7 Subtle Ways I Knew I Was Finally Ready To Leave New York City
I moved from Oakland, California to New York City a decade ago. When I made the move to attend NYU, I knew I wanted to be there — I'd watched every episode of Sex And The City at least twice, and had Carrie Bradshaw-induced fantasies about becoming a writer, having a fabulous group of friends, and an interesting, cosmopolitan love life. I was lucky to pull all those dreams off, and then some —10 years in, I was working in New York City as an editor and writer at what can only be described as a dream job, I made friends with some of the most intelligent, kind, funny people you'll find, and I had plenty of romantic adventures until I found my current parter — and even after, as we entered into a non-monogamous relationship. I was doing it! I was living the cosmopolitan New York City life, attending more and more exclusive media parties, living in a rapidly-gentrifying neighborhood, exploring increasingly sexually-adventurous situations — and all while being supported by a great job and partner.
Which is why, when my partner told me his job had promoted him and asked him to open up their office in California, I was surprised to be flooded with an amazing sense of relief — here, finally, was my reason to escape New York City; the very place that had afforded me all the many opportunities I'd wanted, and the place that I had to admit was making me increasingly miserable. We decided to make the move together to Southern California — where we relocated just a few weeks ago — and I was incredibly lucky to get to keep my job with Bustle, which has made the transition significantly easier.
As I feel my body unclench and my life open up in new ways, I can't say I've had a single regret about leaving New York City yet. I was ready. In many ways, my body had been telling me to leave for years, and there were many signs along the way that it was time for a new adventure. I'm sharing them here in case you're also contemplating leaving NYC — or really, any place — in case they resonate.
I Got My (Late) Period Within 24 Hours Of Each Time I Visited California
Like many women, my body responds to stress with an irregular menstrual cycle. During my last year in New York, my period became increasingly irregular, and I was sometimes as much as 20 days late. In the past year and-a-half, I visited Long Beach, California (where my partner is from) three times. Each time, I got my late period within 24 hours of touching down in California. Every. Single. Time. My body was sending me a clear signal: it didn't feel safe and relaxed in New York City anymore, and it needed a calmer, quieter environment in order to function. When I finally moved here a few weeks ago, it happened again, within 12 hours. Pretty amazing.
I Started Covering My Ears All The Time
When I first moved to New York City, I would look at people who covered their ears when the train came and think What whimps. If you can't handle it, why don't you leave? I actually thought that — like the intolerance for noise somehow disqualified you as "tough enough" to make it in the city. So imagine my surprise when, before I was even conscious I wanted to leave New York City, I started to find the noise oppressive. I would cover my ears whenever the train came, or when a siren blared (in other words, multiple, multiple times a day). The assault on your senses when you live in NYC is simply the soundtrack of the city, but suddenly, it didn't seem so heroic to brave it anymore. It just felt like it was making my cortisol levels rise, and like I was losing my hearing.
I Kept Feeling Like I Might Be Getting A Cold Sore
I've had oral herpes since middle school — but I rarely had outbreaks before I moved to New York. While actual cold sores were infrequent, by my last year in New York City, I constantly felt a tingle in the same spot of my lip after a night of having even one drink, or less than seven hours of sleep. Cold sores are prompted by a weakened immune system, and while I was able to take medication to prevent an outbreak each time, it wasn't lost on me that I was getting that "tingling" feeling nearly every time I slipped up on my healthy lifestyle in any way.
The same thing never seemed to happen when I visited California, went on vacation, or left the city for any other reason — I drank wine in Italy every night and didn't have a problem. My body was simply under more stress in New York City, and it was letting me know every way it knew how.
I Couldn't Sleep Without An Eye Mask And A Fan
Even though my apartment got relatively little light, in order to feel calm enough to fall asleep in New York City, I needed to wear an eye mask and put a fan on to create white noise and the illusion of a breeze coming in the window. I had to simulate sensory deprivation in order to feel calm enough to sleep — and I still struggled with insomnia often.
While it's only been a few weeks in California, I can tell you I noticed that this need — along with my insomnia — has (knock on wood) immediately evaporated. I'm sure part of it is working from home and therefore having more access to sunlight throughout the day than I would in an office, but I also think I'm simply calmer. The only night I've had trouble sleeping in the past three weeks was the night Donald Trump was elected — which is pretty much the longest I've ever gone without insomnia. Even though there's still some light coming into my new room at night, I feel no need to use an eye mask or to create white noise. Where we're staying, there's no city noise or bright lights to block out — and I've realized this is essential to feeling calm when I go to sleep.
I Broke My Foot Rushing For A Train
Well, this wasn't the most subtle sign. I was rushing down the stairs to catch the NYC subway for the millionth time when, after 10 years, I finally fell and broke my foot. It reminded me of the story my uncle told me about when he once sat on a park bench all day, debating with himself over whether or not he should move from New York City to California. Finally, after hours of deliberation ... a pigeon pooped on his head. He took it as a sign, and has lived in California ever since. I guess breaking my foot was one of those signs for me — it was like the universe was telling me to slow down my life, before I really got hurt.
Calling Loved Ones On The Phone Started To Feel Really Daunting
In New York City, everyone I knew was very, very busy. Working out, dinner with friends, calling my mom — they all became chores to schedule after work, and I often felt like I had little left to give. As an introvert, I was so drained simply commuting on a packed train and being in an open office surrounded by people that I often just wanted to spend my nights and weekends recuperating in near-silence. Having a conversation with anyone on the phone started to feel overwhelming, and just keeping up the day-to-day of living — exercise, grocery shopping, therapy — seemed to take up all my spare time.
Every time I left the city, no matter where it was, I noticed I had more energy to talk to people. I'd find myself picking up the phone out of desire rather than obligation. I wanted my life to feel more like that all the time — and so far at least, I'm happy to say it does. I go on walks before and after work, and often, I have the emotional energy and genuine desire to call the people I care about.
It Didn't Matter Where My Next Trip Was — So Long As It Was Out Of Town
When I lived in New York City, I was always down for a trip, because I always needed a break from the city. No matter where I went, I found it relaxing just to "escape" the constant noise and see some trees — even New Jersey felt like a relaxing adventure. While I'll always love to travel and plan to often, I don't feel the same need to get out of town (not yet, anyway). The other weekend, I had the chance to take a weekend trip out of town, and I turned it down. Traveling after the election felt too stressful, and the place I'm living already feels like a dream vacation, filled with sunlight, birds, and the ocean.
I Didn't Get That Feeling When I Landed Anymore
Up until maybe my eighth year in New York, I always got a feeling when I landed home on an airplane after a trip, and I think that many New Yorkers will be familiar with it. It was a sense of relief and pride, looking at the twinkling, numerous lights as we descended. It was the feeling of being back in "civilization," back in the middle of it all. I'd feel the sense of exclusive belonging wash over me — I was home, and returning to the only American city that really mattered, where you knew you were living your fullest, best life. Luckily, having grown up in Northern California, I knew there were many other ways to live — but I didn't want them. They all seemed like compromises, fearful copouts by people who just couldn't handle the big city.
It took years to stop feeling that way — and much like falling out of love, it took several more (and an out) to admit this relationship had run its course. I'm comforted to know I'll have ample reasons to visit the nice place that is New York City often, but for now, I certainly wouldn't want to live there anymore. And you know what? That's OK, and actually not a copout at all. Turns out the center of the universe is actually wherever you feel most centered.
Images: Rachel Krantz/Instagram