Why I Broke Up With New York City

new york city

view from the roof deck in my last New York City apartment

In 4 weeks exactly, I will celebrate an important anniversary.

Exactly 11 months ago to the day, a friend and I packed up our fabulous apartment in New York City and drove 15 hours until we saw the Chicago skyline.

It’s been almost 1 whole year since I did this scary thing – left New York – and dared to build a life elsewhere.

I planned to post this entry closer to the 1 year mark, but my friend Irene (in New York City no less), sent me an article, entitled “Why I’m Glad I Quit New York at Age 24” today, in which Ann Friedman chronicles with great sincerity, the reasons why she left New York and her “Meh” feelings on the city in general.

The topic of New York City has been implanted in my mind, unwavering, since I moved.

Between meeting new people (HI! I just moved here from NYC…), my new co-workers, friends back east and random strangers, the topic of the move comes up more than talk of the weather.  And every time I’m at a house-warming, networking event or on a date, I feel extremely unsettled about my answer.

Why DID I leave New York?  Why don’t I EVER want to live there again?

Every time I hear these questions, a slew of verbal diarrhea ejects itself ranging from reasons to do with work, family, my childhood in the Mid-West or just LOVING the deep-freeze of winter (not really).

Unlike Ann, who moved to NYC because she couldn’t think of anywhere else to go and followed a boyfriend who reportedly had her dream job, my path and times in NYC weave a different tale.

As a child, I was fortunate enough to visit New York almost every year.  My parents’ best friends (the ones who are credited with birthing Irene) moved to New York City when we immigrated from Ukraine, while we settled in Michigan.  I found myself visiting New York “frequently” on family trips when I was a child and then on my own when I was older to see Irene.  The lights of Times Square used to mesmerize me.  Irene’s parents would take us driving through during every visit.  Those big billboards represented big dreams to me (12 year-old me thought corporate America was like six flags) and I longed to grow up and find these corporate dreams of my own.

Once I grew up, my educational goals pushed me to the East Coast.  I attended a competitive liberal arts school, after which, what felt like my entire graduating class, moved to New York City.

I didn’t follow a boyfriend (he ended up moving a year later to follow me).  I was psyched about my first job (until I wasn’t).  I lived with one of my best friends from college (see Brunch post).  I had 3 jobs during my 5-year tenure in the city, during which time I had great experiences, and one of which was in the smack center of Times Square.  I even had my little brother by my side, after he graduated and moved to NYC (and lived on my couch for 3 months).

From the outside, my NYC life probably looked like a Great Gatsby party or a Sex and the City episode (except with parades of frat boys and no Louboutins – those actually aren’t affordable, Carrie).

Somehow though, the city left me incredibly unsettled and – this has been hard to admit – I don’t think I was ever incredibly happy.  Yes, I had some great times and I accomplished professional goals and I frolicked with old friends and made new ones.

But I somehow still felt like I was in a box.

Ann describes New York as the prom king in high school: “He knows he’s great, and he’s gonna make it really, really hard on you if you decide you want to love him.”

I think in my version the prom king loves you back and you realize he’s a douche.  Or you’re Cady Heron in Mean Girls and you’re accepted by the popular clique only to find out that the 3 of them are absolutely miserable people.

I haven’t put an exact stamp on my feelings.

Maybe it has something to do with the eventual break-up with my now ex-boyfriend.  Maybe it has to do with my lack of desire to hang out with the prom king while he runs around town telling everyone he’s #1.  Maybe I was just getting tired of being shoved on the subway in the morning.

Maybe it’s all 3.

I realize this topic hits on some buttons for many people and there are those that love NYC with extreme passion.  I still have friends who are there and love it.

I will say this though, I agree with Ann – I breathed easier after moving.

Over the past year, as hard as it is, I’ve thrown myself into establishing a life here.  I decorated my first personal apartment by picking out furniture piece by piece, I joined internal organizations at work, I went to networking events, I started coaching figure skating again, I put in effort to reconnect with high school friends I’ve lost touch with and I’ve opened myself up to finding matches in new dating pools.

It was hard.  But even on the hardest day, I still breathe easier.

The city you live in that suits you is a personal choice.

On this anniversary, I’m proud of myself for taking a leap of faith and leaving.  The move has turned a number of my worlds upside down, but it’s also grounded many.

I feel happy about the direction I’m moving in, and that friends,… is Awesome.

23 thoughts on “Why I Broke Up With New York City

  1. My feelings about NYC is that it was about money. I didn’t feel welcome. I loved Chicago because I felt that between the airport was a place I could live along the train line, the streets were wide, the park huge, but I also felt that the winters would be that much crueler. In the end, it’s the dream job and making enough money that makes it a place to live. As an artist and writer any place that’s been discovered and gentrified is not a place that I can afford.

    • Everything in New York is so expensive. I think it puts on a strain on life in general. Even when you have a great job and making good money – you still feel like you can’t afford anything. Part of the reason I lived with roommates for so long is because studio apartments are just not affordable (if you want to live in a semi-nice place). I can see how being an artist and a writer forces limited means – the good news is that you’re doing what you love. Sometimes I think about quitting my job and just writing. Such a tough place this world – the mindless corporate jobs pay well but the jobs that require heart and talent pay little. I would like it to be reverse for just a little…..

      • Yes, take it from me, our hearts are of little value in a capitalistic world, because they don’t need our hearts. They only need, one arm according to henry ford to put one piece on a car as it goes down the conveyor belt. Our hearts conflict with monotony. Our soul’s purpose has no relevance to a “work harder and faster” philosophy.

      • It’s true and no matter how much I love the subject nature of my job (I do) – the work harder and faster part has recently been wearing on me in a big way. Enough already!

  2. Great blog! I get what you’re saying here. We both love living here, but I look at it through rose colored goggles while my wife has a more measured view. She notices rats in the subway while I notice public art on the street corners. Glad you are happy where you are, and New York would be happy for you to visit any time and promises not look foolish by pestering you to come back like an old jilted boyfriend.

    • THANK YOU! I really appreciate this comment. You are totally right – it’s all in how you look at it. Thanks also for the maturity in this response. I can tell how measured you are just by this comment. The boyfriend part made me smile. I just got a text from a friend (who is a boy) the other day asking me for the 10th time how I’m liking Chicago and if I miss New York yet. Looks like you and your wife are doing big things in NYC (judging by your blog). I wish you both incredible luck. I’ll be reading!

  3. Great blog! enjoyed the read.

    I think in life we are always on the search for that better life until we finally find it and then settle. I think maybe that’s what happened to you. It sounds like you have found your happy place in Chicago and have settled comfortably.
    Someone asked me after i got back from NYC if i would ever live there and i immediately said Yes, but then after thinking about it some more i realized that as much as I absolutely loved it there i don’t think i could permanently move there. I think i can handle New York in small doses, I’m way too laid back for a city like NYC.

    I hope you have many more happy years in Chicago 🙂

    • Hello!! Thank you so much! I am looking forward to enjoying another year (and many more?) in Chicago. I know many people who share your NYC sentiment who have never lived there. For me personally… I think Chicago is definitely home right now. I don’t know where life will take me or where else I might live later on, but for now, I am settled! Thanks for reading and taking the time to write this comment. Much appreciated!

  4. What made you pick Chicago? I’ve been a few times and have known for a while that if and when I leave New York, that’s probably where I’ll head next, but I’m just not ready to yet because it would most definitely require at least a partial career change.

    • Hello!!

      Chicago. For me Chicago has always been a happy medium between the nonstop activity of NYC and a smaller city. I still love the hustle of a big city, which is why I moved to the smack center of downtown Chicago. I also feel like people are nicer, things are much more accessible (I have many examples if you’d like) and it’s cleaner (ha).

      I also had to think about where my heart was pushing me. I grew up in Michigan and wanted to be closer to my family for the first time in a long time. My grandpa is getting older and my little sister is 13 (I have some posts about her) so I want to be closer to see them more often. I’m actually going home this weekend and then again in a few weeks for my aunt’s 60th birthday. Definitely a luxury I didn’t have before unless I wanted to get on a plane every few weeks.

      As far as the career change – I completely understand. I was lucky to have my company relocate me but I can tell you that it came with some complications and changes to my career path and opportunities. There have been frustrations and it’s definitely something I’m working on now. Obviously all of these choices are personal and are on a case by case basis. For me, having some growing pains with my career is worth it at this point to keep building my life here.

      When you’re ready, Chicago will be psyched to have you!!!

  5. Lovely, heartfelt post! I spent lots of time visiting NY in my 20s and absolutely DID NOT want to live here. However, now married for almost 10 years and in my 30s, AND building a future in the Arts Management community, it is exactly what I need. However, definitely not a long term plan. I think Chicago is wonderful. Way to follow your heart…

    • Thank you! I completely understand. And of course I’ve learned to never say never in terms of where life will take you… Very cool about your ballet background. I’m a former competitive figure skater. One of the things I’ve been experienced a bunch recently is going to the Joffrey for ballet performances (went a couple of times in the past 2 months). I think it’s VERY cool that you’re “re-inventing” yourself in this space. Good luck!! Looking forward to following your blog as well. 🙂

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