should I move back to New York from the Bay Area?
February 23, 2023 5:54 PM   Subscribe

I've lived in the Bay for 9 months and I'm thinking of moving back to NYC soon. There are many factors at play, including the tech job market and whether it's OK to move to avoid an ex... help me decide?

I'm in my late 20s, queer POC, single & trying to date. I'm trying to enter the tech industry as a day job (i.e. currently not employed, but trying to make a career change into it from a related industry, so I have still have an OK shot at jobs in a shitty market - I've done onsites with multiple companies at this point). I'm also trying to make it as a writer (this is very serious for me, I've been working on my writing for many years, gone to workshops, have mentors, etc.).

I lived elsewhere, then lived in NY for 3 months, then moved to Oakland, where I've been for the last 9 months. An opportunity has come up to be my friend's roommate in Brooklyn in 2-5 months. Financially, the move will be a stretch, but I'm willing to take out a loan if it's ultimately worth it. I think I was probably always going to move back to NY, the question is just - should I do it this soon?

Overall, I know NY pretty well (I'm from the tri-state area and have lived in NY for 3-month stints but not longer). I also have a history of moving around a lot. From doing internships, I'm used to being in a strange city and needing to figure things out, and I enjoy it. Maybe too much?

I'm feeling less enthused about the Bay these days. I actually moved here because I managed to have multiple near-death experiences within a 3-month span of living in NY, and was hearing a lot about queer/leftist circles in Oakland. Career-wise, I feel restricted here - I had a relationship end so badly that I really don’t want to set foot into SF, and the commute to South Bay is too long.

Otherwise I tried to set down roots in Oakland, and it wasn't implausible - I had some close friends around, and was interested in various community organizations. I have ended up with some vaguely promising projects and friendships here but nothing that feels like a strong tie, although it could maybe lead somewhere interesting if I let it. I became drastically disillusioned about the community organizations I was working with here, though I have maintained my relationships with them out of niceness. The cost of living is very high here. I do not enjoy not being able to go out at night (Oakland is a ghost town at night). The city feels very small. It feels like, socially, I've hit a ceiling.

I love the weather and natural beauty of California, and I like my close friends here. They provide the stability that I probably need in my life. The projects and relationships might go somewhere if I let them. I could genuinely see myself happy here for a few years if I gave it a shot. Maybe all of this is just depression talking and I would be negative no matter where I lived.

In NY, I have about the same number of close friends as in the Bay. One of them is very well-connected in the artistic circles I hope to enter, another one is a lifelong NYer and dear friend, another one is a lover who I have very strong feelings about (and it seems mutual - I would be so happy to see her often). It feels actually easier to get a tech job in NY because I won't have to worry about running into my ex. My socialite friend has already offered me a specific place to live; this removes the worst parts of NY (finding an apartment and finding a social circle); the rent is much lower than in the Bay, I like her and the neighborhood. I feel even though the internet exists, it still helps, as a writer, to live near other writers. My family is nearby. There are enough people so that I don't feel repressed or circumscribed as I do in the Bay.

I know the downsides of NY very well - the grime, the crowds, the loneliness, the people who don't have time for you unless they can climb over you. I actually prefer the upsides that they bring - recently I visited NY for a week and realized that I miss the grit, I miss the crowds, the loneliness will be terrible at first but go away eventually because I'm good at making friends, and as a snob I should just admit my nature and go live in Brooklyn with the other snobs. :)

I also feel pressured to decide soon because I'm on the job market. I don't want to put down roots here if I have this rare, unrooted chance to leave. The reason I'm asking this question is that I feel like I can't make any other decisions until I commit either way.


Should I just suck it up and get a job in SF and keep running into my hostile ex? But why do that (and have my daily quality of life eroded for years) if NY is an equivalent tech job market and a much larger city?

I'm worried about saving face among my friends and family - is it weird to live somewhere for 9 months and go back to where I came from so quickly? Does that reflect poorly on me and how I value my relationships? Or is it just rational to take a better option when it is available, no matter when it comes?

Am I just moving somewhere to get away from myself? To me, NY really seems materially better, but maybe it's just the grass-is-greener syndrome and the exhilaration of moving.

Is the tech job market still comparable in NY? From a quick survey of Hacker News, although the market is nasty, almost every posting offers NY or remote.

Isn't moving a huge hassle? Yes, but I'm used to doing it...

Why not get a remote job in the Bay? Because remote-only is harder to get and the market is only getting worse.

Will I get sick of NY and want to leave? Eventually, maybe, but I could definitely commit for something like 2 years, especially if I get a job there.
posted by anonymous to Society & Culture (20 answers total)
In your situation I would move back to NYC in a heartbeat. Don't overthink it.
posted by randomquestion at 6:02 PM on February 23, 2023 [7 favorites]

Is it really just SF or NY? Have you explored anywhere else? I'm thinking New Jersey, seriously.
posted by SPrintF at 6:04 PM on February 23, 2023 [2 favorites]

Hold on hold on.

I'm willing to take out a loan

To rent?! How are you planning to qualify for this loan without a job? How are you planning to pay it back? Do you enjoy flushing money down toilets?

Look, if I were you I’d probably move back. I’ve moved back to an old city after living somewhere else after only three months. But you need more of a plan than this.
posted by kevinbelt at 6:23 PM on February 23, 2023 [11 favorites]

I don't want to put down roots here if I have this rare, unrooted chance to leave.

While I get that not having to find an apartment (especially now) is a major plus in making a move easier, NYC isn't going anywhere (climate change pending), your network will still be there in a year or two, this is not your only chance to move back.

That's not to say you shouldn't move back - but I wouldn't move back because you feel like it's now or never.

I'm also a little confused why a toxic ex means you can't set foot in SF, a city of 800,000+ people.

I don't know the tech industry, but I'd try to at least have a few informational interviews with people in tech who live in NYC, who can give you a sense of what the labor market is like right now.
posted by coffeecat at 6:29 PM on February 23, 2023 [7 favorites]

Never ever take out a loan in order to move; that puts you on a path that veers dangerously close to homelessness if things don’t go perfectly.
posted by aramaic at 6:49 PM on February 23, 2023 [16 favorites]

Make a more independent decision. Place your self at the center, and make your survival happen. Get into a relationship with you. Focus on your work and income prospects. There are a lot of people in the bay area, forget about that one hostile individual. Focus on you, your life, making your life something you enjoy, and survive.
posted by Oyéah at 7:05 PM on February 23, 2023 [5 favorites]

I think you could probably be happy in either place, honestly. One person definitely shouldn't be a reason to move away (what if the same thing happens in NYC)? I would apply for jobs in both places, and make a decision when you have an offer, rather than moving back before you have a job there.
posted by pinochiette at 7:30 PM on February 23, 2023 [2 favorites]

Personally, I think you need a better plan than connections and familiarity and loans.

I live in the Bay Area and work in tech (caveat: I'm fully remote now, to a company on the East Coast), and I am a little puzzled by why you feel career restricted by your ex's presence; also, I would not assume it is easier to get a job in NYC, especially since this is a career transition for you. I think in some ways it depends on what it is you're trying to do.
posted by sm1tten at 7:35 PM on February 23, 2023 [2 favorites]

From your description, you should make plans to move back to New York. You come across as excited and passionate about New York, and lukewarm about the Bay Area. Being able to "make it" in any place really depends on how how well you can tolerate its difficulties. When you love something, its problems just seem charming, but if you don't love it, the smallest annoyances will feel like a big setback. Also, It doesn't matter what other people think about your choice to move; they can admire you for making the move, or they can think you're flaky - either way, it's not going to make much of a material difference in your quality of life.

That said:

1. Being unemployed and broke in NY really sucks (as you probably know already). It's hard to enjoy a city that's built for going out if you can't afford to go out; it's hard to date and enter new social circles if you don't have money to join them at events, host, etc. Not impossible, but hard, especially if you're already struggling emotionally with a breakup and the grind of job searching. So, it really depends on how much of a stretch it will be financially to move now, how much debt you'd end up in, and how likely it is that you can find a job before your money really runs out. I work in tech in NYC, but I don't think anyone can tell you how good the job market will be for you, especially since you're coming over from an adjacent industry. You should start interviewing now for remote positions and roles in NYC and make the decision to move after you've done that for a bit.

2. You say: "I actually moved here because I managed to have multiple near-death experiences within a 3-month span of living in NY" This sounds really intense and potentially traumatic. You only moved 9 months ago - have you had enough time to come to terms with those experiences?
posted by rhythm and booze at 9:45 PM on February 23, 2023 [6 favorites]

The big question imo is how you'd feel about the bay if the ex was not a factor. The feelings about the ex will fade (though they may feel eternal right now) but the rest of your feelings about the bay may not. It sounds like you're overall lukewarm, even without the ex.

I'm a tech-employed (cis white) lefty who travels in diverse queer circles and I left the bay for NYC 7 years ago, so I'm either too biased to weigh in or have particularly appropriate advice: NYC is magic for all the reasons I think you know – the connections and inspirations that the overlapping communities here provide are unparalleled, especially in creative communities. And the bay is magic, for all the reasons you list: the weather, the nature. I'd add: the light, the burritos, and people from the bay (again, I'm biased ;)

So yeah I do think that NYC is materially better. But I also think maybe you're looking for something to fix how you feel, and not, you know, listening to the stronger pull of what you really love.

Also NYC will kick your ass – financially, socially, emotionally, and sometimes physically (which it sounds like you already experienced!). There so many challenges that come up when moving here and trying to stay here, put roots here.

So I agree with others who say to keep NYC as a vision but spend some more time in the bay to both 1. see if you move past this current frustration (maybe you find a job you like; how would that feel?) and 2. lay in a better plan for moving.

Jumping to NYC sans job, on a loan, imo is a recipe for hitting a wall in 3, 6, or 9 months and feeling just as bad (or worse) as you feel right now :( NYC with some savings, or a remote job (part time, even), or even just without needing to service a loan! has a much higher chance of success.
posted by wemayfreeze at 12:07 AM on February 24, 2023 [2 favorites]

new york rules, come back!
posted by wowenthusiast at 12:08 AM on February 24, 2023 [1 favorite]

I'm joining the choir that says, never use a loan to move you from one set of uncertainties to another.

Saving face shouldn't be part of your calculus. It sounds like you have two broad options, each with advantages and disadvantages, both of which are mostly (optimistically) imagined right now. This does mean, in practical terms, that you are very flexible. Spend some time identifying which of those potential advantages/disadvantages you can collapse into reality in the next few weeks and months from where you are now. Get yourself out of the habit of feeling like you have to be somewhere specific to get started with pursuing life in ways that feel like putting down roots. Roots can be transplanted, but you don't get time back that you spend in limbo.

I had a relationship end so badly that I really don’t want to set foot into SF.

Look, I get it. I left San Francisco a couple years after my divorce and am currently about 7,000 miles away. But this is avoidant thinking trickling into making you actually avoid a huge part of the region in which you currently live. If you're looking to write professionally, you're harming that ambition by avoiding a city that is arguably the epicenter of writing-as-career in Nor Cal. It'll serve you well to approach this issue, because—let's play the tape forward, and you move to New York or anywhere else—what happens if you have another bad breakup or complicated social situation or an unpleasant boss or any of the other things that can happen no matter where you are? As long as "avoid it" is part of your toolkit, you might feel the urge to jump cities so often that that becomes your career. That feeling of restriction is not part of any geography, it's within you.

You've been through a lot. You have access to some terrific resources in the Bay, and I encourage you to seek them out. Talk about these things with people who can help you map out all this stuff, because it's hard to do and help is a good thing. I was almost 40 before I confronted that (and fwiw I started at the SF Therapy Collective, which has income-based fee structures in case you're interested in talking to them). I wish I'd sought out therapy sooner, honestly. It's been such a help in getting me to a place where I can confront these big questions and dilemmas in a way that really digs into what I value most in life. I bet the folks at SFTC could point you to resources that are nearer to you in Oakland, too.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 2:10 AM on February 24, 2023 [5 favorites]

I'm actualIy contemplating the reverse move at the moment, mainly for social reasons that don't apply to you. Your reasoning feels impulsive and driven by a need to get away from your ex. What will you do in six months when the roommate situation ends? You're going to need to have resources to move again.

My instinct is that there will continue to be more tech jobs in the Bay Area than in NYC. However, living in the East Bay means many of them come with a hellish commute, so functionally the NYC market may be better because it's essentially all in play regardless of where you live (okay, I don't want to work in Jersey City living in Upper Manhattan, but that'd still be easier than Oakland to Mountain View).
posted by hoyland at 4:00 AM on February 24, 2023 [1 favorite]

If you really like NY better, go ahead and move back. That said, you wrote that you have only lived in NY for 3 months at a time while you have lived in Oakland for closer to a year. I wonder if you have been experiencing repeated "honeymoon" periods with NY by never staying very long, while with Oakland you've lived there long enough to really start seeing and internalizing some of the challenges.

Should I just suck it up and get a job in SF and keep running into my hostile ex? But why do that (and have my daily quality of life eroded for years) if NY is an equivalent tech job market and a much larger city?
I don't understand this part. Are you looking for work in a niche part of the tech industry with a really small number of people? Otherwise, SF obviously isn't on the same scale as NYC but it isn't exactly a small country village either. You should not be running into this person on a regular basis. And from my own experience, Oakland may have the reputation for being a queer leftist utopia but having lived in both places, I had a much easier time finding activities, building social connections, and dating when I moved to San Francisco. Don't rule out living and working there because of your bad breakup.
I'm worried about saving face among my friends and family - is it weird to live somewhere for 9 months and go back to where I came from so quickly?
It's fine to try different places and decide they aren't a good long-term fit. Some people might think that's weird but so what? They don't have to live there.
Is the tech job market still comparable in NY?

No, and it never has been. However the market in NY has plenty going on, if you found a job there you would still have good mobility either in the region or outside. +1 to doing some informational interviews to get a better sense of the current market.
posted by 4rtemis at 4:22 AM on February 24, 2023

I suggest you focus purely logistics and practicalities while deciding whether to move or not. If you get a job in Brooklyn which can cover all your costs, yay, move! If not, then you stay right here. *Applying* for jobs is still a remote activity, even if the job itself won't be a remote-friendly one. You can tell potential NYC area employers that you're willing to move for the job. Let them cover your moving costs. Do not take out a loan to move.

Your reason for wanting to move is pretty weird, ngl, but who cares? You are allowed to move to Brooklyn - as long as you can truly afford to - even if your motivations are terrible! There is no "You Must Be This Psychologically Healthy To Move To Brooklyn" prerequisite. There are plenty of therapists in Brooklyn who can help you after you move, whatever, you can address your psyche later. For now, moving will not hurt you just because your reasons for moving are emotionally sketchy. But moving WILL hurt you if you're not capable of financing it without a loan.
posted by MiraK at 11:00 AM on February 24, 2023 [2 favorites]

I moved to SF from NYC for a tech job 7 years ago. I was strongly considering moving back right before the pandemic, after a break up. I'm really glad I stayed, because committing to my relationships here has made all the difference.

With respect, you haven't really tried putting down roots in Oakland. You can't put down roots in 9 months, it takes longer than that! New York is great, and I still miss parts of it (SF is less suburban, but I really feel what you're saying about it being dead at night here), but it seems like you're running away from your feelings about your relationship and unemployment. Those things will travel with you. That, coupled with the financial hardship of moving makes me think you should give the Bay an honest go. Find a job (ideally a remote one or with a branch in NYC). Visit SF a lot and build new, ex-free associations. Hang out in your friends' back yards, go to house parties, go on hikes, eat a lot of Mexican food, go on some dates, save some money. If you still feel the same way in another 9 months, move to NYC.
posted by umwelt at 1:10 PM on February 24, 2023

NYC is the best, and it seems like all your instincts know it. The Bay Area sucks for just about every reason except the weather/outdoors, and it seems like 9 months is plenty of time to have discovered and confirmed that. Follow your gut and get back to New York. There are jobs and friends in both places, NYC is more affordable for you, and you're drawn to it. You're allowed to do what you want and if anyone is judging you for it, that's their business, not yours.
posted by luzdeluna at 4:14 PM on February 24, 2023 [2 favorites]

All the major tech firms have been doing rounds of layoffs. This isn't a good time to take out a loan to move to an expensive city without a tech job in place. A better plan would be to stay put, interview for jobs in both locations, then decide once you've got one or more offers.

I can understand why the opportunity to live with your friend in BK seems appealing but it's not your only chance to move to / live in NYC.

I'd consider moving only if you have a contingency plan for the following: you move, 6-12 (or more?!) months go by without a job offer, and you still have to pay your living expenses and pay back the loan you got in order to move. Do you have family you could rely on for help?
posted by whitelily at 6:21 PM on February 24, 2023

I missed the part where you said your rent in NYC would be a lot less. That's surprising to me, since NYC is insanely expensive (you mention a high cost of living in Oakland, and the same is generally true in NYC). Perhaps that should be a factor, though I still think you should have a contingency plan in place for the scenario where you can't find a job for a while.
posted by whitelily at 6:50 PM on February 24, 2023 [1 favorite]

I think you should move whenever you feel like moving and who cares what others think about it. That being said: do not take out a loan to move.

I had a relationship end so badly that I really don’t want to set foot into SF

I understand this feeling, but regardless of where you finally end up, having a bad relationship limit where you can go geographically and the sorts of jobs you can get is something that can be worked on. What happens if you move someplace you love and have a relationship with someone in your own neighborhood end very badly? Figuring out what it takes to not let this person or any other person run your life in absentia is pretty vital to happiness in one's future life. It sounds melodramatic, but consider that you're letting someone else render an entire city unusable for yourself. Don't give that person that power.

The projects and relationships might go somewhere if I let them.

I don't know where you should live, but consider examining this statement more closely. Why not let these things fully flower, so to speak? Having fun relationships and projects in Oakland won't prevent you from moving to NYC in the future- and they may lead to better opportunities, relationships and outcomes even if you choose to leave. I could be wrong but I see a lot of self limiting language in what you wrote and I'm not sure that moving right now will change that. Living fully and challenging your own obstacles can give you a better insight into what you need in your environment.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:39 PM on February 25, 2023

« Older Music licensing for sports events   |   Portlanders: how will the roads be downtown in the... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.