stomach flip with the frequency and eagerness of a first-time gymnast.

There’s just something about those blank walls. They’re like canvases waiting to be painted with glimpses of the life that’ll happen within them. And then there’s the empty echo, begging to be filled with stories, memories, and inside jokes.

There is better waiting on the other side of transition. It’s the glistening light at the end of the tunnel. But before it can be reached, the walls might start to cave in. The bright and shiny may fade, and perhaps a realization will be made that it’s just a dark, lonely underpass after all.

I don’t know about you but when I come to terms with that reality, I instantly feel like I’m in a New York City public transit terminal. There are creatures crawling on the tracks and drops of water plopping down from an unidentified leak.

I want to get out of there as soon as possible. But as much as I will that train to pull up to the platform, I know it’s still many, many stops away.

I can’t keep directing my attention toward the things that make me want to turn around and leave. I have to find a way to pass the time.

I have to find my usuals.

It is my greatest dream in life to live somewhere long enough to become a regular. I want the coffee shop around the corner to know my order by heart.

“Chelsea! How ya doin’? I take it you’ll be having the usual. Black coffee? Bacon, egg, and cheese on an everything bagel? Extra slice of bacon on the side for that sweet pup of yours, Watson?”

I would tell Tom P. (that’s the name I imagine on his name tag) that I’m doing well. I’d give him an enthusiastic thumbs up and promise to bring Watson by next time. Tom P., in his linen apron, cannot wait.

Sadly, I haven’t met Tom P. yet. That’s been my choice, though. I wanted to spend my 20s living in new states, trying out new jobs. I chose to follow unexpected opportunities, even if I dreaded the inevitable season of change.

I love a fresh start, but I hate having to use my GPS to get around town. It upsets me when I don’t know where to find my favorite cereal in the grocery store. And happy hour doesn’t make me so happy when I haven’t made a friend who can accompany me.

These are incredibly common hang-ups for anyone starting new. And, unfortunately, as they’re endured, they feel impossible to tackle.

But I’m here to tell you that a sense of home is always within reach. 

A home is created when we walk through the door and feel a sense of safety and security. It’s when we know our neighbors, and can walk the block blindfolded. It’s when we’ve picked the best spot in town for a cone of ice cream, or get the best oil-change rate at the garage down the road.

Home is the place where friends gather. It’s where we cry our hardest tears and celebrate our biggest wins. It’s where the lock sticks, and where the refrigerator kicks on too loudly at 2am.

Home is what we call – our usual.

So, get lost. Turn the GPS off and challenge yourself to find a way back. Spend hours in Trader Joe’s until you know where all of your seasonal favorites are shelved. Go to the local event and embrace the role of “new neighbor” so you can open yourself up to friendship.

Show up for late-night pizza after the shop has already closed down. Get frustrated with traffic on the wrong route. Complain about the buggy marsh. Be unafraid of making mistakes. They don’t mean you’re inexperienced, they mean you’re becoming an expert of your surroundings.

I’ve been the newcomer who’s held my own self back. I stayed inside where it was safer, not realizing that if I’d just been willing to experience all that was around me, the clock wouldn’t have ticked so slowly.

I’ve impatiently waited and wished for the right subway car to arrive, but it was always in my own control to meet the light at the end of the tunnel.

At the next screeching halt of a forward-moving vessel, I want you to hop on. Don’t worry about whether it’s taking you to your final destination. Just know it’s getting you closer to your usuals.

I sure hope Tom P. is there waiting for you.


Chelsea M. Jordan is an educator by day and a writer by night. A self-identified empath and ice-breaking guru, Chelsea lives for bringing people together through the realness of struggle, the magic of small-wins, and the power of vulnerability. Unsurprisingly, she’d love to have dinner with Brene Brown over a full-bodied glass of wine. You can find more of Chelsea’s words and passions over at CJ Creative

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Hi, I'm Hannah

I love writing about all things faith, mental health, discipline + and motherhood. Let's be penpals!

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