East to West – My Journey Across the Country

Processed with VSCOcam with n1 presetIt’s a quiet, gray, Saturday morning. After a week of sun and mixed clouds, the Seattle weather has finally settled in. I’m sitting in my new apartment, nestled in one of Seattle’s more younger neighborhoods, Capital Hill. After five days with my stuff from the movers, I’m finally unpacked.

I lived in New York City for nine years, minus a brief stint in San Francisco and New Jersey. I remember my arrival to the city distinctly – on Christmas Eve of 2005, my new roommate informed me that she picked me to co-occupy a tiny one bedroom converted to two on St. Mark’s in the East Village. For four years, starting January 2006, I lived on one of the most trafficked, crazy streets in Manhattan in a quiet apartment run by slum lords who occasionally turned off the hot water without warning. Then the Upper East Side. In San Francisco, I couldn’t listen to Jay Z and Alicia Key’s latest hit “New York State of Mind” without getting a pang of momentary sadness. Then back to NYC- three years of a “Brooklyn tour” hitting Prospect Heights, Crown Heights, Park Slope, Williamsburg and Carroll Gardens. Finally, back to the Upper East Side or Yorkville.

My decision to move across the country didn’t come lightly. It involved countless pros and cons lists. Some soul searching. Talking to friends and family. I think I even tried to meditate. Ultimately, I decided that I was ready for a change and that whatever I decided, New York would still be there. Change I will get. As a result, my coast has changed, apartment, job – from freelance to full time. And my favorite – even my operating system will change at work given that I’m now in a Microsoft town.

During my research into what decision to make, I came across countless blog posts where people declared they were over New York City and consequently leaving. I had these moments- walking 15 minutes to the subway where everyday, I’d look up thinking I was further along only to realize I was only at First Avenue. Then getting crushed on the 6 Train. Sometimes I felt like I wasn’t gaining traction in my career, felt like I couldn’t afford all New York City had to offer. But then I had those small moments that were so uniquely New York. Stepping into a wine bar with my pros and cons list where a group of French people argued at the end of the bar. The muscular bartender, who I stereotyped as being from Long Island (I’m from Jersey, I can think these things), actually hailed from Hawaii. The trans performer dancing and singing his heart out at the Union Square subway station. A January dim sum gathering with long time friends. Or walking by the church I was baptized in, feeling a sense of pride as I thought – I’m a real New Yorker.

Recently, philosopher Ruth Chang’s TED Talk on how to make decisions was floating around the internet. She speaks about how people try to quantify decisions. Will moving to Seattle be the better option, or is staying in New York the right decision? Ultimately, with both offering their own pros and cons, neither tips the scale as being a clear winner or loser. This is considered a hard decision. Instead, it’s up to me to choose what kind of lifestyle I’m seeking. What am I willing to give up in order to get? What new experiences do I seek that are worth giving up all that is comfortable and familiar? Who do I want to be?

We make our choices and then adjust our life to build around those decisions. So the next time you see another “Why I’m Leaving New York” blog post, take it for what it is – an attempt to rationalize a decision that they may need outside support on. For those fortunate enough, where you live is a choice. It’s a choice to experience certain aspects of a lifestyle while sacrificing others. It’s a choice to experience the unfamiliar or choose to live among the familiar. It’s a choice to make your life the way you want it to be.

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