Please help me figure out if I should move back home to SF from NY
April 21, 2016 1:29 AM   Subscribe

I impulsively moved from SF (I grew up in the Bay Area) to NY in October, but so far don't love it, and am wondering if moving back home will improve my life or if I need to give NY more time?

Let me start this out by saying that I am a chronic mover. I'm about to be 30 next month and, in my whole life, I've moved close to 30 times. Some were small moves (same city, different house), some were big (from California, where I grew up, to London). The majority of my moves were due to family and financial circumstances, and not by choice.

Anyway, the past year and a half has been really hectic for me. I moved from San Francisco to London for a few months for work -- I'd lived there a few times before, studying abroad for a semester in college and then again for grad school. It's my favorite city in the world. I wanted to stay longer, but had to come back due to visa issues. When I moved back to SF, work started becoming super stressful. The startup downsized, and I was doing the work of at least 5 people. I had been with the company for over 4 years, and just got to the point where I didn't see myself fitting in with how they were growing, and my role, which was my dream job for a few years, just stopped being enjoyable. The amount of stress and pressure just stacked up way too much for me, to the point where I was feeling physically ill and mentally exhausted quite often.

So I made the decision to leave, and had the urge to do a huge move across the country to New York. In my industry (music), I figured there would be way more job opportunities there, and a bigger/better scene than SF. Before moving, I had visited a few times and felt like the city was really fun and vibrant...granted, these trips were only about 5 days each, and I had a lot of disposable income at the time.

So in October, I secured an apartment with a friend in Brooklyn, had a few seemingly strong job prospects lined up (and enough savings to last me about 6 months), and I made the impulsive move. The first month was pretty fun, and felt like vacation. But since then, it's been incredibly stressful. The "strong" job prospects I had all fell through. From November - March, I applied to so many jobs, in and outside of the music industry, went to tons of networking events, and stayed involved in the local music scene, but still had no job offers. Meanwhile, burning away a huge chunk of my savings on basic living expenses. In SF, I was on $80k/year and had a very comfortable lifestyle. Since moving to NY and quitting my job, I've had to pinch every single penny that wasn't reserved for rent/food/bills. The stress of moving and unemployment has caused me to have a lot of really bad anxiety and panic attacks, and my closest friends and family members from back home have commented on how depressed/unlike myself I've seemed since moving here.

I recently got a job offer that's in my field, but much more junior than my previous role (and a $30k/year pay cut). I accepted it because I'm desperate for money at this point and am tired of being unemployed, and I start next week. There's a 3 month trial period before they make me permanent, based on performance.

Even though I feel grateful for a job prospect, at this point I feel so beaten down by my time in New York that I'm seriously considering moving back home to the Bay Area after this trial period or when my apartment lease is up for renewal. But because I'm so used to moving when things don't feel right, I don't know if this is a good idea or not. At the same time, I didn't truly think through all the things I'd be giving up by moving away from home, and weighing them against what I'd be gaining by moving to NY. My family and friends are the most important thing in the world to me, and the thought of being so far away from them and only seeing them for maybe a week or two a year doesn't feel right to me. I'm also getting to the point where I really just want a home base, to feel more settled, and I don't see that place being NY. But I don't know if I have a fair assessment of NY yet, as it's only been 7 months and it's all been while unemployed.

If I still don't love living in NY and this new job after the trial period, should I move back home? Should I look for jobs in SF already, or hold off a few months? If I do move back, when should I tell my roommate that I'm thinking about it? What if I move back home and then go through another 6+ months of not being able to find a good job?
posted by metaveedub to Work & Money (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You've probably heard the saying "Wherever you go, there you are." It's applicable here.

You can't outrun yourself. You're trying to fix a problem or problems by reaching for your go-to, moving.

It's good that you started thinking about your real values, in re friends and family. I think you should do more of that.

Perhaps moving back is best, perhaps not. But I think it's not the only thing you should be focused on here, maybe not even the main thing.

I hate to be a metafilter cliché, but yeah, I think some therapy to further clarify your own values and goals, and discover what you may be repeatedly running from, would be in order.
posted by mysterious_stranger at 2:33 AM on April 21, 2016 [11 favorites]

Choosing a city to live in is like dating. You meet a new person, go on a few dates, you like them, but you're still pining for your ex and/or checking Tinder daily. You're never going to experience the highs (and lows) of an intimate long term relationship until you stop thinking about your ex and delete the Tinder app from your phone.

The grass is always greener. Except that it isn't. Going back to cities, I think that if you choose to make a life for yourself in a new city, you can make it happen. You have to commit to it, make an effort, recognize the good as well as the bad. No city is perfect, they all have good points and bad points.

So I'd recommend giving NYC a chance. Set a time limit. Keep looking for other jobs that better fit your skills and experience. But make sure that if you leave and move back to SF, that you know what you're giving up.

Good luck!
posted by finding.perdita at 2:35 AM on April 21, 2016 [5 favorites]

I think you need to give NYC more time, at least six months, and not just until the new job's trial period ends. (By the way, just about every job has a 90-day trial period: this isn't anything new or different about this particular job.) The thing is, you've been going through a rough patch with the new place and no job; it sounds like things are about to ease up though, so a lot of the current pressure will be off, and you can finally relax a bit.

It also sounds like you've developed a habit of giving in too easily, and with the smallest provocation you're gone again, off to another job or house or city. There's nothing wrong with seeing the world and experiencing new stuff, but you also need to know how to hang on when bad times come, not just run from them. Stick with NYC for at least a full year, and if it still isn't working for you, then start thinking about changing again: don't be planning your 'escape' after a measly five months.
posted by easily confused at 3:48 AM on April 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

Assuming that you have healthy, functional relationships with your friends and family, I think you should move back. NYC is hard, and lost time with loved ones can't be replaced. You'll feel that even more if you decide to have kids one day.
posted by snickerdoodle at 4:41 AM on April 21, 2016 [6 favorites]

I will say that as a chronic mover myself that it takes at least a year to start settling into a place. Making friends, getting a social circle, and appreciating your new city takes time and it takes longer as you get older. And the clock doesn't really start on that until you get a job.

Give these three months a real chance. Make the effort. The money thing should ease your stress and worry, and you can focus on keeping an open mind about NYC.

But, if things don't change, you'll know after a month or so and you can start looking for work in California and planning a move back.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:00 AM on April 21, 2016

Move now. I say this as someone who brought her now-husband to NYC and four years later, took off like our house was on fire. Don't waste four years. If you don't love it, you won't love it. NYC is an expensive and brutal city to live and work in. Flee now while you still can.
posted by corb at 5:17 AM on April 21, 2016 [5 favorites]

But! Start looking for jobs now. Save up money for plane tickets so you can interview in person. Don't move without a job.
posted by corb at 5:19 AM on April 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

I have traveled to over 60 countries and lived in 6. I have found -- time and time again -- the problems follow me no matter where I am.

Good luck with your decision.
posted by lecorbeau at 5:35 AM on April 21, 2016 [3 favorites]

Being unemployed here sucks worse than most places I think -- cost of living is high and there's soooo much amazing stuff to do that all costs too much money. Also you just made this major life change, among the most stressful of things you can do. It makes sense that you're struggling.

But I believe strongly that New York is worth at least a decent shot (especially if you're in music!), and that 7 months isn't enough. Things will change once you start this job; give it time to work, to shift your experience here. I think at this point if you left you'll never really know if it could have worked out, and I think that's a tragedy anywhere but especially in New York.

I'd give it 6 months more at a minimum. If after that you still don't like it, if you're still yearning, then you know.

(Also hi I moved here in October, from the bay, where I grew up. Let's get a beer!)
posted by wemayfreeze at 6:41 AM on April 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

New York in the summer is very different to New York in the winter. Having said that, if being near to your family is important then that's what you're going to have to do. No more moving around.
posted by asok at 6:46 AM on April 21, 2016 [5 favorites]

I'm a New Yorker, so I can't imagine how anyone wouldn't want to be here, but being here without a job sucks. Give New York a few months once you are working consistently. New York during the summer/fall, especially if you're into the music scene, is amazing.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:22 AM on April 21, 2016 [3 favorites]

Seriously, there is nothing like New York in the summer. I think you'll soon find that energy you loved. I know I get giddy as the weather warms up and the city really gets into gear. Good luck!
posted by manzanita at 7:57 AM on April 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

PS @wemayfreeze I moved from the Bay, too, a few years ago! Both are kind of magical...
posted by manzanita at 7:59 AM on April 21, 2016

If you don't love it, you won't love it.

I came to NYC for grad school and, while I didn't hate it, was pretty convinced that I didn't want to settle here. To the point that at the start of my second year I applied for summer internships almost exclusively in other cities. By summertime, though, I was really starting to like the place, and when I hit the other city, realized I'd made a mistake. I ended up staying here for ten years before going for a job opportunity in still a third city. In the third city, I got miserably homesick in about a year. I think I was on a upward swing near the end of year two, but for financial reasons I ended up deciding to come back. Without the financial issues, it would have been a much tougher decision--which I wouldn't have said at the year mark.

All of this is to say, big cities are bustling and indifferent and it can genuinely take a while to settle in. You really have to push yourself to get out there to make friends. Given the bouncing around OP has already done, I'd suggest giving it another year or so before deciding. Being unemployed in NYC is painful, but I can't imagine it's great in SF, either. (And moving cross-country is *(&^(*& expensive.) Family connections can be very important to folks, but, at the same time, OP doesn't seem to have thought of them as a top priority when he decided to move, so I wonder if in the loneliness of a strange place he's understandably overrating their essentiality to him now.
posted by praemunire at 8:03 AM on April 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

You have a job now, and I promise, the weather is just about to get beautiful. Summertime in NYC is great. You've suffered through the worst months, think of this as your reward! Seriously, give it until Labor Day, and if it's not for you, go back west knowing that you gave New York a fair shot. But really...summer in San Francisco is cold, and the beaches are not nearly as nice as ours.
posted by Jemstar at 9:32 AM on April 21, 2016

Thanks for all of the feedback, everyone. I did actually see a therapist, but unfortunately haven't been able to afford any additional sessions (I'm on Medicaid right now, and haven't been able to find a therapist that accepts it who has time to take me immediately).

Also, I feel like I should give some more context to this situation:

Even though I've moved house a LOT, I've lived in California pretty much my entire life. Started out in SoCal, moved to the Bay Area when I was 7, and then from 18-29 I've mostly lived in SF, with a few stints back in the South Bay. The only times I lived away from CA were 2 months in Mexico/Nicaragua, 6 months in London (semester abroad), then a year and a half in London (grad school), and 3 months in London again (for work).

Before the last temporary move to London, things were actually feeling really great in SF. For the first time ever, I had my own studio apartment, and I loved the process of making it feel like my own home. Every other living situation post-college was me moving into an established apartment and being the newbie. This studio represented a feeling like I had "made it." It was a place that I hosted friends at all the time, many from abroad who'd stay for a couple weeks at a time, and I'd give spare keys to friends who didn't live in the city, so that they could experience life there when I was away traveling. I did a lot of travel for work that year, but always felt like my SF studio was my home base.

When my boss first approached me about moving to London for up to six months (potentially longer), I knew it meant having to give up that place. And it took a long time for me to be convinced to go back to London, even though I'm a total Anglophile and it truly is my favorite city I've ever lived in. I initially turned down the offer, because I finally felt like I was planting solid roots in SF - I had the apartment, a great social life, and things were generally going very well all around. But then the excitement of living abroad again took over, and so I finally took up the offer, had to give up my apartment, and made the transition to London. However, due to visa issues and financial issues with the company, my 6 month + stay only ended up being about 2 months. Had I planned on that, I wouldn't have let go of my studio (which was $1600/month in the heart of Hayes Valley...and probably going for closer to $2500 now).

Even though I had an incredible 2 months in London, once I moved back to SF I felt unsettled. I moved into an apartment that had 3 other people living in it, which was a transition after living alone for so long, and then things at work started getting really bad (downsizing = me taking on tasks of at least 5 people; I'd often be the first one in the office and would leave close to 10 or 11pm multiple days in a row)...which ultimately led me to deciding to quit.

Once I made that incredibly tough decision -- after all, I was the company's first hire and had been there nearly 5 years -- my first thought was, "Oh shit. NOW what??" So I got it into my head, "Well, you've always been really happy living in London, and there's an incredible music scene there, you should try to move back!" I started reaching out to all of my industry contacts there, and applying for a ton of jobs from April - September of last year. I even flew there in the summer, where I had set up over a week's worth of really solid meetings with company's that might hire me. Unfortunately I quickly learned that, due to increasingly strict visa regulations in the UK, in order to get hired there I'd have to have a company sponsor my visa...meaning they'd have to shell out thousands of pounds in fees AND prove that there's no one in the UK who can do what I do. Which, at this point in my career (mid to senior level), is just not worth a company to justify.

After realizing that it wouldn't be so easy to move back to London, my brain quickly went to, "Well, what about New York? You've always liked visiting, there's a huge music scene, probably a lot more job opportunities, and it's halfway between SF and London, so that seems like a good compromise." I started talking to a ton of friends out here and every single one emphatically said, "MOVE HERE YOU'LL LOVE IT SO MUCH!" So I started getting really hyped up about it, on top of an attitude of, "Hey, it's the last year of your SHOULD spend it in New York! When else are you going to have this opportunity? Plus, I'm sure it'll feel very similar to living in London!"

I never gave myself the headspace to think through every single aspect of this move before actually moving here. My excitement made me go into a manic state, so I just jumped the gun on everything because I'm a doer, and can't sit back waiting for things to happen. Once I decide something, my instinct is to get it done ASAP. I never thought, "Hey, maybe you should slow down and actually wait for a job offer before you decide to move", or "Have you thought of looking for new jobs or a new apartment in SF instead of moving across the country on a whim?", or "How much is being away from your roots and loved ones going to affect your happiness?" To that last point, every time I moved to London I knew it was only temporary, so I never felt homesick when I was there. But because I've moved to NY without an "expiration date", I know that's part of what's been troubling me.

I'm very much aware that my time in NY so far has been "tainted" by circumstances outside of my control (unemployment, shitty weather, stress, being homesick), and that it WILL feel so much different in the summer and once I start my job and have a daily routine again. I'm also very aware of how amazing this city is, and how much it has to offer. I've already established so many new contacts here, especially within the music industry, that I would've never done without physically being here. I just really have this gut feeling that it's not the city I want to be establishing this next chapter of my life in. There are plenty of cities around the world that I love, but don't want to live in. And I didn't leave SF because I hated it, I think it's a pretty amazing city too.

That's what makes me nervous about starting this new job. It's not *really* what I want to be doing, even though it's still in my field. I accepted the offer because, frankly, it's the only one I've received and I'm pretty desperate for income now. I'm viewing it as a bridge to buy me more time to look for other jobs and to make back some of my savings that I lost. Is living in NY with a job I'm not that jazzed about really worth it at this point in my life and my career? Wouldn't I have better prospects back home, where my network is so much stronger, and where I have the support of family and friends who'd let me stay with them for free while I'm in this weird transition state of my career?
posted by metaveedub at 12:17 PM on April 21, 2016

Hey, maybe you should slow down and actually wait for a job offer before you decide to move", or "Have you thought of looking for new jobs or a new apartment in SF instead of moving across the country on a whim?

These are great questions to ask yourself and maybe worth asking about NYC. But at the very least I think it's worth looking for a better job in both NYC and SF before you jump ship again, and having something really good lined up before moving if that's what you end up wanting to do.

It seems like you are wanting to rush into another decision.

And spending at least one summer living in NYC with a job that doesn't completely consume your life... hard to imagine any circumstances under which it would not be worth it, *especially* if you don't end up living here long term.

My excitement made me go into a manic state

If you mean this literally, then I think it's especially important to have a good medical team set up asap. Probably worth its own Askme question to find resources either under medicaid or if your new job has health insurance, under that.

My family and friends are the most important thing in the world to me, and the thought of being so far away from them and only seeing them for maybe a week or two a year doesn't feel right to me.

It actually sounds like you were working on getting out of SF for a while (to London, then NYC), and I'm not sure your choices bear this statement out. I think that valuing friends and family is such an obviously positive thing that it can be hard for some of us to admit, even to ourselves, "Actually, I value them a lot, but I value xyz more." (My own personal journey, adventure, traveling, freedom, etc).

Based on what you've written in this thread, it sounds like one of the things you value most is not living with a sense of uncertainty, and that sometimes your short term pursuit of that goal can undermine your longer term benefit.

My two cents, overall, is:
- commit to staying in NYC and making the most of it -- through the summer
- commit to not moving again until you have another job lined up wherever you're going (or you're so certain about it, you wouldn't even think to ask Metafilter)
- experiment with living with uncertainty for a while. None of your options are bad. All of them are uncertain. But I promise you that living with uncertainty during the NYC summer on $50k is a whole different world from living with uncertainty during the NYC winter on $0.
posted by Salamandrous at 4:25 PM on April 21, 2016 [5 favorites]

You know, I spent my twenties much like you (except more moving around between a few different cities), and I totally identify with the "must take action NOW" impulse. I was actually exactly your age when it started catching up with me on a career level, so I really understand what you're going through. It sucks.

For me, once I went through that, I started having an easier time just staying put (um, getting diagnosed and treated for ADHD helped too, but that's another discussion). I spent ages 30-35 living in one city, working for one organization, and I definitely got antsy a few times, but it wound up doing really good things for me. Then I got offered an amazing, can't-say-no job in another city, so I moved across the country for two years, but am now back in the city I've spent most of my thirties, and I'm very happy to be back here.

That said, I think you'd be wise to stay in NYC for at least another year or two, even if the Bay Area is where you want to end up. When I moved here the first time, I similarly took a job that was a big step down, pay and seniority-wise, and it was rough, but I also wound up moving up very quickly and it provided a pathway to the work I'm doing now, which I love. If you have the skills and experience, but aren't a dick about it, it will help you shine in your new role.

And really, it usually does take at least a year to settle into a new city. It sounds like you have at least the beginnings of a social and professional network there, which is a leg up. You can spend a couple of years there, get some different experience, build your network, and have fun in a different setting, before returning home.

The biggest thing I would say, though, is it sounds like you're beating yourself up a lot and have a lot of regrets. That's understandable, but this also seems like a really good learning experience, and nothing here is a catastrophe. Hey, you moved across the country and got a job in a really competitive city and (I imagine) competitive job market! That's something to be proud of. Maybe next time you'll look a little more before you leap, but also, it sounds like you've more or less landed on your feet.
posted by lunasol at 10:54 AM on April 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

I have zero idea about what you do in the music business and would like to learn more about that. I am guessing it is something to do with sound design and DJing but could be fishing. The simple fact is you've been able to afford to search for and work in a salaried role in a typically jobbing industry. Social capital is the unfortunate force in this business, which is why there is a massive churn if people cannot adapt to using social capital to create gigs for themselves and, if they have them, for the salaried jobs they may have.

Think of this $30,000 paycut as what you must earn on top of the small salary plus benefits you will have by working from 9-5. Either you earn a net $30K out of work hours or you learn how you can help from your position to bring in work to the business that will result in a progressive salary rise or a bonus.

If you don't learn to freelance or be entrepreneurial at work now, you never will. A lot of my friends in the music business have created festivals to buff their incomes. They do one or four festivals a year. Others just try to be available through Craigslist or, if you're lucky, an agency.

Startups blur perceptions and make one salary focused in a bad way. You have to work past this experience as an aberration. I suggest you think about it this way: A work permit for the UK requires £35,000 net income. How are you going to make that kind of salary? This is your time to learn.
posted by parmanparman at 1:07 PM on May 8, 2016

« Older Birthday gift ideas for hubby   |   What is the funniest statistics-related joke that... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.