Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Why We Left New York

Molly from Smart, Pretty & Awkward asked me the other day whether I'd blogged about our decision to leave New York, and it occurred to me that I never really did. I didn't even announce that we were moving until Peanut had already moved out to start his new job. I wasn't just private about it on the blog - I didn't give my family and friends much warning that we were leaving also, even though we knew for a long time.

We are quickly coming up on my one-year anniversary of being away from New York, so I think the time has come to talk about it.

First off, I love New York. I wanted to live there my whole life, and I moved there right after college for what was supposed to be a six-month internship. I stayed nearly eight years. I still love New York, even though I knew that I didn't want to live there anymore. Moving there was one of the single best decisions I ever made in my life, and I hope that moving away will likewise prove to be one of the best - but only time will tell that.

When Peanut and I got married, we had something of a plan for where we wanted our lives to go. We knew we wanted kids, and we knew we wanted to raise our kids close to at least some of our family members. We knew we wanted the option for me to stay home with kids for a little while. And we wanted to raise our kids in some semblance of the lives we led growing up. Unfortunately, those things were not possible in New York.

It is definitely possible to raise kids in New York, and I think that a childhood in New York would be a supremely awesome thing to experience. But it's WAY far afield from my own childhood in rural Tennessee and from Peanut's in suburban Minnesota. We had visions of houses with yards and maybe dogs, of neighborhood parks with grass instead of cement, of regular visits with grandparents and cousins. With no hope of ever living in anything larger than a two-bedroom apartment and no family within four states in any direction, New York just didn't meet those needs.

I actually used to have nightmares about being nine months pregnant and standing on the subway, or wrestling a stroller and a toddler through the turnstiles. Thinking of New York daycare also turned my stomach in knots, not to mention the competitive nature of kindergarten and elementary schools. And although we lived on one income pretty well sans kids, we would have struggled to do that if I had quit (my full-time job provided health insurance, and jobs with benefits are hard to come by there in Peanut's field - it's a freelancer's world).

So, I think you could say that the biggest reason we moved was for our future children. We wanted to create a life where we were more in control of our lifestyle than we felt we could be in New York. But there was more to it than that, too.

We felt like our lives were going too fast. My job was prestigious and, frankly, awesome, but it was very stressful. I tried hard to establish firm work/life balance boundaries, but it was not uncommon for my colleagues to be at work until 10 at night and much of the weekend - every week and every weekend. I learned that I am much happier when I can leave work at work, and I didn't feel that that would be possible if I stayed in my field in New York. (I suspect that because New York is so full of amazing, successful people, it's not really possible in ANY field, but obviously I can't prove that.) Likewise, Peanut was making crazy money doing freelance and he was working on some super cool projects, but more than once he wound up at the office for 20 hours in a row for most of a week, and at times, our paths didn't really cross for days. That was NOT how I wanted to spend the first year of our marriage, much less the rest of it.

We also felt that our connections in New York were fairly superficial. We had a broad network of friends, but not many deep, abiding friendships, especially as a couple. I think this is a side effect of a transient population - friendships don't go back years and years, people move in and out of the city, they move to a different borough and you rarely see them, they move to Jersey and you never see them again. (Kidding. Kind of.) We knew whether we moved back to his home state or mine that we would be able to settle near the kind of friends-who-are-basically-family we were looking for, and we weren't sure we would have ever found that in New York.

And lastly, from what I remember, we were both tired. We were tired of the constant noise, the sub-par accommodations, the high prices for everything, the feel of people pushing past you and climbing over you. Some people are wiped out by the energy of New York within their first ten minutes in the city; some people in my family are like that. They hate the feeling of feeling drained by so many other people in such a small geographic area. It took me eight years to notice it, but once I did, I'm not sure I could have ever shaken it. I'll be going back to New York in a few weeks for the first time since I moved away, and I'm full of trepidation and excitement at the thought. Who will have changed more, me or New York?

Part II: Did we get what we wanted? Coming up soon!


  1. I didn't realize you were from Tennessee! I grew up in Memphis and live in Knoxville now (and have lived in Chattanooga and Nashville).

    I felt the same way about my old job. It was a good, prestigious job, but it had me working so many hours that I never had a life. I missed my family and friends, and I knew the sooner I made a change the easier that change would be.

    Kudos to you and your husband for identifying what you wanted and making the change.

  2. I've lived in a small town my entire life, so I have no idea what it would be like to live in a city. But I can imagine that the pace would have to get to you after awhile. When I go to Nashville, I'm always blown away by the traffic alone - just going to the closest McDonald's would take an hour!

    The older I get, the more important balance becomes. And kids definitely change everything. I've wondered many times what his life would be like if he had been raised outside the country, but I think my decision to stay here has been the best one for our situation. Looking forward to reading how it has turned out for you guys!

  3. I think city life is more suited for when you are young, as you get older and plan to have children and spend more time with you significant other, peace and tranquility take the forefront.

  4. I wished I would have lived in NY, even for just a little bit of time in my 20's. I think I wouldn't have minded the energy, the small space, etc. But now I need space. And yes I live in LA and sometimes that's hard to come by, but it's a LOT different than NY. I can totally see how you would want to move...but at the same time maybe miss it in its own way. :)


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