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Finding My Place to Call Home

I left a city I loved for what I hoped would be greener territory. Now, I'm not sure if my former flame is worth returning to.

The day I moved to the West Village in 2014

I came to New York at 21 with dreams of becoming a “writer.” I spent my first few years in the post-college party scene of Murray Hill, before heading downtown to a (slightly) calmer life in the West Village. I had worked my way up the masthead at a few publications. I loved my work, had good friends, and was (fairly) happily single and dating.

But about six years later, something had changed. That spark was gone. I just didn’t feel the same way about New York as I used to.

I still loved New York, but I wasn’t in love with it. 

***

Like any long-term relationship, we had our issues. The incessant sounds, the smells, the non-existent superintendent who never fixed my radiator.

I was disenchanted by how difficult it was to actually leave the city, with congested airports and busy train stations and no car.

I missed my parents, who live in Florida.

I missed nature, and Central Park wasn’t really cutting it anymore.

The thought of gearing up for another seemingly endless winter made me tired. Everything had been making me tired, actually.

As passed the five-year mark, many of my best friends decided to make the move elsewhere, to easier, calmer lives in Dallas, Denver, and California. At that point, I hadn’t even considered leaving New York any time soon. But as they began to head out, one by one, the realization that I could leave — that I could start a new life somewhere else, too — dawned on me.

Night at the (Whitney) Museum

As my 28th birthday approached, I started to think seriously about moving. Maybe it’s time to go back to my roots in the South, I figured. Maybe that was my real “home.” Maybe that’s more “me.” Maybe I should get out of this fast-paced, expensive life and see what it’s like to move a little more slowly for once.

I was ready for a job change as well, so I started looking at opportunities in New York, as well as in Atlanta, a city I didn’t know much about but where I had some friends from high school and college. 

Then a job offer in Atlanta materialized, while the job offers in New York didn’t. The job sounded too good to be true. I decided, or at least told myself, that I was ready for a change.

So it was over with New York. When I made up my mind, I tried not to look back.

But ending a relationship, especially one that had defined a big chunk of your life, is never easy. (I should’ve known. I don’t exactly have a great track record dealing with breakups.)

***

Indeed, a year and a half later, I’m still stuck on New York. I’m still sifting through the pieces of our relationship, the fading memories, trying to answer the questions in my mind. Where did we go wrong? What role did I play in our downfall? What was my fault, and what was New York’s? Could we be happy together again?

It probably doesn’t help that my relationship with Atlanta got off to a rocky start. In my second day at my new job, I learned the position they’d described in the months-long interview process had essentially been eliminated, thanks to a new CEO. I was left stunned, sitting at my desk in a nondescript office building in the middle of a new city I knew nothing about.

I quit after six miserable months.

While I loved being able to work for myself (and take workout classes at any time of day!), freelance life wasn’t all it’s cracked to be. It was lonely. I had to pay for my own health insurance. I wasn’t creatively stimulated. I missed having colleagues.

I also thought moving out of the city would help me get healthier, but I actually felt worse. The combination of stress, Southern food, drinking often to make new friends (it worked, but the hangovers weren’t worth it), and much less walking led to more than a few extra pounds and a never-ending feeling of fatigue.

My personal life also went through some ups and downs. I started to feel like an outsider. (In New York, you can’t be an “outsider.” Everyone is!) Maybe I’m not a Southerner at heart, I started to think, even though I spent the first 21 years of my life here.

Let’s be clear: Atlanta hasn’t been all bad. I’ve seen my parents more often, which is probably the biggest benefit to living here. 

I’ve traveled a ton. I became self-employed as a freelance writer and content consultant. I also attended a health coaching program at Emory University in Atlanta, a definite silver lining. I’ve made some great friends. I’ve realized Atlanta does have a lot to offer, and it’s grown considerably in the brief time I’ve lived here. It’s a great place to live, overall — but maybe not for me.

**

The thing is, I still think about New York all the time. And I’m realizing that in my current status — 29, single, and career-oriented — New York simply has more to offer me than Atlanta. Sure, Atlanta has adorable starter homes and lots of green space for families.

But it doesn’t have the work events and interesting talks and panels that New York had, every night of the week. The ever-expanding wellness scene. The art exhibits. I miss hearing passion in people’s voices when they talk about their jobs. I miss random deep conversations with strangers in bars. Most of all, I miss feeling that you’re truly in the center of it all — that you can literally have access to anything you want, if you just put in the effort.

Being a tourist in my own (former) town

You’re probably thinking it, and I am too. I have to catch myself and wonder, Am I just remembering the good stuff?

Am I just replaying the highlight reel of my life in New York, the picture-perfect moments? That’s so easy to do these days, after all. 

I scroll through photos from my time in New York, and it feels like they’re out of a movie scene — not real life. Morning runs along the Highline?! Sunset drinks on friends’ rooftops?! Underground concerts in old warehouses?! Of course, I didn’t take pictures of the time my radiator broke during the coldest week of winter, of the time I got stuck on the subway on the way to JFK, of the lonely nights I stayed in, of the heartbreaks.

In some ways, I know I’m just looking back with rose-colored glasses. (I tend to do that with relationships too.)

But I can’t help thinking that I pulled the plug too soon, letting the life I’d worked so hard to establish go down the drain.

So now I wonder: Is it worth trying to rekindle that old flame? Should I give more time to Atlanta, or is it smarter to start a completely new chapter elsewhere—Austin, Denver, San Francisco? There are so many questions that I’m still working on answering.

But one thing I do know is this: After this last move, I know all too well that making a big change won’t make everything ~perfect.~ Just like a relationship can’t guarantee happiness, a new city won’t make all your old issues disappear. Still, sometimes it’s just what you need to start a new page in your own love story.

I’d love to hear from you if you’ve ever faced a similar dilemma! Let me know @lockeitdown on Instagram or @lockevictoria on Twitter.

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