Murphy’s Love: Advice on Intimacy and Relationships

The Pitfalls of Familiarity

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Dear Stacy,

I graduated from a D.C. university last year and then moved back to my home state to start my career. I’ll be completely honest, I didn’t like living in D.C. I was in a frat and the associated alcohol-focused hookup lifestyle was awful (not that I did anything to change it or try anything different). I didn’t really like my friends and my relationships with women were shallow. I chalked it up to a miserable college experience and assumed I would leave D.C. and start a new life for myself.

Well, that hasn’t really happened. One year later, I am still living with my parents and haven’t found a career-launching job. My old friends are just as unmotivated as they were in high school and I don’t want that to rub off on me. I’m writing because I came back to D.C. recently and it was amazing. I saw my friends in a different way and reconnected with an old crush that now feels like it has some real possibility. I am thinking about moving back permanently, but I am afraid that I am looking at my D.C. experience through the proverbial “rose-colored glasses.” Does it make sense to give D.C. another try?

— Recent Graduate

Dear Graduate,

Thank you for this letter. I completely appreciate your question and feel your indecision. I hope you hear that sincerely, particularly when I decline to answer it.

Here’s my reasoning. You didn’t like living in D.C. before, but a homecoming-type of week made you feel nostalgic. You might like to give old friends and environs another try. I certainly could offer a basic yes or no, based on nothing but my current mood (or the fact that I love D.C.). A better path might be for you to spend more time thinking through your next moves once you pick your own lane.

Moving back home is challenging for all of us — in fact, even visiting home can be tough. It takes our brains back to a very familiar space, often activating familiar yet immature behaviors. Moving back to D.C. could inspire the same process, returning you to that frat experience in no time. The only thing that overrides the brain’s desire for familiarity is conscious intentionality. So whether you do it in Home State or in the District, be intentional about how you spend the next few years of your life.

Know that there are pitfalls that could take you back to using alcohol as a matchmaker. (If this feels like more of a problem than you’ve let on, please consider getting help for that.) Surround yourself with comfortable old friends, but also make it a priority to try new things and welcome new people into your life. Ask others to give you honest feedback, and be a good listener to what they say. This is probably one of the last times in your life when you can make a quick move to a new(ish) place without too much baggage. Be thoughtful and accountable — to yourself — about how you proceed.

Stacy Notaras Murphy is a licensed professional counselor in Georgetown. Visit her on the web at stacymurphylpc.com. This column is meant for entertainment only and should not be considered a substitute for professional counseling. Send your confidential question to stacy@stacymurphylpc.com.

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