Possibly Moving to Atlanta
February 14, 2011 7:16 PM   Subscribe

I'm thinking of leaving New York for Atlanta.

I moved to New York a year ago from LA to pursue my career as a freelance illustrator, but the past year has not been great. I was encouraged to move here by my sister, but I could only live with her a few months before I had to move. I had to move two more times, and now my savings are almost completely gone, and I still can't find work. It would be easier to find work as a graphic designer than an illustrator, but I haven't worked as a graphic designer for ten years, and my online portfolios are exclusively illustration, and I don't have the time or resources right now to put a design portfolio together.

My living situation is also really depressing me. I am currently subletting from a friend of a friend-- it's a 2-BR apartment, but it is filled with 20 years worth of his stuff (including one bedroom which is used for nothing but bike storage) and I barely have any space for my own. It also has been very badly maintained, with a roach problem that won't go away (I've been using pro roach bait gel to contain the problem, but I've seen roaches in the microwave). The tension pole that held up several bikes in the bike room also fell down a week ago, and as there is a tension pole with bikes right above my desk, I'm afraid it might come crashing down on me while I'm working there. Another friend asked me to be his roommate, which is awesome, but as he's deathly allergic to cats, and I have two cats of my own, that's not really an option either. I do not think my sister will let me move back in with her; in fact, I can almost guarantee she'd say no.

So, my BFF down in Georgia lives in a nice house in Peachtree City, in the Atlanta area, and she has asked me to move in with her husband and her kids. They're all down with it-- the kids actually like me a lot, since I visit them all the time. I'd have my own bedroom, plenty of room to keep my stuff, and they'd help me look for a job. She would even drive up to NY to help me move. But even though this past year has been difficult, I like New York a lot, and I've made a lot of friends here. I've been resisting the idea of moving again-- she lives really deep in suburbia, and I sold my car when I left LA. But unless an amazing job pops up here in the next week or so, I think I'm going to have to bite the bullet and move.

Anyone familiar with the Atlanta area: how is the art/design job market? Is there a lot of demand for traditional illustrators? If I did move down there, how can I rebuild my social life after living in NYC? I don't know anyone down there except for my friend.

(For the record, I would like to move back to New York eventually, but if this happens I think I'll get a job there first before I leave. NY is a miserable place to be when you're poor.)
posted by suburbanbeatnik to Work & Money (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you're miserable, the only solution is to make a change.

I say go.
posted by shew at 7:25 PM on February 14, 2011

I can see how stressful it would be to be running out of money in NYC, but I don't know, moving from there (since it seems that NYC is the place you ultimately want to be), to suburban Atlanta without a car seems like a bad idea. It sounds like a very nice offer, but if I were you, I'd think twice about how depressing it might be to be isolated there with just your friend to lean on.

Can you take any kind of temp work in the NYC area and find a cheap sublet on craigslist? How about moving in with the friend who is allergic to cats and possibly temporarily re-homing your cats? I know that's not ideal, but you are in a pickle.

Why do you think your sister will not let you stay at her place?
posted by Sal and Richard at 7:29 PM on February 14, 2011

One thing to keep in mind, Peachtree City is to Atlanta as someplace in NJ would be to NYC. Peachtree City is a bedroom community, a good 30 miles or so from downtown Atlanta. You'll be living in the land of Minivans driven by moms wearing,, um, mom jeans? It's a perfectly nice little suburban enclave, but is the complete opposite of living in NYC. However, odds are your BFF does not have a roach problem.
posted by COD at 7:34 PM on February 14, 2011 [4 favorites]

Can your cats move to Atlanta without you for a while?
posted by Andrhia at 7:38 PM on February 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

The nice thing about living with your BFF in Atlanta is that, presumably, she'll let you out of the lease whenever you want. So, in the worst case, you go to suburban Atlanta, you can't find work or friends, but you do have a bit of time to plan your next move without roaches, without giving up your cat, and without an expensive (and probably hard to break) lease in New York.

You should go there to regroup and take the pressure off of yourself. If it turns out that in a few months, you find work in the city, meet some friends, and an affordable apartment, great! If not, you can go wherever you want next, and this time, you'll be able to carefully consider the illustrator market and cost of living of your target city.
posted by ignignokt at 7:38 PM on February 14, 2011

(But if you do move to your BFF's house, definitely be very, very careful of not moving the roaches.)
posted by ignignokt at 7:40 PM on February 14, 2011

Atlanta's suburbs and exurbs are the kinds of places where it's practically mandatory to have a car. Can you afford at least a beater to get you to the store and back?

If not, I would worry about feeling dependent on your hosts, and trapped at home. That's not a happy position to be in.
posted by ErikaB at 7:40 PM on February 14, 2011

It's strange reading about someone who lives in NYC and is looking to move to PTC, since half the kids I grew up with executed the reverse action.

Peachtree City is an awesome biking town, I will say that (golf cart/ biking paths run literally everywhere within the city limits-- when I lived there, I knew people who had golf carts instead of cars). I'm not really sure how the graphic design/ illustration scene is in Atlanta, but I've known people who've made a decent amount of money doing freelance design work. There are a few [very, very] small publishing companies around and I know that SCAD Atlanta keeps several freelance designers employed, although they often draw on their own alumni for that.

Keep in mind that Peachtree City, while depressingly suburban, is actually very scenic. If you're looking for a change or a breather, it's not a bad place to go, although it's not an area you'd want to settle down in. I grew up there, and it gets constricting after a while. There's not much to do and one thing that really bugs me about it is that there aren't very many independent stores or restaurants (except Omega Books, which is pretty cool). Really, though, the worst that can happen is you hate it and move out in a few months with a new experience under your belt.
posted by DeusExMegana at 7:55 PM on February 14, 2011

PTC is a lovely place but a long way from the ATL. You have to figure in the southside traffic. The southside traffic is horrific!!
posted by pearlybob at 8:11 PM on February 14, 2011

Peachtree City's pretty much the exurban fringe, even by the standards of Atlanta sprawl. Most people who aren't enjoying the golf cart trails are commuting on I-85 at awful hours and enduring that particular hell on earth. You already know that from visiting, and you already know that moving with an eye on staying means going back to basic logistical requirements -- car, tolerance of long drives and long tailbacks -- that are more LA than NYC.

I think ignignokt's right that you could do with a chance to regroup in pleasanter surroundings. That said, I'd share ErikaB's worries about feeling trapped in a different living arrangement, because it's the getting from home to work and back -- and the social isolation of the burbs -- that makes Atlanta wearing.
posted by holgate at 8:14 PM on February 14, 2011

NYC has a way of telling you when it's time to go, and it really sounds like it's time. Enjoy the quiet and the change of pace. You can always move back. Besides, NYC is so full of second timers it's practically a rite of passage. Also.
posted by mochapickle at 8:23 PM on February 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you were thinking of moving closer to the city proper and working entirely within the range of public transport (which, let's face it, isn't nearly as extensive as NYC), I'd say go for it. If not, you will be dependent on your friend for transport to interviews and jobs (or at least to the closest MARTA stop or station).
As others are saying, Peachtree City isn't exactly Atlanta. It's a far out Atlanta Suburb, sure.

But, yes, you seem desperate for a change and if you can't handle New York right now and you're being offered a room and help from the BFF, take it. You can always go back.

The Atlanta area does have a good value for people looking to start over. Not sure about the art and design communities, though.
posted by neewom at 10:18 PM on February 14, 2011

I lived in Peachtree City when I was working as a nanny and I hated it. HATED IT. With a blinding passion. It's not Atlanta, not even close. It's a smug, conservative boring suburb with nothing but strip malls and chain restaurants as far as the eye can see.
If you move there, think of Peachtree City as a very temporary place to crash while you look for a place in Atlanta. I moved to a terribly unsafe area right inside 275, off Boulevard, and in spite of the hookers in my front yard I was much, much happier.
posted by cilantro at 3:03 AM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Any option of visiting before you move there permanently? I did 4 years in the south for my undergraduate and moved back north as soon as I was done. Heck, I don't even like to visit I have such a visceral reaction to almost all points south of Philadelphia.

Don't get me wrong, it sounds like the change would be good for you, just keep an exit strategy handy.

As far as graphic design, there is a decent amount of work for it in the South as a whole, freelance work probably a little less so. A good buddy of mine did his graduate degree in graphic design and works very consistently for a mid-sized publishing house in Winston-Salem, NC. Atlanta will have the same options, but you will need reliable transportation to make things happen. The MARTA is not the NYC subway - it will be viewed as a professional liability for the wrong reasons should you think to use it for transportation to and from work.
posted by Nanukthedog at 4:18 AM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also, Southerners are friendly. If. You know someone down there and they are encouraging you to come down, chances are you will inherit your BFF's friends - which is a good thing. If you think of her good qualities, and you think others equate those same good qualities to her as you do, people in the south generally transfer a portion of their view of that person on you. Think of it as a tribal 'your BFF speaks for you.' If that's a good thing, then you've at least got a few starter friends.
posted by Nanukthedog at 4:28 AM on February 15, 2011

ErikaB got it. There is much to love about Atlanta and its burbs, but you'll need a car to enjoy it. Or to grocery shop, drop off laundry, visit a museum, find a transit station, look for work, or just about anything else. After a spell in NYC, where independence is outside your door, it may be hard to imagine the difference.
posted by LonnieK at 5:25 AM on February 15, 2011

Without a car, Jersey is much closer to MOMA -- NJT, Path -- than Peachtree City is to the High.
posted by LonnieK at 5:26 AM on February 15, 2011

I live in Atlanta. My dad lives in Peachtree City. It's a looooong way from the city. I wouldn't plan on commuting to the city every day for work. It would take you at least an hour. I'm originally from Chicago, and when I first moved here, I hated it. It took me a while to feel like I fit in. I'm also a graphic designer, but finding the job I have now took almost 2 years. I have a lot of friends here that are unemployed right now. I do like the proximity to the mountains, or the beach - all within a 4 hour drive. I do a lot of hiking & camping. Peachtree City has a very suburban feel. They don't serve liquor on Sunday. There are many churches. My dad golfs a lot. There is just about every chain-store & chain restaurant you could think of there. But, it might be a good place to raise a few cats & get things back in order & save up some money!
posted by DizzyLeaf at 6:55 AM on February 15, 2011

Be prepared for a lengthy job search: our current rate of unemployment is on the high end of the national average. There are quite a few design firms in the city, and a number of bigger companies that employ illustrators, such as The Atlanta Zoo, The Georgia Aquarium, The Home Depot, and Coca-Cola (although I understand Coke outsources most of its design work.) There is also a healthy indie art scene.

As others have said, you will not be able to live in P'tree City and work in Atlanta unless you have a car. You also may hate living in the exurban wasteland, but having a place to stay in the 'burbs as a possible stepping stone to finding your own place in the city is not a bad deal.
posted by ijoshua at 8:58 AM on February 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

I grew up in the Atlanta suburbs (Stone Mountain area, so a little closer in than PTC but not dramatically different). If you like suburbs, they're perfectly nice suburbs. It gets hot and sticky for longer than in NYC, but there's very little snow/winter (apparently this year was an exception, but many years there's no snow at all).

Atlanta itself is pretty cool and there's a bunch of stuff to do there.

However, car. Both to be able to get around in PTC and to get to Atlanta, you will need/want a car. Much like LA, nobody walks in Atlanta.
posted by wildcrdj at 2:31 PM on February 15, 2011

I grew up in ATL proper and moved to NYC about 5 years ago. I love Atlanta, and my life is still very active down there. However, in reading your post, it sounds like your job/living situation is what needs to change more than a change of location. You said it yourself....you like New York a lot, and you got good friends here. So lemme offer...

Advice to stick it out in NY
Best advice I got on my move north from another ATL ex-pat:
--Expect a difficult first year in NYC.
--Don't be hard on yourself when that first year actually turns out to be difficult.

Your living situation is EVERYTHING. The sooner you can find a place sans bike storage and roach cities, the better. From first hand experience and the anecdotes of several friends...you've got to have at least a semi comfortable place to recharge in this loud, busy city. It's effort to find a new place, but really, you gotta do it for sanity's sake. Keep searching.

ATL is not a great place to find creative work right now. Can't speak to illustration, but the venues for creative graphic design are limited. Coming from LA and moving to NY...you know you're in one of the best markets for your work. With that said, would never hurt to send your resume/portfolio down to Cartoon Network and Adult Swim in ATL...you could get lucky.

There is no such thing as living in suburban Atlanta without a car. I go back fairly often. When I don't rent a car, I want to kill myself. Public transportation is slow and terrible. Cars do NOT understand bikers (City of ATL is barely better, but getting there). Sidewalks aren't even a guarantee if you're walking. You'd never think you'd miss the MTA so much.

BFF sounds like an awesome BFF btw.

Best of luck in your decision.
posted by Bunsen Betty at 10:26 PM on February 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

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