Please help me decide if I should move back to NYC from SF
December 4, 2014 11:02 AM   Subscribe

Can't decide if I should move back to NYC from SF. Please help me find some new ways to think about the problem.

I'm having a really hard time thinking this through. Even if you don't necessarily have any advice for me, maybe you can help me think about the problem in a different way. Right now I'm just totally stuck, and the more I think about my situation, the harder the decision becomes.

Me : 36, single, hetero male, software engineer, well-read, reasonably attractive, extroverted, physically fit.

My story : Lived in NYC for 7 years, moved to SF 5 years ago. In January, my girlfriend of 2.5 years dumped me. The experience was harrowing. She was my first real girlfriend, and certainly the only person I've ever loved. I've been hating myself all year because I clearly screwed up the relationship by not listening to her. I spent the year being massively depressed and drinking heavily. I had a therapist who wasn't terribly helpful. In October, I decided things needed to change, so I found a new job and took a few weeks off between jobs to travel. Had a spiritual experience in Peru, and since then, I've been a light drinker. (I should mention that I never had a problem with alcohol before this year.) Anyway, since I've been back, I've been nowhere near as depressed as I was before the trip, but I'm still depressed. I've been at the new job for a month, and it's not as great as I'd hoped it would be. Although it pays well, the commute is vicious, and it turns out they massively misrepresented the kind of work they wanted me to do.

Why I want to move back to NYC : I miss NYC. I felt truly at home there. I'm pretty sure I'm more of an NYC person than an SF person. I still have a solid group of friends in NYC. There's a strong demand for my skills there -- I can't imagine it would take more than a few months to find a job. The recent influx of tech workers seems to have thrown the Bay Area gender ratio way out of whack, and I feel like I'd stand a better chance of finding a girlfriend in NYC. NYC has more of the cultural events that I enjoy (art, music, theater, fashion, dance, various fun social events), and the culture in general seems to be of a higher caliber. I miss NYC's amazing public transportation and short commute times. I don't particularly want to have children.

Why staying in SF may be a good idea : I used to love SF back when I was happy and had a girlfriend. I have an amazing apartment; whatever apartment I find in NYC, it will probably be more expensive and not as nice. Although I haven't been able to find a solid group of friends in SF, I'm part of several different "groups", and I regularly get invited to stuff. I have a well-paying job. Although the demand for my skills is strong in NYC, it's probably stronger in SF. I don't have an apartment or job lined up in NYC. Moving will be expensive -- besides having to physically move my stuff across the country, it may take a few months to find a new job. Even though I've got a solid group of friends in NYC, most of them are now married or are in serious relationships. It's hard to know exactly how bad my chances are in the SF dating scene. I haven't been able to find any solid numbers on the male/female ratio for heterosexuals in their 20s and 30s in SF. Perhaps the only reason I'm still single is that I spent the better part of the year as a depressed habitual drinker?

Why I may need to move really soon : Since I've only been at my current job for a month, I obviously don't want to put it on my resume. So, the longer I wait to find a new job, the longer of a gap there will be on my resume. I realize the "smart" thing to do would be to line up a job before I move. However, I tend to panic in the interview room, so I usually need to interview at a bunch of places before I start getting offers. If I try and line up an offer before I move to NYC, that could take a really long time, plus it may be difficult to fly out for interviews since I haven't accrued much vacation time. My hope is that, upon arrival in NYC, I'll put my resume out there, and boomboomboomboomboom do as many interviews as I can until I start getting offers. I typically don't have any trouble getting interviews because I've had some very strong work experiences. Another factor : one of my friends will be moving to SF in January, and I can sublet my apartment to her with the option of reclaiming it if I ever want to move back. Sure, I could sublet my apartment to someone else, but I trust this friend a lot.

My reasons for trepidation : January is so soon! Moving is so scary! So much personal upheaval! Moving without having a job lined up seems like a terrible idea! Maybe I only want to move because it represents an escape! Maybe the SF dating scene isn't as bad as I think! Maybe NYC won't be any better!

My reasons for excitement : YAAAAAAY NYC!!! I miss it so! I have money saved up and could go without a paycheck for a few months if I had to! Maybe I'm only afraid to move because I'm afraid of change!

I've been depressed as hell this past year, and I still can't stop thinking about my ex. I feel like a move could be just the "shock to the system" I need. Certainly it would be nice to live someplace with a normal male/female ratio, and where every damn thing didn't remind me of my ex. I know the conventional wisdom is that geographic cures don't work, that I should learn to love being alone, blah blah blah move on find a hobby see a therapist read this book try these pills blah blah blah etc etc. Only thing is, sometimes a geographic cure totally does work! It's quite possible that I'm living in the wrong place. I don't expect moving to fix my depression, but there's a chance it could help. I miss NYC!
posted by apostate street preacher to Human Relations (24 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Let me paraphrase what I'm hearing back to you:


SF: things are kinda sorta ok here, maybe they can get a bit better even

So move back already. Yes, moving is an expense if you can't find a company to relocate you but this is one of those cases where money can probably buy happiness (or at least increase your odds in finding it).
posted by mikepop at 11:13 AM on December 4, 2014 [13 favorites]

It sounds like your reasons for staying in SF are mostly short-term (good apartment, well-paid job, the expense of moving) and your reasons for moving to New York are long-term (you love it!, you feel at home there!). That suggests you should move.

Pragmatically speaking as an engineer you can easily find well-paid work in either city. So yeah, I think you live in the one that makes you happier :)
posted by Susan PG at 11:16 AM on December 4, 2014

I honestly don't see any reason why you should not move back. You say you have friends there. You said you love it and feel at home. You're a software engineer so recruiters are going to be like, popping out of trash cans offering you jobs as you walk down the street regardless of a one or two month resume gap. Seems like your only hesitation is "moving is hard", which, yeah.
posted by windbox at 11:16 AM on December 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Can't say it better than mikepop did above. Come back to NYC! We're nice here! I'll even buy you a drink!
posted by holborne at 11:17 AM on December 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Move back to NYC. I've lived in both places. You're young, single, and employable. Yeah, your apt will be tiny compared to what you have now, but you'll be happier. When you get that new girlfriend, keep up your existing friendships. I'm getting the flavor that you were not as immersed in a social life beyond the 2.5 year girlfriend.
posted by teg4rvn at 11:25 AM on December 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

It sounds like you have allllmost made up your mind to move to NYC but you are scared and you want someone to give you both permission to pull the trigger and confirmation that it will work out OK. Looks like you're getting both in this thread.

But since you asked how to think about this decision, here are some other things to think about. Wherever you end up, don't blame external factors like "the male / female ratio" for your dating life. There are lots of great single women in the bay area. Take responsibility for your own happiness, including when it comes to dating.

Also, if you're inclined to move, move back this one time and then quit moving. You've seen what happens when you move to a new city - you leave your social network behind and it's difficult to find a new one. And SF is pretty damn great with respect to all those cultural factors you listed; NYC may be better, but there are maybe a handful of cities in the entire country that are competitive with SF in that regard so your options are pretty limited anyway. Stick around somewhere, really invest time and effort in your social network and your happiness, and don't look for an escape hatch in the form of another move.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 11:27 AM on December 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

How often are you in New York nowadays?

The city has changed a lot since you moved to SF, and social circles move on. If it were possible to move to NYC 2009, I'd say, yeahhhh, go for it! But it's impossible to know whether this is actually a good move for you, right now.

Could you go spend a few weeks, look at the rental market, talk to recruiters, etc. and see if New York is still a place you'd want to live?
posted by Sara C. at 11:29 AM on December 4, 2014 [11 favorites]

Secretly, I would go home in a heartbeat, if I could. California is not New York.

Bon Voyage! You lucky bastard!!
posted by jbenben at 11:31 AM on December 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

The Magnetic Fields said it best.

It sounds to me like you would really like come back to NYC. I think you should listen to yourself. If nothing else, it sounds like you'd be much happier with your friend network in NYC, which is especially important while you're dealing with your breakup. Also, I suppose your hypothetical new apartment in NYC might not be as nice, but it's not like SF is a bastion of cheapness either. This New Yorker says go for it!
posted by ferret branca at 11:35 AM on December 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Probably, the last line you wrote "I miss NYC!" is all you need to know.

It sounds like this is a very well thought out decision.
You can sub-let your amazing apartment to a friend (yey)
You are very employable (yey)
You have enough savings that you could get by for a month or so without a job (yey)
You have loads of friends already in NY (Yey!!)

You can never really know what a Coast-Coast move like this will entail, but in this case, so many of the "what-ifs" have already been answered.

Listen to your heart because you've already listened to your head - I would say, JUST DO IT!!!
posted by JenThePro at 11:43 AM on December 4, 2014

I say move back. If you don't like your job, it's no big deal. Start applying for gigs in NYC and when they ask, just say you're doing contract work, pending your move back.

For the move, sell ANYTHING you can re-buy in NYC. It's about the same price to move something as it is to buy it again. Also, if you're planning on a smaller place, your stuff likely won't fit your new digs.

As for expectations, you know that your friends have moved on, and while you'll see them all again, it's going to be a different dynamic. Some will be married and starting families and unavailable for the get togethers in bars of old.

Also, the older you get the harder it is to get a friend-group together from work. As for male to female ratios, that's bullshit. There's no math to your ability to find people to date. It helps to be a person who is datable, which you weren't when you were a heavy drinking dude nursing a broken heart. Besides, even if the odds are good, the goods tend to be odd. Just be on the lookout for someone special, and don't settle.

Good luck to you.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:57 AM on December 4, 2014

Don't move before you have a job. I am telling you, people who are unemployed become unemployable because of the bias in the job market. So keep your job, follow the advice above about saying you are doing contract work, and then move after you get an offer. If you love New York, you should be there.
posted by Bella Donna at 12:05 PM on December 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

people who are unemployed become unemployable because of the bias in the job market.
software engineer

Incorrect. Just move back. If your cab drives close enough to Flatiron you'll probably find a job on the way from the airport.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:23 PM on December 4, 2014 [8 favorites]

You'll be able to find a great job as a software engineer in NYC, no problem. This old Ask question may be enlightening.
posted by Itaxpica at 1:18 PM on December 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Hi! Come back! I did and I don't regret it!
posted by dame at 1:37 PM on December 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Eh, I'm going to go (slightly) against the grain here and remind you that "wherever you go, there you will be".

You've said it yourself, you used to love SF when you were in a relationship and your life was great. What NYC represents to you now is "when things were easy", and SF is a constant reminder of when things suck(ed).

I'm not necessarily saying not to move back - howeverrrr, you should brace yourself for your life (and mood) not magically improving just because you're somewhere else.

I did a very similar thing in 2002. My dad died, I'd just moved back to Luxembourg, I felt AWFUL, so of course I thought if I moved back to the UK (where I'd studied and been happy - cuz, you know, no dead dad yet) everything would be fixed. Guess what, I was still miserable in the UK. It was my head I had to fix, not my living situation.
posted by ClarissaWAM at 1:49 PM on December 4, 2014 [9 favorites]

I felt truly at home there.

THIS. SF is nice enough, but you can't beat a place that feels like home to you in your bones. Move back. You're young and have few things that are nailing you to the ground. Go make your life in a place where you feel best.
posted by quince at 3:33 PM on December 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Pro tip: Sublet your apartment if you're allowed. Hang onto that sucker like grim death. You may not ever want to move back to SF, but the rents are only going to go up, and rent control is A Thing. You will be making money within a year, if not sooner.

Even more pro: Get in with a property management company who will clean, do key hand-offs, etc. and rent your place on AirBnB. You have a great asset right now. Use it!

I moved out of an awesome SF apartment a few years back to be nomadic and it is now renting for almost double what I paid. I grit my teeth now and then thinking about it. :P
posted by ananci at 3:50 PM on December 4, 2014

I know everyone is telling you to move back but I want to give you a different way to think about it. This kind of links up with what Sara C. said -- consider not moving if the things you're missing in SF might not be restored to you in NYC.

I used to live in a small Midwestern college town and then I moved to SF. I hated it! In my old town, people hung out in large mixed groups; in SF, people had individual acquaintances. In my old town, I went out with girls who were already part of my crowd of friends; in SF, I had to start relationships by going on dates. By the last year I was in my old town, I felt like I knew a lot of the people who were doing cool things, and people knew me & thought I was interesting; I lived in SF for five years and never felt like I really was "part of" the city or even a significant social subset thereof, I just occupied space there.

Boy did I want to move back to my old home! So I did!! But so much of the stuff I had liked wasn't there anymore!!! BLEAGH!!!! It wasn't as bad as SF (it's easier to feel "significant" in a town where you used to be in a punk rock band with the mayor) but it definitely wasn't the life I'd been nostalgic for.

When I lived before in this small Midwestern college town, I was IN COLLEGE. That's what I was associating with "the lifestyle here" that I liked. I could get some of that back by returning to my friends who hadn't left, but mostly I was shut out of the active college campus social scene.

Do you actually miss NYC or do you miss a certain kind of lifestyle that made you feel like you're "part of" the City? Will you be able to climb back into that life if you move back, or are your social entries disappearing? Are you just counting on friends to make everything better, or are there other things that you'll enjoy about daily life? (And to echo Sara, are those things still around in NYC? 'Cause it's my impression that, for instance, Manhattan has completely "died" as a place regular people can live the traditional New York City experience in.)
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 4:39 PM on December 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

I moved from NYC to SF. All I thought about was NYC. I moved back 3 months later and I've never been so glad I followed my heart. I'm a New York person, not a Northern California person. Come back and be happy.
posted by shesbenevolent at 4:42 PM on December 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

This is what stood out to me most: I used to love SF back when I was happy. I don't think your happiness is tied to location.

I love both cities, and made the opposite move back to SF not too long ago. I was excited about coming home. But, to be honest, I wasn't thrilled about the ways the city had changed (I'd been back to visit several times, but it was only obvious to me as I was living here again). Going back to NYC, it's possible you won't find exactly what you're remembering. Just wanted to throw that out there. My hunch is if you're unhappy in one place it may follow you.

Also, I want to question the idea that it will automatically be easier to date. You didn't have a serious relationship in the seven years you lived there before. It's also pretty unusual to have a first relationship so late...not to say that you're doing anything wrong, but just based on the limited facts you've presented here, I wonder if the city will necessarily change things. Yes, there are more ladies in NYC, but there are also plenty here. Have you tried OKCupid?

At this point in my life (close to your age) I would never move without finding a job first, no matter how marketable my skills . Isn't it hard or impossible to find an apartment without proof of a job?

Since you're extroverted, NYC does seems like a much better place for socializing and generally having opportunities to distract yourself...But my hunch is that you actually could be equally happy in SF (especially since you say you loved it before!), perhaps with a different job. Maybe give yourself a deadline to reconsider, and try giving some other things a chance, like online dating and looking around at other work opportunities.
posted by three_red_balloons at 5:24 PM on December 4, 2014

I'm nearing the end of a 2 month NYC trial, after which I will fly back to my home in SF.

NYC has changed. NYC is always changing. It's not what you remember, but the energy is still here, the millions of people are still here, the pizza is still good and the subway is still a modern marvel.

If you've got the savings to support it, take the January deadline and come out here for a few months. You'll know soon enough whether you should move.

It took me about 3 weeks. I'm moving to New York as soon as I can.
posted by wemayfreeze at 8:49 PM on December 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Go for it. When I went through an awful time after a breakup, I stayed where I was for a long time because I thought that "wherever you go, there you are". I think that saying is only true if, deep down, you are unwilling to make changes to make your life better. Otherwise, moving cities will present you with enough distraction and new experiences that you won't be so focused on your breakup. In my former city, I worked on myself, made new friends, changed jobs, and had some adventures, but I was still...depressed. It wasn't until I finally moved to NYC and went through all that entailed that I really felt okay again. Having to focus, hard, to make my life in the city livable was really the thing that made me like myself and my life again.

I also think that if the only reason you are rushing to make this decision is your fear that you won't be as competitive on the job market, you should rethink that conclusion. I'm not saying, don't move. I'm saying, calm down, you aren't getting less eligible every day you don't move. You have good reasons for moving, and moving is an okay reason for a gap on your resume, especially if you explain that you were actually employed for part of that period. I'm a software engineer, not nearly as far along in my career as you are, and I also panic in the interview room. I am a woman. I still got a new job relatively soon after moving to NYC. If I can do that, I'm pretty sure you can. Take some time to sort out where you would want to work and live in NYC, reconnect with your network there, contact recruiters and companies you're interested in, save up some money, tie up loose ends at your current job, and then go. Don't make finding a job a reason to rush through those steps. The only thing I regret about my own move is rushing through it. I made some expensive decisions that I wouldn't have if I'd been more confident in my ability to deal with things when I got there.
posted by rhythm and booze at 11:46 AM on December 5, 2014

On further thinkening of your timeline in SF: it looks like you were in SF for 1.5 years, in a relationship for 2.5, and now out of it for 1.

The city was new to you then, your job was new, you were meeting lots of people. On the strength of that alone you can enjoy almost anywhere for a year and a half.

I'm not surprised that you can't recapture that feeling!
posted by wemayfreeze at 3:41 PM on December 5, 2014

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