Goodbye to All That
December 5, 2010 10:34 AM   Subscribe

Please tell me your stories of running away from it all, going home again, and all those impossible things: the bits that tripped you up, the ways it did work out after all, etc. I am exploring the possibility of doing just that and I can't decide if this is a jump worth taking or just crazy.

I grew up in southern California and live in Brooklyn now. I've lived here for 10 years and I own my apartment. I'd been thinking about moving back west and then, bam! bad breakup central. I was living with my boyfriend, so there is a tenant in my apartment. My work has an office in San Francisco and an open position I could probably fill, I know some people out there, and my mom would be glad if I moved closer. I am a little sick of New York, though I hate to admit it because it makes me feel like a failure.

Basically, everything is set up to make it as easy as possible to move to San Francisco (well I would probably live in Oakland). It seems like the right time. I am sad about all the mistakes I have made in New York and am ready to make new mistakes in a place that looks a little different maybe. I'm going to start seeing a therapist here and I could see another if I moved, so I am definitely not thinking just a change of scenery will change me. At the same time, it seems like starting over would be easier elsewhere too.

I am not a social butterfly but I do have hobbies that I can pursue out there, so I am thinking I will not just be sitting at home, not making any friends.

I feel like that covers all the bases but I still wonder: Is this a totally horrible idea, doomed to failure?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (28 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
There's nothing wrong with this idea and it sounds like you want to do it. Go for it!
posted by The otter lady at 10:40 AM on December 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm all for moving. It never made sense to me why people advocate staying in one place and sticking it out, as if that's some test of character. If you can afford to move, (even if you're not happier) and you probably won't be any worse off in any way, go for it.

From personal experience, I have never once regretted moving anywhere I had an interest in, ever, even if short-term. Just taking action is healthy, I think.
posted by Nixy at 10:40 AM on December 5, 2010 [4 favorites]

I don't really see any failure any where in this post. You're moving from one place to another and moving forward with life.

Good luck with everything!
posted by p1nkdaisy at 10:41 AM on December 5, 2010 [3 favorites]

Basically, everything is set up to make it as easy as possible to move to San Francisco (well I would probably live in Oakland).

Most people don't ever have a set of circumstances like this. Do it, do it, do it.

If you later decide this was a mistake and you want to move back to New York it will be easier to do with the network you have built there. Nothing is permanent. Seize the day.
posted by grouse at 10:46 AM on December 5, 2010 [7 favorites]

I am a little sick of New York, though I hate to admit it because it makes me feel like a failure.

New York is a great place, but it can also be a total shithole place to live. If you make informed decisions about how you want your life to go, that's anything but failure. If NY is not doing it for you, it's smart to leave, just as it would be smart to leave Cleveland. Problem is NY has this super self-important air about it that tries to convince you that just by staying in this expensive dump you're doing something meaningful. In short, don't let the city layer useless concepts on to your decisions to leave. That whole "herp derp can't hack it NY" attitude is just something NYers who are stuck here use convince themselves it's worth it.
posted by milarepa at 10:47 AM on December 5, 2010 [15 favorites]

I am a little sick of New York, though I hate to admit it because it makes me feel like a failure.

Here is exactly what I wrote to a friend of mine a few days ago, goin through the same thing:

Don't fall into the "making it in NYC" trap; it's narcissistic nonsense. Living here isn't some sort of yardstick of personal accomplishment, and it never has been. No one ever "makes it" here. They get a room, get a job, and and build a life doing something they couldn't do somewhere else while taking blows they wouldn't have to take somewhere else.

The longer you stay here, the harder it is to ever leave, no matter how much you want to. Truth be told, if I could reasonably function outside of NYC, I probably would have stayed at any one of the places I have moved over the years. Or tried moving somewhere new. Believe me, there are even days I wish to god I had somewhere to go back to, like so many of my friends have.
posted by griphus at 10:51 AM on December 5, 2010 [4 favorites]

You certainly aren't a are just having a bunch of learning experiences. Appreciate the experiences for what they teach you then move forward. Also, you are an adult. If you want to move then move. You don't need anyone's permission to make changes in your life and you don't need to justify the things you do.
posted by MsKim at 10:52 AM on December 5, 2010

I don't see any failure here, either. Circumstances change and if you don't change with them, what have you learned? Rarely do things line up so well for people to make a big change like this, and what do you have to lose? If you don't like it back home, you can find somewhere else to go. I say take the plunge.
posted by cooker girl at 10:52 AM on December 5, 2010

You need to be happy where you live and not being happy with a particular setting is not a failure. That said, location is just one (admittedly big) piece of the puzzle, we have a tendency to drag out problems with us when we move, so yeah follow trough with the therapist, if you are thinking you need one now, even if you move.

It is not "doomed to failure", but, if it works out well, at least initially, don't fall into the trap of thinking the way out of problems is just to pack up and move. I know this is not what you are aiming for here, but the seductiveness of newness and a dramatic way out of all your problems can be dangerous. So, I say, it is good that you have reservations. Listen to them, but don't let them be the ultimate decider of what you end up doing.
posted by edgeways at 10:53 AM on December 5, 2010

Also, no idea is doomed to failure if it is made mindfully. It may certainly fail, and some have a higher chance of failure than others, but few decisions made with a rational mind and a sincere observation of circumstances are destined to fail from the start.
posted by griphus at 10:53 AM on December 5, 2010

Failure would sticking it out in NY just to prove you have character... another 10 years could go by in the blink of an eye.

It sounds like a great idea and a great time of year to move someplace warmer.
posted by bonobothegreat at 11:06 AM on December 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

Also, you're not even going "home"--southern California and San Francisco are really different.

It'll be fun. You'll have fun. It's completely brave to go to a new city, even if it's (hours away) in the same state you grew up in.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:09 AM on December 5, 2010

Yeah, I say go for it! I lived on the other side of the world for three and a half years, had an incredible time, then the point came that I just felt the need to return. I still look on my time away as one of the most wonderful of my life and when I sit thinking about things that make me happy to be me, it is always way up there. It didn't feel like a failure to come back - it would have been more of a failure to stay there forever if it wasn't what I wanted any more. And now being back home feels like a bit of an adventure in itself.

Things that tripped me up: When you're away, there's a sense that, regardless of your day-to-day life, you're doing something intrinsically special with your life by having an adventure, and you can miss that a little when you're back home.

The ways it did work out after all: When I first decided to come back home, it was partly an effort to test how much I really wanted to be away, to find out whether I was away because I really wanted to be, or whether it was just too much upheaval to emigrate again. To be honest, I really thought I'd head back out there within a year or two (ha - I still have some boxes in a friend's attic 8,000 miles away!), and I spent a lot of the first two years back home pining. Then I went out again to visit, got offered a good job on a plate - the job I thought I'd wanted for two years - and realised, deep down in my gut, that I didn't want to live there. Much as I'd idealised it for two years, I felt exactly the same as I had when I'd left. I loved it, but it wasn't the place for me right now. Since then, I still luxuriate in my memories of my time there, without pining. I might go back one day, but right now I'm very happy with the choice I made.

Good luck!
posted by penguin pie at 11:11 AM on December 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

I say go for it too.

I did it to London.

Went to University in Birmingham, loved the place, lived here for a few years after graduating, did Library School here. Couldn't get a job in the Midlands. Moved to London and lived there 8 years but never really took to it. Liked some things but the London-ness of it got more and more too much.

Moved in wtih OH and eventually he decided he didn't want the hotshot IT consultant career any more. I was in management in a library supplier and didn't love that either.

So we moved (back in my case) to Birmingham. 5 years ago. More "back" - I work in the SAME LIBRARY I worked in in 1992-93 and live in a suburb I knew well in those years. He is a tech in a pscychology lap at the University.

Best thing we ever did.

Only thing that was odd was that most of the people I knew here had moved away - but I made new friends through my hobby of BookCrossing and some old ones have since reappeared.

Good luck!
posted by LyzzyBee at 11:22 AM on December 5, 2010

Uh, I know I seem to be spamming your question, but here's one last thing.

My family comes from the long tradition of Russians who emigrated to New York in the early 1990s because their nation was a crumbling piece of crap ruled by petty bureaucrats and thieves. New York has a large Russian population and my mother brought us here because nowhere else really offered both the opportunity of America, and the ability to enter it in the way we did. She was a trained artist, not a professional, and we couldn't exactly to go Wyoming City, Ohio for her to get a job as a computer programmer, which is what my cousin's family did. So we came to New York and she got a job as an off-license art therapist and moved her way up from there, eventually become a specialist at a criminal psychiatric center. That's her immigration story. She could not have done that anywhere else. For that, we had to suffer New York: the prices, the commotion, the difficulty of having a car here (she drove from Coney Island to Harlem every day,) the difficulty of seeing my grandparents live in the projects, smack dab in the ghetto because that's the only place they could afford.

Everything my family did here, we did here because we had to. There was nowhere else to go that we could have "made it." And by "made it," I mean survived. That's what the city had to offer us.

I grew up here since I was six, and now I can't leave. I just can't. I've travelled and moved around quite a bit and nothing can offer me what New York can offer me, and without those things I am miserable. There's a line in Woody Allen's Manhattan, where his character observes that Woody's character can't "function" anywhere outside of the city. That's a sad truth for a lot -- albeit not all -- people who grow up here. We're stuck. And, honestly, that sometimes feels as much a "failure" as people who never leave their tiny little town in whereverthehell.

What I'm trying to say is that if New York isn't offering you what you need, go somewhere that is. Not because you couldn't "make it" here, but because there's no point in getting whipped by the city if you're not getting something in return you can't somewhere else. My mother took the blows because she was able to build a life for her family here. I take them because I can't live anywhere else, no matter how hard I try. For now at least.

Go to where you can make a life for yourself. And if you don't know where that is, experiment. Figure it out. That's all you can do, really.
posted by griphus at 11:23 AM on December 5, 2010 [5 favorites]

The New York thing is, well, a New York thing. Outside of New York, no one will care that you lived there, that you failed or succeeded there, or that you left. There's this idea New Yorkers have that New York is, like, the only place that matters in the world. (Except for maybe London and Paris.) I say this as a New Yorker (or former New Yorker?) who subscribed to this belief wholeheartedly for decades, but finally realized there were (shock!) a lot of interesting places. (NYC is still my favorite place, I just realized I don't need to live there.) So don't worry at all about that part. No one elsewhere will even think about it, and if any of your New York friends drop you for it, they're asses anyway.

As for the moving home part, I did that, sort of. I moved back to the state (not the town, that's important I think) that I grew up in. I didn't move there directly when I left New York, but that's where I ended up. I hate to do this, it looks obnoxious, but I write a blog that's sort of about moving back to a different part of my "home" state and finding out how different it is to me now as an adult. In my profile if you care.

And most importantly, if you don't like it in CA, you can always move again! Back to New York or to anywhere else. There's no reason not to try.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 11:40 AM on December 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

Brooklyn and San Francisco are both places that I moved to. (I've moved to many places. Usually everything has worked out well.) I liked both, and each has its own wonderful unique qualities, but I liked San Francisco better.

You're right - you're well set up to move. And you may be able to enjoy it too, e.g., drive across the country, visiting friends and seeing all the interesting sites along the way.
posted by coffeefilter at 11:42 AM on December 5, 2010

I grew up and lived most of my adult life in Houston. My husband followed a job to Jersey City/NYC and we lived there for two years and ended up hating it. We did another two years in suburban NJ (Princeton) before a trip back to Texas made us decide it was time to come home. We now live in Austin and are very happy, so happy we just bought a house because we plan to live here permanently. We're closer to our parents (Houston and Dallas) in case of emergency, but not too close; we have alumni and other social connections here; and it's enough like our hometown lifestyle-wise to make us happy.

Your situation sounds like a great chance to make a break that's positive. Don't think of it as running away from New York; think of it as running toward a life you'd like better.
posted by immlass at 11:47 AM on December 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

I grew up moving to different countries every few years and there is nothing like the exhilaration of starting fresh. Yes, it's scary. Yes, you will miss the people you leave behind, and that one little bakery, and the way the sky looks on a fall afternoon.
But it's a chance to - what do the kids call it? - reboot your life. All those mistakes? No one knows about them. All those chances you were scared to take? New opportunity to try again.

Few people have the dominoes so well lined up: it's like even the universe is saying go for it.

And in re NYC: there are some of us who are cursed with the inability to live anywhere else. Even though we sound obnoxious when we yammer on about it endlessly, you should pity us. It's nothing do with failure and success, more like pathology. If you are not so cursed, you should rejoice - and flee.
posted by CunningLinguist at 11:58 AM on December 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

I moved halfway across the country a couple years ago. If I could distill it down to one lesson, it would be this: I'm glad I've gone and experienced a new city instead of spending that time sitting in the same old city doing the same old thing and grumbling about how I want to leave.

You sound pretty realistic about this - you don't seem to be thinking your new life in San Francisco will suddenly and magically be perfect - and you're ready to be done with New York for a little while. Do it. Be prepared for challenges with moving and adjusting, but most things worth doing are challenging.
posted by Metroid Baby at 12:22 PM on December 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

My "New York" was Florida.

I moved back to NC (I'm from here) with my hubby and kids. It has worked out really well. The time away was very good for me -and I spent over a decade away-so in all, it all worked out, both the moving to and living in Florida, and the moving back to NC.

Do it!
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:39 PM on December 5, 2010

Waffles are great. But if you were forced to eat waffles every day, after a while who could fault you for thinking "You know, I think I'd rather have some scrambled eggs today."

Life is about experiences, especially new and different experiences.
You desire change—here's you chance.

(And if anyone's pissy about you being tired of waffles... who cares? That's their business.)
[In this comment, the role of NYC is being played by Cornelius J. Waffle]
posted by blueberry at 2:35 PM on December 5, 2010

You have a job and own an apartment there; you "made it."

My only question for you is if the Bay Area will feel too sleepy for you. It's a city with stuff to do, but friends who spent a bunch of time in NYC and then returned have sometimes commented on how things close at night or "I thought this was a big city but now it seems smaller to me." This will probably go moreso in Oakland. (I love Oakland and live here myself. And I've spen very little time in NYC by which to compare.)
posted by salvia at 3:20 PM on December 5, 2010

Do it! I've left cities where I wasn't happy and it's always worked out for the best (including NYC, fwiw). You're clear you're not running away; you're looking for a change. As long as you don't go in thinking life will be perfect and shiny and wonderful and problem-free in the Bay Area, you'll be fine. The people I know who've not moved around a lot regret it more than the people I know who've tried lots of different places.

And you can always move back (or somewhere new) if you're not happy a year from now. There's no shame in trying new places or old places a new time.
posted by min at 6:10 PM on December 5, 2010

Change is NEVER a bad thing. After any life altering event, be it a breakup or just an enlightened moment, I say take free will to its fullest extent and go.

The experience I speak from is one that almost led to disownment of my parents. I was an engineer major and the semester of graduation, I was sick of the work and realized that it was not what I wanted to do in life. I had spent the previous summer trying to convince myself that the internship I had was exciting, but I think it truly was the last straw. I dropped out of college 9 credits short of graduating and took a year off from school and moved to France with my best friend. She was studying abroad and had a one bedroom apartment and I crashed on her couch for about 10 months. I worked odd jobs here and there, visited some historic places, and just did absolutely NOTHING. I had never felt more free in my life! I stopped worrying about what my parents thought or how I was going to be able to support myself in the long run, I just spent that year making sure I had no one to answer to (I also had a tough breakup). While I was in France, I started working as an Assistant Teacher for a little school and, now that I am back in the states, I am working for a non-profit charter school for children and loving every second of it. I also just finished my Masters in Education and could not have been happier with my college path. an avid fan of taking the road less traveled, I say do it! Yes, it may seem like a rockier path because you are going somewhere that is unknown, but just think of how much strength you are going to acquire for yourself!
posted by penguingrl at 8:40 PM on December 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Nothing is permanent - you can always change your mind and move back.

I did this, but I moved to the Middle East. Ended up having the time of my life and staying for 2.5 years. With the added bonus that I met the man that I'm now married to.

20 years from now are you going to regret trying, regardless of whether it ends up being perfect? Probably not. But given that it sounds like you really want to give this a go, I'm guessing you would regret it if you didn't.
posted by scrute at 9:11 PM on December 5, 2010

Hey, native New Yorker chiming in here. I get the idea of not wanting to leave to prove that you can hack it here. I've felt that myself, and yeah, I grew up here. I've also moved to San Francisco, as you're proposing to do. I say go for it. While I ended up coming back to NYC, it wasn't because of any failing of SF in particular or whatever, it was just my circumstances bringing me back here. At the risk of giving the nyc-narcissism more credibility, you already made it here. Now go make it somewhere else.

You should go for it. As others have mentioned upthread, taking action, whatever it is, will help you - I've found that being proactive about changing my situation is the best thing I can do for my happiness and sanity. It sounds like you could fairly easily make the move and even keep working for the same company. It sounds like, to put my SF airs on for an instant, the universe is telling you to do it.

Not sure if you've ever lived in the bay area, but exploring and getting adjusted to live there will be both a welcome distraction for you AND a lot of fun in general. I'm pretty sure you won't regret it, but if it doesn't work out and you really miss New York, you can always come back. Hell, I've left NYC four times now and here I am, back in Brooklyn - happy, mind you, and fairly well traveled with a lot of stories :)
posted by jacquilinala at 8:55 AM on December 6, 2010

I'd say to wait until your next lifetime and then... hang on. You only live once. DO IT!

Best of luck with the move!
posted by 2oh1 at 4:06 PM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

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