Saturday, April 25, 2015

What It's Really Like to Leave New York

A lot of people have asked me what it's like to move from NYC to the Bay Area. Sometimes their tone leads me to interpret it as, Was it worth it? After six months of living in California, I still find it hard to answer the question. See, it's not that I didn't want to move to California and it's not that I wanted to leave New York--both are true, and it has tormented me to pick a truth. That was until my recent trip back to NYC.

I spent a week in the city last March, my first time back since moving away in September. I stayed in the guest bedroom (I know right?) of my best friend's Fort Greene apartment that was nearly 30 floors up with 180-degree undisrupted views of downtown Brooklyn AND Manhattan (I'm not kidding). Every morning I'd wake up to the city skyline. The beautiful Statue of Liberty on the left, the Empire State Building planted in the center, and the bridges Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg connecting life between the two masses. This is undoubtedly the life.

My first day I had lunch at Mile End Delicatessen in Boerum Hill. Before I could eat my fried brussel sprouts and smoked meat poutine, my eyes started swelling. Sean looked at me, and he knew. He knew that I wanted to move back. Deep inside we both knew this would happen--it was inevitable that I'd pass a dog park, street corner or bodega and a memory would hit me so hard in my footsteps that I'd breakdown in tears. Thankfully that didn't happen (could you imagine me being that girl crying on the street?) and I was able to pull myself together and finish my poutine.

The truth-truth is New York means too much to me to not want it. It's where I spent most of my 20s, it's where I became an adult, it's where I've shared a million experiences with close friends and absolute strangers - it's the mother-effing City That Never Sleeps.

But the question is not whether I want New York or not--it's whether I wanted to leave. And that is where I found my closure. After five years, I did want to leave.

I found it hard to make decisions in New York - you know, life decisions. The ones where you decide, Where do I want my career to go? Where am I going to live in two years? Am I willing to pay the insane rent? What makes me happy? In a city of choice, I strangely felt limited by my options. There was always a trade off; if it wasn't money or time, it was some excuse. I can't blame a city on my decision-making capabilities, but the distractions and exhaustion of work and play muffled my ability to clearly think and make life decisions. So I forced myself to choose an open answer and made the first decision--move west.

During my first weeks in the California 'burbs, I felt like an alien or that I was in an alien-land. New York made me uniquely multi-dimensional (and maybe even slightly demented)--like a sheet of metal that's been sculpted, bent and warped, and if you place me on a perfectly leveled table, of course, I'll wobble and struggle to stay still. Well, I wobbled.

Separation from my friends gave me anxiety and the sleepiness of the suburbs put me in deeper isolation. Perhaps the transition would have been easier if I lived in San Francisco, but I wasn't looking for easy (or the 2-hour commute). I was looking for an ass-kicking, wake up call, detox of sorts. Through it, I'm hoping to gain clarity on what I want or don't want going into my 30s.

Slowly, I'm learning to appreciate the quiet. The weather is beautiful, the people are nice, and my time here is my time. I have time to do things like read, run and hike. In the mornings I take a shuttle to work and stare out of my window at the commercial office buildings, freeways, cloudless blue sky, hypnotized by its banal repetition. But before I can even think about missing the L train--its hipster fashion and crazy characters, I regain focus on an idea I've been working on or a goal I've set for myself. I regain focus on the future.

Now, it's my showtime.

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