It’s late September and you’re sitting in the shambles of your bedroom; clothes are thrown everywhere, your bureau is covered with anything you couldn’t find a spot for. You need to pack but don’t know where to begin. In a little over a week, you’ll be moving. Not to another apartment in New York, but back home because you just can’t do it anymore. Your mental health has taken a major hit and you’re not accepting it. You weren’t expecting this to happen – especially so soon – but it’s happening and surprisingly, you’re actually okay with it.
Even though your life in New York only lasted a less than a year and a half, more has happened to help you grow than you could have ever anticipated. Your time there wasn’t long, but life seemed to happen in fast forward, squeezing in more life lessons, experiences, and realizations about your sense of self than you could have ever imagined. And it’s scary and sad and you’re not happy like you expected you would be, but you’re learning and growing and the experience was ultimately with it. You know you needed this. Part of it comes naturally from growing up – you went from 22 to 24 in New York. You went from early twenties to mid twenties. You don’t enjoy the same things you did a year ago and your priorities have changed almost completely. You’re a different person. But you know this isn’t just because you’re getting older and maturing. You know New York had a major hand in showing you what’s most important to you and that you can’t pretend to be anything or like anything for other people. You need to live for yourself.
I’ll start off with this, things you anticipated about New York, but had to actually experience to understand to what extent: everything smells bad and everything costs money – too much money. You’ll spend unfathomable amounts on cab rides from Manhattan or even just from one end of Brooklyn to the other, and the beer all costs too much, as do your groceries. Plus, you order food out way more than you should, and every time you hit “place order” on seamless, you can hear your bank account begin to whimper. Despite what people say about happy hour, searching for good deals around where you work in midtown is useless, you still spend too much money. Plus midtown is actually the center of hell all on its own and the fact that you are there five days a week makes you want to scream. Your rent is stupidly expensive for the area you live in. You live paycheck to paycheck and you accept it, but you know it won’t help you in the long run. It’s also too loud. Always too loud. There are literally sounds everywhere and it’s overwhelming. There are rats everywhere, mostly in the subway. And no matter how many rats you see in the subway, you will always still be startled by rats in the subway. You’ll have a mouse in your apartment. You and Lauren will name him Clarence, but he will never be welcome. You see him once soon after you move in but then not again for months. You think you imagined him, but he’s not imaginary – he’s just hiding out. Eventually disposing of him will be slightly scarring. And it will take 45 minutes. You just don’t want to deal with this.
You will drink too much at the beginning. Way too much. And your friends will tell you this and you will feel attacked at first, but you know they’re right. You consciously try to be better, and you have your slips, but you do get better with it. So there is that, you do yourself proud. But when you first move, for the first few months, you drink more consistently during the week than ever before, even in college. You still really miss college, despite how many years have gone by. And you will always miss studying abroad. You wanted to live back in a big city because London was so amazing. But New York isn’t London, not by a long shot, and the stupidity of your youth while you were abroad isn’t acceptable anymore. Your life was a dream then and you didn’t realize that living and working in New York would be so starkly different from visiting. When you visited for long weekends in the past, you didn’t want to leave. Now, you find yourself itching to go home for the first time.
You fell in love again. It’s unexpected, but it happened. And it terrified you because it happened fast, faster than ever in the past. But you embraced it as much as it scared you. He was good looking and had a beard and he let you pop his pimples and his favorite food is pizza, just like you. He felt like your dream man, but you knew there was a lot wrong that you were ignoring. You wanted this to work, so you didn’t tell him how often he hurt your feelings or how it bothered you that he thought of you so little and he thinks about himself too much, or that he really has no idea how to be in a relationship. You brush away all of the bad because you thought there was more good there and you loved him. You thought he loved you too, but you’re wrong because he tells you so. You have a sneaking suspicion that he was lying and just scared. You don’t think you misinterpreted the signs, things he said and did (that time he actually said the words “I love you” and apparently didn’t realize he said it), but he tells you otherwise. In the end that doesn’t matter – he doesn’t want to be with you. And your heart will be crushed and stay crushed for a while.
It confuses you, why you feel so terrible for the amount of time you do, but you come to realize it isn’t about him. Trust me, eventually you’re sadder about losing his friends and Thursday night trivia and the life you had built while in a relationship than you actually are about him. And it took you the summer, but you finally understand: you’re unhappy. Not just at the current moment in life, but fundamentally. You’re unhappy and you know that you’ve generally always been unhappy, at least for the last however many years. At this point you can’t even remember when the unhappiness first seeped in. You’ve just been searching too desperately for distractions and people to surround yourself with to even realize it. And surrounding yourself with people doesn’t work no matter how hard you try; you don’t have the support system you envisioned you would have when you moved to New York. The friends you’ve made already have other friends, they don’t need you the way you need them. You’re lonely and you acknowledge that and realize you don’t like it. Being lonely doesn’t suite you, never has. You can’t pinpoint the exact moment, but something clicks and everything changes and you completely understand the level of your unhappiness. And you finally acknowledge that New York is a part of it.
You’ve started to realize that while you used to dread the idea of moving home, you can’t understand why anymore. Home seems safe and what you need while your mental stability hangs in the balance. You’re drained mentally and emotionally and you need to fix that. Whereas before you thought Boston was too small, you’re now realizing that New York is too big. And while you’re not old, you feel too old and tired to be attracted to that anymore. While you were once excited about moving somewhere so expansive and so large, it’s too big for you eventually. You’re too lazy to want to go anywhere other than your apartment. You used to admire the subway system because it felt so unreliable in Boston, but you’ve even tired of the fact that to get anywhere, you have to travel a minimum of thirty minutes by train. You’re exhausted in every aspect of your life. You don’t have the thirst to travel and explore different parts of New York, to discover hidden gems and forgotten areas. That doesn’t excite you anymore. Nothing about New York excites you anymore. And that’s okay.
The thought of moving home excites you; of being with your family again and with friends you don’t see anymore. The idea of being at a distance from a city for a while, but knowing Boston is just at your fingertips if you need it. This all makes sense to you. A new environment but somewhere familiar to nurse you back to feeling like yourself again. This feels good and it feels right and that excites you. And that’s okay.
You never had plans for yourself and New York in the long run. You didn’t have a time frame. You just wanted to go. You weren’t ready to leave college and you weren’t ready to go home, you just needed to go somewhere else. Somewhere bigger and somewhere better where you thought your career opportunities would lie. But you didn’t have any concrete expectations. You didn’t expect to work an entry level position in finance in midtown. You didn’t expect how stressful it would be for no reason. You didn’t expect to dread going to work every single day. You didn’t expect how much this would weigh on you emotionally. You know people exist who love their jobs, and you long to be part of that club. You didn’t expect to cry at your desk almost every day for over two months. And you definitely didn’t expect to be 24 with almost absolutely no idea of what you want your career to be. New York was supposed to solve that problem, but instead you’re leaving with an even bigger sense of uncertainty. That scares you, but you know staying will only make it worse and make you unhappier. You can’t do that to yourself any longer.
You start losing the desire to write, and that, too, scares you. Writing was always your creative outlet, your way to allow your thoughts to take flight of their own. Part of the disconnect was distraction – going out a lot and being in a relationship got in the way of writing. A lot of it was from working all day and having no brain power to even consider sitting down and typing. But you know you need that outlet and that way to express yourself, even if no one reads it, and even taking the time to write out all these thoughts gives you a sense of control again. That feels good. All you wanted was to feel like yourself again, and this all feels like a step in the right direction to getting back to who you were.
But it wasn’t all sad in New York. You had plenty of good times: birthday celebrations, monthly book club meetings, free happy hours with friends from work. Even just the nights spent at your apartment watching dumb tv shows and movies and drinking wine. All of those are moments you’ll now cherish, and you needed those. You met some good people and had some great laughs. You went to some new and beautiful places and had some interesting experiences. You lived life while you could, but New York lost its appeal. The allure vanished and the thought of staying there makes you feel trapped and stuck. You want to get out before you resent the city. So many people end up in New York because it’s an escape from their former life, but it turns out that for you, New York was a way to get back home. You’re finally ready to be there, and you thank New York for that.