The Boomerang Effect

What goes around comes around, sometimes better than before.

I was miserable, or so I thought. New York had taken the best of me and I wasn’t happy with what was left. After living in the city for over 20 years, I was done. Worse yet, it was December and we were heading into another training season of Olympic puddle jumping just to cross the street.

I just couldn’t take another winter. It was the time of the year when I felt the city least shined, kicked off by the massive crowds of tourists at holiday time, followed by the intense push to close out the year profitably (I work in retail). That’s before the real cold sets in when we are forced to bundle up before stepping outside and leave wet shoes outside the door upon our return. On the professional front, I was feeling stunted and unsatisfied and New York no longer felt like a healthy and supportive place to be. I found myself in need of a change. But who leaves NYC? And who ever comes back? Those were questions I had asked myself many times over the years. In my mind, the ones who couldn’t cut it left and those who returned did so unsuccessfully because their outer shell softened in the outside world and they could no longer navigate the hard edges of the city.

It was during my New Years vacation in Miami when the idea came up. My jewelry designer friend needed someone with retail experience to help him grow his business. The company, however, was based in Miami and the position would require me to relocate to Florida. As you can imagine, that was looking pretty good at that point. In addition to being a big fan of Miami, I actually owned a condo there which I rarely saw because of the inflexibility with my current job so the idea of being able to spend more time there was an attractive proposition. Professionally, it would be a challenge like no other I’d had in my career. Then there was the thought of escaping the NY winters, getting out of the rat race and not having to jockey for everything everywhere. After 20 years in the city, I had become the cliché New Yorker. My mornings consisted of reserving the right seat in the right spin studio followed by selecting the right restaurant while positioning myself in the exact right spot on the subway platform to strategically exit the station. Evenings were filled going to said spin classes or eating at said restaurants and going to bed, only to wake up and do it over and over again. After careful consideration, I decided to take the plunge and do something different, new and entrepreneurial. I decided to leave New York and while I planned to keep my apt and come back as often as possible, I would be working in Miami.

This lasted approximately two years. Things with the business turned out to be more difficult than anticipated and I quickly understood why not all startups succeeded. But more personally, I realized how much I missed New York. I didn’t just miss by friends and my apartment, I missed many of the things that drove me crazy about the city in the first place. Who would have expected that I would become MORE tense and MORE frustrated by living in Miami? Certainly not me. From the road rage caused by the impossibly bad drivers to the fact that you can be the only person in a restaurant and STILL have it take 20 minutes to get a menu, Miami tested my last nerve and eventually won. I came to appreciate that if the person walking in front of me was moving too slow, I could walk around them. Sidewalk too crowded? Walk in the street. That becomes much more difficult in a car. The line at the deli on the corner is too long? Go to the one across the street or the one down the street from there. Like every New Yorker, I feel like I’m smarter than the rest and I can figure anything out. Go ahead and shut down the red line when I have four minutes to get from Soho to Columbus Circle. I’ll show you. You are constantly problem solving and that was the part of my brain I missed using by living in Miami.

So I’m moving back. My experiment will soon be over but the findings to me are quite significant. Many of the things that annoyed me about NY I actually learned to appreciate with my time away. Miami allowed me to better understand how I’m wired which I wouldn’t have been able to see had I never left. While behaviors can change over time, changing ones wiring is much harder. Turns out my wiring is better suited for a place like New York than Miami. Miami is a beach town and for the most part, people are on vacation. When you’re in vacation mode, a 30 minute wait for a sandwich is 30 minutes to catch up on Facebook or catch some sun. To me, it was 30 minutes outside the office when I needed to get things done. In 30 minutes, I could have walked to the store, bought the ingredients and made my own sandwich. That’s the difference between the two mindsets and either you get it or you don’t.

Accepting that this was how I was wired was the first step. The next step is to figure out how to not become a slave to the city and focus more on the here and now. Living my life in the present tense will allow for the balance and calm I was missing before by focusing so much on the future and where I was going. On my visits back to the city recently, I’ve been very conscious of not racing around like I used to, taking time to look up and around, making eye contact with those passing by. So far, it seems to be working. Just don’t get me started about the winter since I’m still trying to figure out how not to short circuit my wiring in the cold weather.

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