New York, I love you, but you’re no longer my town.

It’s 9 years to the day that I moved to New York City. They say 10 years here makes you a New Yorker but I knew from the very start I was home. An NYC resident I became, and a city girl I’ll always be, but a New Yorker no longer. New York, I love you. You’re not bringing me down. You’re enigmatic, you’re breathtaking, you’re the most incredible place in the world. But I’m ready for a new muse. You’re no longer my town.

It’s not possible to describe how indebted I am to this city. I grew up here. I became who I am here. It’s been my classroom and my playground; my vice and my medicine; my cradle, my stomping ground. New York infused in me a lust for life that I consider my most powerful quality. During these past years, a full third of my life, I’ve watched it change so much. And I’ve changed so much, too.

I stepped off the subway as a wide-eyed student and transitioned into an explorer of my own city. I plotted late night hikes through the wilds of Central Park and the shadowy mazes of warehouses in Brooklyn. I ran from one edge of Manhattan to the other, promiscuous with misty kisses from both The East River and The Hudson in the same day. For a dollar seventy five I rode the subway deep into the sprawl, counting stops until it ran out of tracks and started its wind back.

And while I was lost in the thrill of it all, intoxicated by this endlessly layered metropolis, I was never lost in myself. In fact, as the years went by I learned more and more about my city, my place in the world, and what I had to offer. I dived into the world of music and art and never before found such fluidity and freedom and fun. I continued to be inspired by every little thing: the food carts and speakeasies; the museums and loft parties; the parks, the bridges, the bike routes; the DIY venues, the festivals, the blogs, the fucking MUSIC. Along the way I found love and family and community, all the things that make me who I am.

But this year I started to be able to adjust my blinders, seeing past this place that has become an integral part of my identity. I looked back into the world and I remembered that it’s such a big place. I started to feed my desire to experience more of it. I traveled across the world and found myself anew in the whisper of the wind in the trees. I sang with the dawn and the dusk, in tune with sun’s coos, across a wide, unobstructed sky. I fell in love every day, with mountains small and tall. I realized it had been so long since I lived for the simplicity of the land and not the sprawl.

I came back to New York and it just wasn’t the same. The magic wasn’t gone but it was somehow smaller. It was like all the things I’d loved about this city were a badge of honor, a school of learning that I had completed, a thick-markered check mark etched into my soul. Not only did I graduate, but I did so with a rainbow of flying shades, a cape of wisdom and perspective that will always fly behind me. And although it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done to part with all the puzzle pieces that make up my life, somehow they just don’t fit together anymore.

So, today, I leave. Just like I did almost a decade ago, when I entered New York with no expectations but a confidence that it was for me, I depart from a place I love to let my hunger for the world push me further. My fear of the unknown hides, safe and small, in the wide shadow of my lust for mystery.

It’s a comfort to know I will rediscover some of the things I love about NYC scattered throughout the rest of the globe, especially the adventurous friends that will meet me along the path. Mostly, though, I’m ready to soak up what else is out there, hidden in quiet, flower-soaked pastures and dusty, millennium-aged ruins, islands tall and thin as chess pieces, sleepy towns blanketed in sea fog. I will never forget the magic of this place, and I’ll probably never shut up about it, either, but I’m ready to let the rest of the world be my next muse.

Bye, New York. I’m grateful for everything you’ve taught me, and I’ll carry you wherever I go.