When did you know it was time to leave you hometown?
April 28, 2021 5:02 PM   Subscribe

I'm seriously considering leaving my hometown. The main reason why I'm hesitant is that I wonder if my issues surrounding living here could be solved by therapy. My city has a lot to offer in all honesty, but I still feel like I need to leave.

Over the past few years I've been through more than few incidents that have left me bitter. At the risk of people blaming me (e.g. "if everyone's an asshole, then it's probably you"), things like past sexual harrassment and a conservative family and culture make me want to leave for good. I also keep running into people that I would rather avoid, which is so incredibly irritating as I live in a mid sized city and we're in the middle of a pandemic. I'm tired of my past coming to haunt me. But I also love my city - it's liberal, it's so close to the beach, there's so much to do around here. I'm still always paranoid that I'm going to run into someone I know while I'm doing unconservative like things and it will get back to my family. I don't want to see any of my old coworkers again, especially ones that have harassed and bullied me. But it keeps happening whether I like it or not. I've never lived anywhere else and I'm worried that old problems will prop up wherever I go.
posted by sheepishchiffon to Human Relations (36 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
If your problem is your family, I can tell you as a person who lives 1000 miles away from their closest family member that moving solved all my problems.
posted by phunniemee at 5:06 PM on April 28 [54 favorites]

Some places really are better than others.
posted by HotToddy at 5:06 PM on April 28 [10 favorites]

I think moving to a different city, even temporarily, is valuable because it gives you a better understanding of the full range of possibilities of what living in a city can be like.

Obviously it depends on your financial and life circumstances, but if it’s accessible to you, you could commit to living somewhere else for a year with the idea that you’ll move back to your hometown if you don’t like it.
posted by mekily at 5:10 PM on April 28 [25 favorites]

As someone who has lived in the same city for my whole adult life, moving is a good thing, change is good and if it isn't, well, there is always change!
posted by InkaLomax at 5:14 PM on April 28 [2 favorites]

You can move away and later move back. Try it out. I moved away when I was 18/19 and haven't gone back other than visits. I'm 35.
posted by knapah at 5:15 PM on April 28 [5 favorites]

Agreed that some places are better than others, but it sounds like the actual social fixtures of your present location are the problem. That could be solved by moving, but it doesn't have to be.

I can also attest that modifying your boundaries and what you give a shit about your family or past bullies can drastically alter how you operate within your city, even if you don't move. I live pretty close to quite a bit of my family, none of whom I see.

And I wouldn't discount the fact that living in cities kind of sucks right now. I live in my home city right now, and historically have loved it. Covid has wrecked many of the bonuses of living in even a moderately sized urban area. Escapist fantasies have seen drastic increase in my own personal brain-space as of late.
posted by furnace.heart at 5:22 PM on April 28 [1 favorite]

it took me getting a job in another city that would move to move.

I was NEVER going to move. I had friends, family, the best restaurants, and knew my small hometown like the back of my hand.

But hoo boy, I have more friends and more restaurants and more love for my current city (twin cities) than back home ever. It has opened my eyes.

You should DEFINITELY leave your hometown. You'll love the new place!
posted by bbqturtle at 5:30 PM on April 28 [4 favorites]

I think you're thinking about this in the wrong way. It's good to try living someone else. That's one way that you figure out how you actually feel about your hometown. What you need to do is not define it as a permanent decision. If you move and realize that you'd prefer to live in your hometown, you can move back. That wouldn't be failure: that would be good. You'd know for sure that you actually wanted to live in your hometown, because you'd tried living somewhere else.

It sounds like the issue is less your hometown than your family, and there's something to be said for not living close to your family, especially if you want to have a life that they might not approve of.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:31 PM on April 28 [5 favorites]

I didn't have bad experiences in Chicago, don't hate my family. Lots of dear friends. I still technically work there kinda. But I left a decade ago. And while I miss a lot of stuff, no, not going back. I like my new home.
posted by wotsac at 5:49 PM on April 28

It's possible that you're the common denominator. But the only way to prove that out is to be the common denominator somewhere else.

Personally, I left my hometown at 18 and never returned. I moved around every few years after that and the longest I've lived as an adult in another place was almost ten years. I left that city to move across the country a few years ago. I can't say I have any real regrets about the moves I've made -- you miss some things but you discover new joys too. Yeah, some crap follows me because some things about me haven't changed from place to place. But a lot of crap doesn't follow me because I got a lot better at identifying problematic people and patterns with each move.
posted by sm1tten at 5:59 PM on April 28 [4 favorites]

But I also love my city - it's liberal, it's so close to the beach, there's so much to do around here.

So are a number of other cities that won't have the problems your hometown currently presents. Pick one and give it a try! You can always move back home if you miss it.
posted by coffeecat at 6:01 PM on April 28 [5 favorites]

While, it's not as simple as I will probably make it out to be... Do the math yourself:

On one side: put all the hometown advantages, AND the disadvantages.

On the other side: put your "ideal place" (probably needs to be a real city) and do the same.

Given that you are "almost" estranged from the family, AND hates dislikes your co-workers... WHAT exactly are the advantages of your hometown?
posted by kschang at 6:19 PM on April 28

Oh yes, absolutely, move! I left my hometown in search of adventure, told myself I’d try it for a year, ended up exploring lots of fun places, returned years later for family, and then ended up staying (eventually) and getting a house here. It’s nice.

But I’m so glad I left and had the experience of living in other places, seeing how other people are, and how things like weather and work and environment affect me. It was like a scientific experiment for helping me figure out what I like and what makes me happy.

Living here at 45 is different than it was at 18
or right after I finished college. People have come and gone, the map has expanded, the quaint downtown shops have changed hands over and over.

I occasionally run into familiar faces, but somehow my time away has created a helpful buffer that puts a history between us. Being able to say “Oh I was out in OtherPlace for a while but I moved back for family” works as a weirdly effective kind of magic incantation, I think, because it confirms you’re ruled by choice instead of by inertia.
posted by mochapickle at 6:23 PM on April 28 [6 favorites]

I think that you're telling us that you need a change of perspective, you should do it.
posted by ovvl at 6:34 PM on April 28 [2 favorites]

Well, if we take your description at face value, the problem isn't where you live. It's that there are specific people that you want to get away from. That's certainly something you can do by moving.

What kind of "old problems" are you worried about? How will they follow you?

It's not your fault that you were harassed at work. It's not your fault that your family is conservative. What were you supposed to do, work someplace else? Be born into another family? Therapy might be a good idea, but not because you are somehow doing something to invite these problems - it might help you with processing them, with coping mechanisms, with being kind to yourself, etc.

One thing you don't mention is other (better) relationships. Personally, I think the worst thing about moving is that it can be pretty lonely at first. If you don't have any/many close friends in your hometown anyway, though, this is less of a consideration.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 6:34 PM on April 28 [2 favorites]

This is one of the reasons residential colleges are a thing. You leave home for a few years when you’re young. If you miss your hometown, you move back after graduation. If you don’t, you don’t. I went to college in a big city, and I ended up staying there for 15 years off and on after graduation. I know other people who moved back home. Everyone does it differently.

I have to say, though, people on Metafilter drastically overrate the importance of politics in terms of where to live. What does it matter if everyone in your city votes the same way you do if you hate all those voters personally? And if you otherwise liked a city that voted differently - good professional opportunities, deep friend network, etc. - would you throw all that away because of how someone you don’t know and never interact with votes? I suspect many of these are mostly spurious rationalizations.

There are innumerable other liberal cities of various sizes with lots of things to do near oceans. You haven’t described any reason to stay in this particular city other than that you’ve stayed there in the past. Maybe think about what’s actually keeping you there, and you’ll find your answer.
posted by kevinbelt at 6:34 PM on April 28

I left mine due to husband’s job. Came back due to husband’s job. Now we are divorcing and I am leaving for good. I am tired of being haunted by ghosts of the past everywhere I go. My parents are dead, so I don’t have that issue, but the memories of everything are everywhere. I need a fresh start. I want to be somewhere I am free of a memory on every block. (For comparison sake, my hometown was 60,000 when we moved here, it’s creeping close to 200,000 now). I am moving this summer and am so excited. Being here the next few months is agony.
posted by ChristineSings at 7:33 PM on April 28 [3 favorites]

If you keep running into people you don't want to, so you're always worrying about running into them whether you do or not, it's time for a change.

If it sucks, you can always come back! Think about all the things you do like about your current city (the beach, being liberal) and find somewhere else that has that.
posted by EllaEm at 7:34 PM on April 28

I knew I had to get out of small Mass. town when I kept losing my driver's license because I got lots of speeding tickets and never paid them. The local cops knew who I was, where I lived, what I drove, and that I liked to drink. It was a miracle I never got a DUI. So I moved to NYC where I did not need a car. So in your example, your family and those other people you want to avoid are the local cops.

Go for it.
posted by vrakatar at 7:49 PM on April 28 [1 favorite]

Sometimes the charm of a place just wears off.

When you say, "Ugh! Not this again" every everytime you go out, it's time for someplace new.
posted by rw at 7:51 PM on April 28

I have to say, though, people on Metafilter drastically overrate the importance of politics in terms of where to live. What does it matter if everyone in your city votes the same way you do if you hate all those voters personally?

To put it as mildly and briefly as I can manage: as someone whose life has been and could in the future be profoundly affected by the consequences of how others have voted, I would say that there are some pretty effin' significant reasons to care about the politics of the city/state/country you live in. Though FWIW, I'm currently living in a town and state that are blue overall, and yet there are some serious blind spots that I suspect are due to how overwhelmingly white we are - which is to say that it's worth considering politics AND other demographics as you look for a new town.

And as someone who has never lived anywhere for more than 7 years, and who has found things to love about every place they've lived, I nth the suggestions to go for it! There is something both scary and exhilarating about starting fresh in a new location. I've always loved how it gives me the chance to try out (or discover) different elements of myself without the constraints of people who already know me - and launching yourself into a new location and finding a way to make it work can be SUCH a confidence builder. Whatever choice you make isn't set in stone, either - as others have said, you can always move back if what you learn is that you really do want to be in your hometown, but then you'd be going back by choice rather than just staying there by default.

Whatever you decide to do, good luck!
posted by DingoMutt at 8:11 PM on April 28 [6 favorites]

When there are a bunch of people you want to avoid, maybe you aren't standing up for yourself. If you get bullied a lot in one town, it may happen again in another town. That person who was crappy to you; don't avoid them, ignore them, pointedly. They're the jerk. Some people need to be a lot less arrogant, but some people need to develop just a little bit, a sense that they own the bit of the world under their feet, the confidence that they belong, that they deserve to be here. To be clear, you own the bit of the world under your feet, you belong (if your want), you deserve to be here.
posted by theora55 at 8:20 PM on April 28

Moving away from your hometown is a great existential leap. You get to define yourself, no-one else — not your family or history — gets to define you. It’s as liberating a thing as you can do in this life.

And hey, if it doesn’t work, you can always do it again.

Take the leap.
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:49 PM on April 28 [6 favorites]

There are other places that are close to the beach, liberal, and have plenty of things to do. However, only one place has a high concentration of family members and ex-coworkers.

Ergo, I think it would be worth it for you to move. Go about it wisely (make sure you have housing and job lined up beforehand). Worst case scenario you hate it and decide to move back to your hometown in a few years.

When choosing your new hometown, you may want to consider how much change you personally can handle. E.g. moving cities within a state is probably less change than moving cities between coasts.

P.S. Another reason folks may move is to go to college/ graduate school. While I would never encourage someone to pursue higher education for the "wrong reasons," "going away to school" is a time honored tradition for the more privileged to try out new locations in a lower stakes way.
posted by oceano at 9:01 PM on April 28

"if everyone's an asshole, then it's probably you" Actually, sometimes it's a cultural conflict and no one's fault. (Even still, sometimes majority is wrong)

Sometimes people with 'landmark' influential conflicts cannot resolve their relationship with a place they love, while in that place. That's very difficult and I'm very sorry.

Sometimes moving 2000m away from a family will later repair the relationship to that family. Sometimes it works with a place as well.

Build a stable plan and find a new perspective somewhere else.
posted by firstdaffodils at 9:15 PM on April 28 [1 favorite]

Give it a go. You’re clearly conscious that moving will not magically solve everything (the biggest pitfall of a moving plan) , so give it a go cos it may help.

Moving can be tough if you have a run of bad luck (bad job, struggle to find meaningful comfortable connections) so be prepared, but it can also be great for personal growth and a bit of fun.
posted by hotcoroner at 9:33 PM on April 28

I don't have huge family issues, but for a long time all of my brothers (I have no sisters) pretty much thought the same way my dad did. I am the oldest and when I went to college I did not think like him, though we weren't antagonists either. Going away to college made me think for myself, and act for myself, and I truly believe this helped me become a functioning adult. I stayed in this town, eventually married and had kids, had a great relationship with my folks and brothers, but always felt if I moved back I would gradually slide into the family 'groupthink' which I did not want to do. I think you need the change of place to help you have more distance from the conservative family and culture that you do not want to conform to - and I think that the distance _may_ (depending upon the issues) help improve your relationship with the family.
posted by TimHare at 9:49 PM on April 28 [3 favorites]

Giving a brief glance at your question history, it seems like this would be a big deal for your family, so I understand why it feels like a big deal for you, but it doesn't HAVE to be. I moved cities 6 times in my twenties. You could move now and then decide you miss your home city in a year and move back and that would be a great learning experience. You could decide you want to stay and that would also be fine!

It seems like you really want to get out from your family's control and moving away is a great way to start that process.

Also, it sort of seems like you have a bit of a mindset that staying is the strongest/best/most honorable thing to do, but that's not true at all. There's literally nothing wrong with moving cities. It's a great thing to do when you're young and want to spread your wings and become more independent.
posted by lunasol at 10:01 PM on April 28 [2 favorites]

Moving is a diminishing returns kind of experience. Do it once and you'll have new eyes. Do it a million times, and you may have something you need to work on.
posted by aniola at 10:41 PM on April 28 [1 favorite]

"I would say that there are some pretty effin' significant reasons to care about the politics of the city/state/country you live in. Though FWIW, I'm currently living in a town and state that are blue overall, and yet there are some serious blind spots that I suspect are due to how overwhelmingly white we are - which is to say that it's worth considering politics AND other demographics as you look for a new town."

That's precisely my point. I'm not saying "don't care about politics", because, well, everyone should. I'm saying that politics isn't all you should care about, or even the most important thing. Someone who votes for the same candidate as you isn't magically your happy fun best friend. There's tremendous variation within parties, and more importantly, there's a lot more to social happiness than political agreement, and on a day-to-day basis, those other things are more likely to affect quality of life. Politics are not sufficient, maybe not even necessary (this will probably vary by person), and should be deprioritized accordingly.

It's also worth remembering that, because of the distribution of population, that even deep blue areas aren't socialist utopias. There were more Trump voters in seven northeastern states (New England and New York - 5.7 million) than in ten western states (Idaho, Montana, the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, and Nevada - 5.4 million). Yes, there are twice as many Biden voters in the northeast, but it's small comfort to know that there are a bunch of Democrats on the other side of town if your boss and your neighbors are Trumpists. And on the flip side, as long as you're not in a super-rural or suburbs so sprawling that they became a city unto themselves (e.g. Orange County), there's likely to be a small but cohesive bloc of Democrats you can befriend even in the most Republican cities.
posted by kevinbelt at 7:10 AM on April 29

Anecdata...My cousin left home when he was still in high school, to escape an abusive, alcoholic father, and headed straight to San Francisco and never looked back. That was roughly 40 years ago. He's flourished and thrived out there in an environment that he loves.

He definitely misses the rest of the family, and has been back now and again for short visits, and many of us have visited him out there many times over the years. Moving away was the best thing he ever did for himself. I envy him sometimes.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:26 AM on April 29 [1 favorite]

I left home for college and planned to go back, but....didn't. I miss a lot of people and things there (though I recognize there have been 30 years of change), and for thirty years I have been actively wishing I never left. I didn't have the negative forces in my life that you describe.

Here's the thing: the people who I wanted to avoid -- and there are a lot of them -- are inescapable, because the people I do like are part of a society, and the jerks are their co-corkers, neighbors, relatives, parents of school-age children, &c. Mostly I stay in touch via social media, and those platforms are always trying to knit me back into the hometown social networks.

So it could be really hard for you to totally cut ties without some of the Toxic People leaching back in.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:49 AM on April 29

Even if you end up deciding that the objective qualities of your city make it a top choice for you, leaving for a while will give you some much-needed distance from the personal drama. If you're gone for a few years, you're much less likely to feel triggered (for want of a better word) by seeing people you don't like or to feel as worried that your family will realize you're doing things they don't like. So another vote for leaving because you can always come back.
posted by metasarah at 8:23 AM on April 29

I think Living Somewhere Else For A While should be something everyone does at least once. Maybe you come back, maybe it's not for 20 years, maybe it's never, but I don't think a lot of people on their deathbed express regret that they didn't live continuously in the same place all their lives.

But I think narrative is a big deal so I would encourage you to spend the next month putting some effort into reframing this before you start making decisions. Don't be That Person who's "gotta get outta this town, maaan", these people suck, I had a bad job, there's nothin' for me here - that sets you up to expect the new place to fix the problem, rather than a new set of experiences to give you a fresh perspective. Also don't treat this move like you're going to just plunk yourself down 475 miles away and stay there until you die.

This should be about trying something new. Having an adventure. Seeking new experiences. Finding yourself. Challenging yourself. Even if you decide at the end of one year to go back home, it'll be a choice you made and not a status you quo'd.

And I find that whenever I put myself in that headspace where I'm excited and curious for this kind of change, the opportunities show up. I don't even think that's some kind of woo, I just think that when we are locked in a "stuck" mindset the brain instantly rejects any notice or consideration of those opportunities as impossible, so they never even really touch your conscious thoughts. But when you've decided you're looking, they catch your attention.

I do think most people benefit from therapy too, as a sort of intermediate training course in Being A Human, but you could do that while you're also off being in this headspace of challenging yourself and learning and growing. That's a great set of circumstances to be working on learning better skills for managing stress and anxiety, improving your people skills for making new friends, generally trying to be the best you you can be. You don't have to be in the lowest dumps to go to therapy, it in fact is a lot more efficient when you're not.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:32 AM on April 29 [6 favorites]

Just do it. Sometimes the best solution is to stop overthinking a problem. You've been unhappy in this location for quite a while. Just save some money, and get outta Dodge. I'm eternally grateful that I picked up and moved out of town after college, and I did it without much of a plan, or a job. Push you outside of your comfort zone, and make the move. Don't worry about what others might say or think. This is *your* life, and you're not happy where you're at. Even if the problem *might* be solved by therapy where you're at, it's quite likely that a change of scenery will also help the situation.
posted by hydra77 at 8:40 AM on April 29

I moved away around age 20-ish. For various reasons I have never been able to move back. I miss my hometown so much!!! But I'm 100% glad I moved, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. I got a whole life that I would never have had a chance at in my home town.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 3:47 PM on April 29

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