It’s up to me, New York, New York


Deciding where to live next has become a circular conversation.

There are people who pick up and move to a new city out of boredom, wanderlust, opportunity, a break-up, a rut, school, job. Many go from one place to another due to life circumstances that make moving a necessity — from good ones to terrible.

My ex-boyfriend moved to Atlanta instead of joining me in New York after college just because he heard it was cool. It was on the verge of becoming Hotlanta and he was to be part of it. That moment has been found recently in Austin, Nashville, LA even. And many smaller cities too. My very edgy rockstar hair stylist is strongly contemplating Dallas. And one of the coolest families I knew in New York has decamped for Raleigh-Durham.

I speak to a lot of people about their journeys, their families’. One woman said living in other cities really provides a new perspective on life.

New York has been the place I’ve called home for most of mine. Many of my friends would never dream of leaving it (despite moving perhaps to the ‘burbs). But lately, I’ve been feeling like maybe it’s time for a change. And that is all. I can certainly stay and make it work but is it the best for me, my family, my career? Can I thrive here or am I treading water? Do I need to leave to shake that balance?

Some years ago when I first graduated, I put myself in therapy to address the loss of my mother when I was a young girl. After visiting some friends and family in LA, I told therapist that I really liked it and could see myself there. He, in his typical therapist way, talked of things like geographical fixes that don’t fix what’s inside. Even looking back now, despite all I was going through, I just liked LA. I was in my early twenties. I had lived in DC and abroad during college. I had a sense when I liked a town enough to consider living there. (There weren’t that many — and even to this day, not that many cities call me enough to consider a move). But, at the time, my father was still alive and that is probably what kept me from really entertaining thoughts of venturing far.

Even when my father died not long after that, I didn’t entertain leaving New York because I just went into survival mode. So life proceeded and I went on with tunnel vision, living the New York life — the super busy one that everyone speaks of. Friends, work, endless lists of goings on to check out, super frenetic freneticness and many conversations about real estate.

When my band’s rehearsal space became completely intolerable (small, loud, mice, yet over $1000), on a whim, we began spending a lot of time upstate in the Hudson Valley. There, I recorded and wrote as hoped but also spent a lot of time exploring. I fell in love with the area and learned that, despite a childhood spent far too often indoors, I really am outdoorsy.

It sort of solved our space issue — mental and physical — by giving us more on the weekends. But our work brought us back to the City to make a living — to afford the little cottage and our small apartment.

Eventually, we gave up the weekend place, however affordable, thanks in part to the economic downturn and a slowdown in projects or ones that defaulted in payments. Plus, we determined that if we ever wanted to buy something, it was time to start saving.

Then, we became a family of 3. Still in the same tight apartment that really works best for a single person with no hobbies and a busy work and/or social life that keeps them out and about. So, we should at least do a check-in and answer the question: why are we here?

It is existential but also practical. We need more space but where in the world do I belong? Why do some people have a heartbeat song to venture just for the sake of venturing to a city like Portland or Houston and others to never venture much farther than their “backyard”? (See?…Circular conversation…). New York was a destination for my immigrant parents (each from separate countries) because it was the epicenter of the better opportunity they were seeking. I don’t know that that is the case all together anymore. Sure there are many industries here and avenues to pursue to make a living or pursue a dream but opportunities are cropping up in many other cities. And the prices are unmanageable, even in areas that were once considered a relative steal.

The cosmopolitan-, artsi-, edgi-, uniqueness are all waning as prices continue to wax exorbitant. And though some would argue there is no comparison — in spirit, food, art, fashion, energy — much of these can be found and found well in smaller cities.

It is so very relative when one has the luxury of just choosing.

What makes sense for our lifestyle, quality of life, careers? Can I justify upgrading to just 200–3oo more square feet from my currently very small apartment for an astronomical price? Does the price justify the wonderfulness of New York? If I can’t answer that, it is time to leave.

I can’t use parents as an excuse to stay as mine are long gone. But partly what makes it hard to consider leaving is that I have spent many years building a family of friendships that has become my family. And those are big shoes to fill. It is also perhaps not a good enough reason to stay, as many members of this extended family are leaving — for the suburbs, or other cities, for cheaper, easier, different, artsier, quieter.

Yet, I haven’t left — even for an outer borough area because moving is so duanting. And that may be another factor: Wherever this move may be, I want to stay for a good number of years, so there is this pressure to make sure the decision is “perfect.”

The compulsive list of places I’m considering fall into four tiers that form concentric circles outward: a dozen areas in 4 of the 5 boroughs of New York City; 2 or 3 towns in New Jersey, Westchester, and Long Island; several towns in the Catskills and Hudson Valley region; Los Angeles, Nashville, Austin, Philly, and, on a particularly whimsical day, Berlin and Paris. And Raleigh-Durham does sound intriguing.

I take note of what is written in Lifestyle and Real Estate sections, then lament that everyone will jump up on the bandwagon and send prices soaring. This happens often in New York. Just last year alone, there seemed to be 5 different articles about why the Jackson Heights neighborhood in Queens is so fab. And with every such story, the prices seemed to jump tenfold.

But if we love New York, we can make it work like millions do. So we must answer this question: do we love it enough to stay?

To answer that, I decided to embark on a comparison mission, which I am happy to say is finally underway. It has included a handful of trips to various parts of the New York area, Nashville, and LA. This exploration could go on indefinitely, given my curiosity and compulsivity, not to mention the untold possibilities when one clicks on a real estate site. So I realized I must identify a date to make a decision too — and that date must be in this calendar year. In fact, it is September 30.

Which area will be the winner?

Have you moved somewhere new?