Do I stay or do I go now?
December 12, 2011 11:14 AM   Subscribe

I'm at a crossroads in my life and am struggling to decide what I should do next. Do I move? Do I stay? How do I make an active instead of a passive choice?

Background: I live in Brooklyn and have lived in the Northeast since coming here for college, 18 years ago. I'm a woman in my late 30s, single. My family lives in South Florida except for an aunt and uncle out in Long Island. I'm an only child.

I've been thinking for a while about moving out of NY and have on and off considered the California bay area. I have three solid friends that live out there, but no family.

One of the concerns I have about moving to the west coast is that I feel like a move out there would be fairly permanent at this stage in my life (especially since I'd like to meet someone, get married and start a family if possible) and that I'd be so far away from my family. Northern California is a beautiful place, I like being outdoors, there are jobs in my field (technology), but it's 6 hours away from Miami by plane.

So, I started to wonder if I should consider moving back to Florida. I no longer have friends there and would have to work super hard to develop them. The job market for what I do is a lot smaller there, but I'd get to see my family more regularly and I'd get to have a slower pace of life.

Part of the reason I've stayed in NYC so long is because it's where I've been and because I've rationalized that it's only 3-hour flight from Florida and I go and visit at least twice a year. But, I can't say that I'm happy or that it fits my lifestyle. I just keep trying to make it work. I don't have strong roots here and I know it is partly my fault in that I've struggled at forging intimate friendships and that has left me feeling isolated and alone which contributes to my unhappiness. And while I want and need to work on those issues and of course having strong relationships improves ones quality of life wherever one is, if "hey, make more friends, do more activities!" is the answer and the reason I should stay.

I think I'm having a hard time because I feel like I need my family, but also know that part of being a grown up is being independent and on my own and pursuing my own things which I've done since I left home at 21. So, while I do have the desire to try out California, I also feel like I'll be more physically isolated from my family than I'm comfortable being.

I don't know how to make a decision about this. Life is short. But I want to make an active decision instead of continuing to let the decision get passively made by me, you know?

Can anyone help me get on the right path to making a decision?
posted by vivzan to Human Relations (21 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Always remember that three solid friends can be family.

I think make the move. Better than having regrets or what ifs. You can always offer to fly in parents/family and stay with you on extended stays.

Only child here too and the fear of moving away from what I know/family kept me hear and it's a regret. Now we are trying to figure out the same impass you are having.

I hate to be a downer but you can also ask yourself this. Once family is gone, do you still want to be in FL?

That's the biggest question I pose to myself and the answer is to move West young gal.
posted by stormpooper at 11:21 AM on December 12, 2011 [7 favorites]

Have you considered other parts of Florida? I think your reasons for wanting to move closer to your parents are excellent, especially if they are the kind of people who will want to be very involved with any eventual grandchildren. (I'm a grandmother and I don't want to move too far away from my kids and grandchildren even though there are places that seem more appealing.)

My advice is to look for jobs in Florida and if you find one move down there and give it a try for a couple of years.
posted by mareli at 11:31 AM on December 12, 2011

I'd say go ahead and move to the West Coast if that's where you feel drawn to. The place you're going to spend most of your life outweighs a few extra hours each way in occasional air travel time. I say this as a New Yorker who settled in Oregon and has a parent still living in New York.
posted by treblemaker at 11:36 AM on December 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

You keep talking about your family, do you mean your parents? If so, I think at near 40, you should consider where you'd want to be if your parents weren't around. My mother lives in Kansas and if she died tomorrow I'd never go there again. You say you feel like you need your family, what does this mean? I love my family but don't necessarily 'need' them and we're fairly close.

What kind of life do you want in 5 years, in 10? What city might be best for your social and professional needs. But mareli is right, grandmas like to be close. My mother makes long visits.
posted by shoesietart at 11:43 AM on December 12, 2011

But, I can't say that I'm happy or that it fits my lifestyle.

Go! Shoo! Get out of here! As a close-enough-to-lifelong (21 years out of 27) New Yorker who finds himself in that Woody Allen-esque position of being unable to be happy or find my needs met outside of the five boroughs, I say go get yourself some fresh air. I tried, it didn't take. I have many friends in this position. But if you don't have to live here, don't. It's just not worth it. I know why people leave NYC, whether natives or transplants, and I experience those reasons daily and I am more than willing to take them on just in order to get the benefits of living here. If you're not feeling it, then why torture yourself? Hell, you can always move back, right? God knows I did (and repeatedly at that.)

As far as three hours versus six hours to get to FL? Considering all the airport shit involved these days, flying sucks up most of your day anyway. You parents will die one day, god forbid not any time soon, but it's closer now than it has ever been at some point in your life. Staying somewhere to save three hours -- what's that, the length of two movies? Six episodes of a sitcom? -- doesn't make too much sense if you've already got to go through airport anyway.

I have three solid friends that live out there, but no family.

When it's time to make your own family, your friends will be more important to you than your actual family. It's probably through them that you'll meet someone, through them that you'll figure out if they're right for you, and with them that you'll raise your kids.
posted by griphus at 11:49 AM on December 12, 2011 [4 favorites]

I say give California a try. It just really sounds like that's what you want to do. You're already used to living away from you family and what's a few extra hours? Maybe it doesn't always have to be you visiting them...maybe they can go and visit you sometimes. Maybe they would love a reason to go visit California! And it doesn't automatically have to be permanent. If things don't work out and you miss your family too much or you're just not settling in like you thought you would, you could always make another move. You're not married or a parent yet so you're at a time in your life where you can really explore where you want to be. Take advantage of that!
posted by daydreamer at 11:50 AM on December 12, 2011

If you make a 3 hour flight twice a year, it seems you can make a 6 hour flight twice a year, as well. The Bay Area is the best place on earth, as far as I'm concerned.
posted by namesarehard at 11:54 AM on December 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

No one can choose for you, but a three-hour flight and a six-hour flight really aren't very different if you're doing it only a few times per year. You'll still spend most of one day traveling each way.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:55 AM on December 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

Go to California. You can always move back to NYC some day if you want, but right now, NYC's an awful place to be when you're not feeling it. (I have several friends who bounce from NYC to Bay and back every few years. I lived in NYC twice myself.)
posted by mochapickle at 11:55 AM on December 12, 2011

Response by poster: Aww you guys are so uplifting. Thank you and keep it coming!
posted by vivzan at 12:26 PM on December 12, 2011

Best answer: "I feel like a move out there would be fairly permanent at this stage in my life "

You just dropped that in passing, but I think it may be critical to the log jam.

You can't possibly know what will or won't be permanent. Seriously. You may move out there and, within four months, serendipitously fall in love with someone wonderful from Vermont, and move there. Or get an incredible job offer in France. Or grow into an intrepid, change-embracing soul. There are, as I'm sure you know, tales of all sorts of people making all sorts of (positive) changes they'd never anticipated.

So I'd suggest removing that notion from the equation. if you do, I think (from reading what you wrote) it will cast the entire question in a different light. Because nothing's forever.
posted by Quisp Lover at 12:38 PM on December 12, 2011 [15 favorites]

I agree with Quisp Lover above. Sometime I asked a question, I think anonymously, about making a Big decision as someone in their thirties and what if, what if. The advice I got was around making a decision that would work for me now, as the future is unknown. I followed that advice, and am very happy with the outcome.

If you haven't been for a recent visit to the area of California you would like to move to, I'd consider doing a trip over to look around with the eye of someone thinking of moving there. I think it could help you make the decision - if you can afford it, throw in a trip to Florida as well with the same approach.
posted by AnnaRat at 12:46 PM on December 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

When the question is, "Should I move to a place that is widely acknowledged as a great place to live," the answer is almost always yes.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:04 PM on December 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

I say go west! I live in the north bay area and absolutely love it here. If you're an outdoors gal, we have an abundance of activities. My husband goes on a weekly hike with his buddies and in 10 years, they've only repeated a few hikes (they go for 8-10 miles). We sail on the bay, ski in the winter, etc. etc.

If you had perfect information, you could make the perfect decision right? So the best you can do is do your homework, visit, whatever you need, then leap. And I heartily agree with others who say that the difference between a three-hour flight and a six-hour flight isn't much.

Good luck to you!
posted by Gusaroo at 1:09 PM on December 12, 2011

When I was a little kid, we moved to a location 6 hours (by car) away from where my parents had both grown up. The first few years my mom was fairly homesick, I think, and we went back to visit maybe every other month. We continued to go back a few times a year for most of my childhood. I now think of that particular six hour trip as absolutely trivial, easily something I'd do for just a long weekend visit. Six hours is not that bad, and once you get used to a particular route, I swear it goes faster.
posted by ootandaboot at 4:10 PM on December 12, 2011

Please don't go to live in Florida. It seems like a step backwards.

Yes for the Bay Area! Hooray for steps forward!!
posted by jbenben at 5:10 PM on December 12, 2011

Response by poster: Thank you so much everyone! I'm pretty scared to make a change, and miss the safety and comfort of mom and dad at home. I miss them a lot, been here too long, and am comforted by the false sense of certainty I feel in an area I've lived in for 18 years.

I'm not ready to make a decision yet (it being the holidays = heightened emotions for me), but this thread has served me well and given me perspective. Thank you. :)
posted by vivzan at 5:32 PM on December 12, 2011

Best answer: I read the title as, 'Do I stay or do I grow?'

I say, grow! And yes, it is a reversible decision. Maybe you'll meet someone there, spend a few years working and saving, get a deposit for a house, and then move back to Florida to do the house thing.
See? So many, many possible fairy tale endings.

And if you really miss your family, you move back. You *don't* stay, or have to stay, in a place where you are unhappy.
posted by Elysum at 5:48 PM on December 12, 2011

Wait, did I write this? Except for the part about the parents in Florida, I could have. I've been in New York over 18 years as well, and feel poised to leave but paralyzed to commit to action. Go! Once January has arrived, make a plan, spruce up your resume, let your friends know you want to make the move, and proceed accordingly. The Bay Area looks awesome. Two very good, very outdoorsy friends of mine moved earlier this year, and they appear to be in heaven.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 7:23 PM on December 12, 2011

I'm gonna go against the tide and say, I tried the Bay Area and, while there are many great things about it, found the cost of living to be a deal-breaker for me. I didn't especially adore the traffic or the broke-ass-ness of the state of California (which they seem to be trying to make up by issuing totally specious parking tickets), either.
posted by parrot_person at 5:55 AM on December 13, 2011

Do you really have 3 friends who are likely family? Seriously?? They would take you in whenever you needed it, bail you out of jail, anything? If so, I'm jealous, and boy is that rare.

I'd like to gently remind you though that at our age, our parent may not be around too much longer, and once that opportunity to be around them more is gone, it is gone.
posted by parrot_person at 5:58 AM on December 13, 2011

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