A New Normal
Across the country in New York, Watson took a page from the television program Cheers and found his comfort zone in a restaurant in his new neighborhood.
"The first group of friends I made was actually at a restaurant about six blocks from my first apartment. I could walk there really fast, day or night, winter or summer and meet my friends – and in turn be introduced to their friends," Watson says. "That's actually how it happens here. You can't tackle the whole city, so you end up just tackling this little microcosm, and for me, it was the restaurant down the street."
He says his friends from that restaurant helped him secure his first job as a graphic designer at an advertising firm.
"Contrary to popular belief, New Yorkers are very helpful," he says. "I think it's because there are so many transient people here, there's just an written code. If you aren't a native, you were probably in the same situation at some point and needed people to help you, so there's this pay-it-forward model that's alive in New York that people are really willing to help you, willing to guide you and willing to give you direction. I never had that bad, rude New York moment."
While both Watson and the Parkers were able to successfully navigate the landscape of their new cities, they both admit managing the physical distance from their friends and loved ones can be challenging.
Think Positive Thoughts
"Our first year here Jamaal's grandmother passed away. It came pretty suddenly, and that was the first time where we were like, 'Oh man, are we sure that we really want to be this far away?'," Parker says. "But we got through it, and as time went on, it just didn't feel as difficult. It wasn't as hard. My mom, she asks all the time, 'So do you guys really think you're going to stay there for a long time?' My family would love if we would move back, but at the same time, I think even my family has adjusted."
She says apps, such as Skype and GroupMe, have helped her stay in touch with family and friends "back home," but what has helped the couple most has been maintaining a positive attitude about their new digs.
"One thing that helped us when we were feeling homesick is we'd start listing all the things we love about Seattle," Parker says. "The job market is really great out here. It's beautiful, and there are so many things to do outdoors. We've made friends. It's a good place to raise kids one day. We just try to think about all the good things."
Watson agrees. He says while it can be difficult convincing his Alabama friends and family of New York's merits, he's happy with his new life in the Big Apple.
"I was surprised at how easy it was for me to switch and become a New Yorker," he jokes,"but I've already passed five years; I'm ready to make it 10."