Almost a year ago, I moved to New York and began tweeting about it using the hashtag #thegreatNYE (i.e., The Great New York Experiment). I was ecstatic about this change in my life; I had wanted to move to New York for years, and I had turned those dreams into a reality.
Then, three and a half months ago, I blogged about how I was starting to suspect New York wasn’t the city for me, and how that made me feel embarrassed, and even ashamed.
Now, today, I’m blogging about how, after much soul-searching and frustration and, ultimately, relief, I’m moving out of the city and back to the suburbs — not to Texas, no, but to New Jersey, of all places (and if you had told me a few years ago that I would one day be moving to suburban New Jersey, I would give you the dog head tilt and be all like, “What? Why? The only things there are factories and orange Italian people!” This is not true, I’m glad to say).
When I wrote my October post, I was quite troubled by the idea that I somehow wasn’t “good enough” to make it in New York. There is, as commenters on that post pointed out, a certain mentality — perpetuated by some New Yorkers, yes, but also by the world and media at large — that people who move here and then move away can’t “take it,” implying that they should have been able to thrive in New York and, for whatever reason, didn’t have the psychological wherewithal to do so.
You can see how, with this fallacy floating in the back of my mind, combined with the expectations I (perhaps unfairly) had formed about what New York could do for me, I became so distraught at the realization that living here wasn’t what I thought it would be. I was unhappy, and feeling like I should have been happy — and why shouldn’t I be, here in The Greatest City on Earth? — made me even unhappier.
In short, I felt like a monumental failure.
Thankfully, I’ve realized how unfair it was, to think that of myself. Who says I have to live in a certain place, or find happiness down a certain path? Well, no one says that, obviously, so I shouldn’t either.
What it all comes down to, really, is that clichéd break-up phrase:
It’s not you, New York. It’s me.
To some people, you are invigorating, inspiring, and fulfilling. To me, you are . . . not those things. In small doses, sure! Maybe we can still be friends. Or maybe just business acquaintances; I’ll come in for a meeting, we’ll share some killer Thai food, and then we’ll go our separate ways. Sound good?
(And this is where I envision my mental personification of New York pressing my hand gently from across the table and saying, with much regret, “Look, Claire, I love you. But let’s leave that out of this. I don’t want to be a city that you’re settling for. I don’t want to be a city anyone settles for. Except sometimes. Because it can be fun to watch the occasional worm wriggle on my hook. What? Can’t a city enjoy a bit of sadism now and then?” And, yes, my personified New York looks a bit like a smirking Bill Pullman. I may have watched Sleepless in Seattle too often in my formative years.)
I’ve realized over these past few months that I’m not a failure at all; I am, as so many of you lovingly pointed out in my October post, simply finding my way. Discovering who I am and what I want. Putting together the pieces of myself. And I wouldn’t have found this particular piece — this somewhat bedraggled, somewhat smelling of garbage and subway B.O. piece — if I hadn’t taken that initial plunge out of the familiar and into the unknown.
That is something to be proud of.
And, although I wasn’t feeling too proud a few months ago, I am now. I’m proud of what I accomplished by moving to New York, and I’m hopeful — and excited — about my future. I’m about to start a new phase of life with the man I love, in a beautiful part of the country. I have a greater appreciation for my homeland of Texas than I ever have before, I’ve a new book due out in seven months (!!!), and I lived in New York for a year and survived to tell the tale — and to say, “Thanks, but no thanks, Bill New Pullman York.”
2012 was a good year. 2013 will be an even better one.