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Finding Her People in a New Place

Guest Blogger, Dennise Cherkauer, shares her commitment to herself and her new life!

Not quite two years ago, my husband and I found ourselves faced with a dilemma. A new company was courting my husband and they were planning to offer him a job that was tailored to his unique skill set. Taking the job was absolutely in his best interest career-wise, but we would have to move - one thousand miles away!

I loved my life. We had been in the same beautiful house for 16 years, raising our children just outside a small and quirky college town in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains. I cherished my close relationships with our kids - our daughter, grown and married and living nearby, and our son, finishing up high school with his top college pick less than 100 miles away.

I was in love with my job, having refined my craft and carefully tended to my clients over the years. It was painful to even think about walking away. I was an enthusiastic member of an auditioned handbell choir. I had slowly cultivated a network of professional contacts and a wide web of good friends. I fully embraced all four glorious seasons, and we were exploring little mountain towns nearby, dreaming about where to land in a few years when we downsized.

But destiny called, so we decided to go for it.

Considering Housing Options

My husband and I both appreciate land and a lot of space to call our own. When looking for our new home, we were first drawn to semirural communities where the houses were on large lots, acres apart. They felt so serene and private, yet isolated. Not a concern for my husband as human interaction is intrinsic to his job, but I stopped short as I imagined how alone I would feel. I stood in the driveway of one of these houses for a long while and not one person passed by walking their dog or pushing a stroller. An introvert’s dream, right? Maybe, but I knew I needed more. So many changes were occurring with this move.

Preparing to Be Alone

Before, I met a lot of other parents just by having kids and schlepping them to scouts, 4-H, homeschool park days, co-ops, and field trips. Over the course of my career, I had the privilege to make music with many amazing people, but long-Covid health issues forced me to retire from performing. In past years, I got to know the wives of several of my husband’s co-workers, but there are few opportunities for socializing with remote work at his new company. My old friends are even more introverted than I am, and keeping in touch regularly long-distance just isn’t going to happen, no matter how much they love me. I’m self-employed, and in my line of work, it can take years to build a clientele. The church isn’t my thing. Our son would stay with us for the summer before college, but in mere weeks after our move, we would be empty nesters. Other than my husband, I wouldn’t know a soul.

Searching for Home

I love, love, love being alone, but like most introverts, I need to feel a sense of belonging in my community and I need to have people in my immediate life with whom I share a deep connection. How on earth would I meet people, let alone find my people, if we settled in an isolated place? We ended up not purchasing a home on our house-hunting trip to the new city, and after a lot of discussions, we decided to step out of our comfort zone and look for a place with a smaller lot, good-neighbor privacy fences, and sidewalks.

Back home and shopping online, we were both intrigued by a house that checked many, but not all, of our boxes. What it did have, however, was a large and very active community surrounding it. The neighborhood boasted miles and miles of wooded hiking trails, a recreation center, a community pool, and a multitude of resident-hosted clubs. I had looked at the Meetup app for our new city, and while there were some groups that piqued my curiosity, it seemed like it would require tremendous effort to get myself to meetings. The groups that interested me also had hundreds of members. I am outgoing but put me in a room with more than 5 or 6 other humans and I’m a wallflower. We were moving to a city with a ridiculously hot housing market, and if we waited even a day the house would be gone. I read the list of neighborhood clubs once more, then we took a leap of faith and put in our offer.

Natural Connections

Within days of moving, I met more of my neighbors than I had in 16 years at the old house just by weeding the front yard. If I felt alone, I could literally walk outside and soon encounter someone who was willing to engage in conversation for a few minutes. Still craving that deeper connection with people, I made a commitment to myself to actively find friends, something I never had to do before.

But I’m an introvert. Instead of being the person who leaves a party with 10 new best friends, I leave needing a nap. Instead of being satisfied with many acquaintances and lots of small talk, I need to be around people with whom I can be my total and unapologetic self. I need people to laugh and cry and laugh about crying (or cry about laughing) with. I made finding my people my top priority.

Finding my People

I attended a neighborhood a Mah Jongg Club meeting even though I knew nothing about the game. Afterward, I made a point to talk with the hosts. They were in a similar position to me - introverted empty-nesters new to the area and looking for their people! They invited me to a Pilates class and an Art Club meeting, where I met several like-minded people. Recalling my sister’s sage wisdom, “If you want a friend, be a friend,” I started reaching out to the Art Club people and we now have a standing date for Tuesday morning breakfast. At physical therapy, I started a conversation with another patient; we befriended each other on Facebook, and she invited me to join a ladies’ group. I tried out an empty nesters’ dinner club and a book club. I joined a Bunco group, again having no idea what it entailed – now I have standing plans for coffee with one of the ladies. I volunteered at an animal shelter and connected with a woman who lives in my neighborhood. On a whim, I joined a small women’s group to see what it was all about. With a new friend from the women’s group, I started a different book club, a crochet circle, and a Canasta night. When I found activities and people with whom I clicked, I jumped in feet first, and the others I quietly let go.

I’ve now lived in our new place for a year. Following through on that commitment to myself, even though it was rather uncomfortable at times, has paid off. I have my rocks. My constant inner circle and my outer orbits are organically expanding just by living life and keeping that mission alive.


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