Breaking barriers

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Has anyone ever told you that you need to get out of your comfort zone? There’s no better way to accomplish this age-old advice than to get thrust into the experience of moving.

The vast majority of people will have to move at least once in their lifetime, and the concept of picking up everything and setting up shop somewhere completely new is daunting to almost everyone.

Rightfully so, as moving is one of the biggest events in a person’s life. Moving during middle school or high school can be especially difficult as this is the time in your life that you’re trying to figure out who you are and who you want to be. Granted, oftentimes families do not have a choice in the timing of the move, but the effects on teens are still worth examining.

Generally moving requires you to leave everything you know behind, which is uncomfortable for teenagers that feel that they don’t have anything figured out in the first place. Luckily, certain aspects of moving really aren’t all that bad, and the experience can actually help you grow as a person.

Even just moving from another part of the state can be a nerve-wracking experience.

“I moved here from Burlingame the summer of 7th grade,” sophomore Ashley O’Brien said. “I was sad but excited to have a new start and meet new people but I really miss my old neighborhood the most.”

Others face the much more daunting experience of coming to a new country.

“I moved here from China in the beginning of seventh grade,” sophomore Max Yuan said. “I actually requested the move because I like the trees and animals, the environment. I also like the way people treat each other, and the school system.”

Some people, like Yuan, feel that moving was a positive experience that they were able to gain a new perspective on the world. However, there are many different challenges people face when moving.

“The biggest challenge, even now, is the language,” Yuan said.

Of course, not everyone has to make the switch from China to the United States, which is not only a huge culture shock but also a gargantuan language barrier to climb.

The decision to move on any scale can be a defining one in a family’s life, and dealing with this change during middle and high school is a very difficult task.

Psychologist Marie Hartwell-Walker recently published her findings on the psychological effects of moving during your teen years.

“Unlike younger children, for whom the family is the center of their universe, teens are at the stage of life where they are beginning to separate from the family,” Hartwell-Walker said. “A move at that time either can push the teen back into a more dependent stage he or she can’t tolerate or may artificially accelerate an independence he or she isn’t ready for.”

Clearly moving during these crucial years of development isn’t generally a good idea for a teen’s mental health. Sadly, life doesn’t always work out the way parents and teens wish it would, and oftentimes a move is ready to happen even when the family is not.

Whether the family is dealing with new or lost job opportunities, sick relatives, financial troubles, or one of a whole range of other potential problems, these can all lead to the decision to relocate.

“My parents always wanted to move to the East Bay and it was closer to my dad’s work,” O’Brien said.

Fortunately, people are generally kind to the “new kid” and it’s relatively easy to adjust to life at Monte Vista, no matter what your background might be.

“What made it easier was that my dad used to be a firefighter in Oakland, so when my sister and I went to Stone Valley for middle school, we knew one of my dad’s friend’s daughters,” O’Brien said. “She introduced me to a couple people who I’m still friends with today!”

Freshman Hayden Grove found a similar outlook when his family had to move.

“At first, I hated the idea of moving but then I thought of all the new things I’d get to experience,” Grove said. “I miss my friends but once you move you have the opportunity to make new ones.”

No matter how adjusted a person may be, however, one never truly forgets where they came from. An important part of moving is preserving the idea that you’ll never stop being a part of your old hometown.

It’s vital to keep in touch with old friends, classmates and teachers, and stay up to date on any of the latest developments within your old school or community. This way of staying active can help with feelings of homesickness, the main problem involved with moving.

This deep ache for familiar surroundings is something we’ve all felt at one time or another, but when moving the feeling is exponentially increased, as its coupled with regret and fear that you’ll never truly fit back into a place where you once took your place for granted.