Two years ago today, I was living the West Village of New York City, and working at a media startup.
One year ago, I was living in Atlanta, GA, working for myself as a freelance writer. I had recently quit my new job, and was adjusting to my new normal.
Today, I’m sitting in an apartment in Park City, Utah. I’m still freelancing—and I’m far happier than I’ve ever been in the last two years.
I’ve been here in Utah for about three weeks, with side trips to Colorado, San Francisco and more planned. I’m taking the time this summer to live out West, exploring a part of the country I haven’t spent much time in before. I’m more outside my comfort zone than I’ve ever been before. But I’m really f*ing happy.
Clearly, there’s been a lot of change in my life over the past couple of years. There’s been a lot of ups, plenty of downs, and so many new experiences that it’s hard to put into words. I won’t go into all the details here (I’ve talked about it in previous Thrive posts about leaving New York and moving to Atlanta) but in today’s post, I just wanted to share a few things I’ve learned about life, people, and myself over the last couple of years.
This is probably the biggest thing I’ve learned, even if it sounds super-duper obvious. Even though I was relatively happy in NYC after six years living there, all of the sudden, I got the nagging suspicion that maybe I should pack it up and leave. I decided to move back to the South. And while there were a few good reasons—to be closer to my family, a lot of my friends had done the same, and because NYC is so dang expensive—the main reason because I figured that’s what a lot of people did after living in NYC for 6 years. But guess what? You’re not “other people.” You’re only you.
I think that if I had listened to myself more closely, I could have avoided some of the less successful decisions I made over the past two years. I didn’t really want to work for the company I went to work for in Atlanta. I felt a knot in my stomach when I started looking at apartments. I wasn’t sure I wanted to date that person, but I went along with it. So many times over the past two years, I’ve thought to myself, WTF am I doing? But I still went through with it, whatever it was. I definitely wish I’d listen to my gut instincts instead of always just going with the flow.
Similarly, I took a job in Atlanta without much hesitation, mainly because of the $$$ I saw on the offer letter. Also it sounded great in interviews. In reality, it wasn’t at all as they’d described the role, and the company had pivoted its strategy in between the interview process and my first day. So while I can’t blame myself 100% for taking it, I do wish I had thought more about how the company’s values lined up with my own. I also recently walked away from a job offer after speaking to former employees who didn’t have a good experience with the company. Next time I am contemplating a full-time job offer, I plan to talk to as many people as possible—mentors, friends, colleagues, and most importantly, myself—before accepting.
I think this is a natural realization that comes with age, but this point was driven home to me over the course of my moves. I’ve seen people come into my life for a short period time, then move on. Sure, it can hurt, it can sting, it can be painful—whether it’s a romantic relationship or a platonic friend. At the same time, plenty other people have stayed put in my life for decades. Both types of relationships happen for a reason, and both types of people will teach you something.
It’s an old cliche, but it’s true: You don’t want to look back on your life and think, “I wish I’d realized how good I had it.” That thought went through my mind a lot after leaving NYC, and I hated it. If you’re constantly chasing after something “better,” well, nothing will be good enough. I think if you’re overall happy where you are—with your job, your city, your S.O.—that’s usually enough. 🙂
When you’re in a vulnerable position, it’s easier than ever to let yourself get taken advantage. When I was unhappy, I let lots of people use me—in dating, in friendships, in work situations. The good news? All of these have served as lessons, and helped me grow stronger and more confident than I’ve ever been.
Similarly, in addition to making sure other people treat you the way you deserve, make sure you’re treating yourself the way you deserve. The past few years have tested me in a lot of ways, and you know the main thing that’s carried me through? Belief in myself. Believing that I could do anything I wanted to, and I deserved more, and I wanted more, has been my buoy over the roughest waters.
I’ve realized how crucial treating my body well is for my state of mind, after a rollercoaster couple of years, health-wise. (Here are the 6 lessons that finally turned my health around.) The best news: It doesn’t take a drastic diet or a draconian workout to be “healthy.” It’s more about the little things — skipping dessert, cutting back on carbs, drinking less, getting more sleep, finding an exercise class you love—that make a big difference in your health, mental and physical.
Okay, I lied: There’s a caveat to number 6. Sometimes, you get to a point when you realize you do want something more—or something different—out of life. And that’s okay. After six years in New York, I wanted a change. (Maybe I made the wrong change, but that’s not my point here.) After a year and a half in Atlanta, I wanted something way different. I wanted more. And moving out West has given me exactly that—whether or not I’m out here for good.
One of the most reassuring things I’ve realized over the past couple years is how small the world is! I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met so far this summer, whom I’ve found random connections with to different parts and people in my life. It’s a smaller world than ever before in the history of mankind, thanks to the ease of travel and technology. I may be far away from my loved ones right now, but the best part is that they’re just a FaceTime call, text message, or a plane flight away.
I’ve grown to understand it takes time to adjust to a new place — to find the best grocery store, where to refill your prescriptions, the best running/walking routes. Be patient. Know it’s going to be hard at first, but also know you’re going to get through it. I had a couple moments of panic, both in my first few weeks in Atlanta and my first few days here in Park City, simply because I wasn’t familiar with my surroundings. Just like I am fine now, you will be too.
Cheesiness alert. This made me tear up just typing it. My true friends have seriously shown up for me in the past year, whether it was in the form of long phone calls, coming to visit, or inviting me to stay with them in their homes, now all across the country, from New York to Dallas to San Francisco . I’m so grateful to my true friends for being there for me. I love you all.
I’ve never shied away from hard work—in school, in my career, in the gym. But going freelance—especially going freelance in a brand-new city—is a whole different world. I took so many coffee and lunch meetings in Atlanta I can’t keep track of them all. In Park City, I’m doing the same—setting up time to meet with anyone I have any sort of connection too. (The good news? People usually say yes!) I’ve also spent endless hours re-connecting with NYC contacts and colleagues, and scouring websites I’m pitching. Bottom line: It takes a lot of time, effort, and yep, lots of emails to create a career you love, especially when you’ve recently moved to a new town.
Honestly, if there’s one main thing I’ve realized, it’s this: If you’re thinking about making a change, do it. Don’t let fear (especially that pesky fear of worrying about what other people think) stop you. Because it’s honestly really not going to be a tough as you think. Of course, think it through first, and make sure it’s what you REALLY want—because a new place or a new job isn’t the magic bullet to solve all your problems. But a change can be invigorating, refreshing, and honestly, kind of fun. Bite the bullet. And let me know if you do. 🙂