In 4 weeks exactly, I will celebrate an important anniversary.
Exactly 11 months ago to the day, a friend and I packed up our fabulous apartment in New York City and drove 15 hours until we saw the Chicago skyline.
It’s been almost 1 whole year since I did this scary thing – left New York – and dared to build a life elsewhere.
I planned to post this entry closer to the 1 year mark, but my friend Irene (in New York City no less), sent me an article, entitled “Why I’m Glad I Quit New York at Age 24” today, in which Ann Friedman chronicles with great sincerity, the reasons why she left New York and her “Meh” feelings on the city in general.
The topic of New York City has been implanted in my mind, unwavering, since I moved.
Between meeting new people (HI! I just moved here from NYC…), my new co-workers, friends back east and random strangers, the topic of the move comes up more than talk of the weather. And every time I’m at a house-warming, networking event or on a date, I feel extremely unsettled about my answer.
Why DID I leave New York? Why don’t I EVER want to live there again?
Every time I hear these questions, a slew of verbal diarrhea ejects itself ranging from reasons to do with work, family, my childhood in the Mid-West or just LOVING the deep-freeze of winter (not really).
Unlike Ann, who moved to NYC because she couldn’t think of anywhere else to go and followed a boyfriend who reportedly had her dream job, my path and times in NYC weave a different tale.
As a child, I was fortunate enough to visit New York almost every year. My parents’ best friends (the ones who are credited with birthing Irene) moved to New York City when we immigrated from Ukraine, while we settled in Michigan. I found myself visiting New York “frequently” on family trips when I was a child and then on my own when I was older to see Irene. The lights of Times Square used to mesmerize me. Irene’s parents would take us driving through during every visit. Those big billboards represented big dreams to me (12 year-old me thought corporate America was like six flags) and I longed to grow up and find these corporate dreams of my own.
Once I grew up, my educational goals pushed me to the East Coast. I attended a competitive liberal arts school, after which, what felt like my entire graduating class, moved to New York City.
I didn’t follow a boyfriend (he ended up moving a year later to follow me). I was psyched about my first job (until I wasn’t). I lived with one of my best friends from college (see Brunch post). I had 3 jobs during my 5-year tenure in the city, during which time I had great experiences, and one of which was in the smack center of Times Square. I even had my little brother by my side, after he graduated and moved to NYC (and lived on my couch for 3 months).
From the outside, my NYC life probably looked like a Great Gatsby party or a Sex and the City episode (except with parades of frat boys and no Louboutins – those actually aren’t affordable, Carrie).
Somehow though, the city left me incredibly unsettled and – this has been hard to admit – I don’t think I was ever incredibly happy. Yes, I had some great times and I accomplished professional goals and I frolicked with old friends and made new ones.
But I somehow still felt like I was in a box.
Ann describes New York as the prom king in high school: “He knows he’s great, and he’s gonna make it really, really hard on you if you decide you want to love him.”
I think in my version the prom king loves you back and you realize he’s a douche. Or you’re Cady Heron in Mean Girls and you’re accepted by the popular clique only to find out that the 3 of them are absolutely miserable people.
I haven’t put an exact stamp on my feelings.
Maybe it has something to do with the eventual break-up with my now ex-boyfriend. Maybe it has to do with my lack of desire to hang out with the prom king while he runs around town telling everyone he’s #1. Maybe I was just getting tired of being shoved on the subway in the morning.
Maybe it’s all 3.
I realize this topic hits on some buttons for many people and there are those that love NYC with extreme passion. I still have friends who are there and love it.
I will say this though, I agree with Ann – I breathed easier after moving.
Over the past year, as hard as it is, I’ve thrown myself into establishing a life here. I decorated my first personal apartment by picking out furniture piece by piece, I joined internal organizations at work, I went to networking events, I started coaching figure skating again, I put in effort to reconnect with high school friends I’ve lost touch with and I’ve opened myself up to finding matches in new dating pools.
It was hard. But even on the hardest day, I still breathe easier.
The city you live in that suits you is a personal choice.
On this anniversary, I’m proud of myself for taking a leap of faith and leaving. The move has turned a number of my worlds upside down, but it’s also grounded many.
I feel happy about the direction I’m moving in, and that friends,… is Awesome.