When I first moved to New York City, I was fascinated by the intersecting subway lines, the striking difference between the percussive rhythm of Chinatown, and the calm in the middle of a field of Prospect Park. I loved the fact that nothing ever seemed to close, and I loved all the crazy people that seemed to be everywhere — I once watched a woman on the subway take out a mouse from her pocket, stroke its back with her index finger, and slip it into a plastic cup inside her purse. I felt like I belonged.
But after two years, that feeling that I once fell in love with, that elation and exasperation that you get when you make the train by shoving your body between two closing subway doors, was starting to wear on me. I began thinking of the city like a kind of sh*tty dude I was dating. “Maybe it’s me,” I thought at first. “Maybe I need to change to make this work.” I switched jobs again, changed neighborhoods for a third time, shaved half of my head in order to assimilate with the locals. But the lingering feeling continued, and although I spoke with so many New Yorkers who could not imagine living elsewhere, I began to realize that I didn’t feel the same.
Moving is a difficult thing to do: expensive, always a risk, and there isn’t always a place to go. But I’m convinced it’s the kick in the pants I needed to get on with my life, and I’m glad I listened to the signs to take the plunge.
Here are nine indications that leaving your city might also be the right move for you:
1. Your diary is peppered with phrases like, “It’s time to stop living like this.”
I’m not sure when exactly I became fixated on leaving, but according to my diary, the melodramatic angst really picked up this spring. On March 25, I was feeling a particular distaste for New York. “Stagnation in a city of constant motion is a strange feeling,” I wrote. And on April 17: “Alone and crying in a room costs $850 a month.” Now, I’m not a professional psychiatrist, but I’d diagnose these entries as expressions of location-specific depression.
2. You’ve moved apartments more times than you’ve used your Planet Fitness membership.
Sometimes, a move to an apartment with more natural sunlight might cure your blues, or discovering a new neighborhood that better matches your vibes is the ticket. With every move I discovered something new, be it a love for $1 tacos or distaste for eastern facing windows, but in the end, nothing quite felt like a permanent home. Sometimes, it’s not just your crappy apartment. It's the city.
3. Your rent is half your salary, your second-largest expense is craft cocktails, and the third is brunch.
I’ve noticed over the years that I’m really good at lying to myself, and I think I did this about spending money in New York. I convinced myself that my rent was not only a “normal” amount, it was “necessary.” I believed that large bar tabs were just a fact of life, an expense everyone suffers like taxes. And what was I going to do, just sit at home on a Sunday morning while everyone else drank Bloody Mary’s and ate different versions of eggs benedict? I was slaving away as a waitress just to cover other people’s tips. When it finally occurred to me, what felt like a revelation was actually just common sense: maybe living within my means at this time, I thought, means not living somewhere so expensive.
And somewhere in the world, Suze Orman just got hard.
4. You’ve changed jobs like switching hats in a hat store.
In just a year and a half, I’ve been a nanny, a waitress, a social media assistant, an intern, a freelancer, and a grant writer. I’ve learned a lot from this smattering of work experiences, but I found the city an impossible place to focus, like my head was on a constant swivel. I came to realize what I really needed was a step back and a different perspective. And since taking a breath wasn’t really an option, with all of the rent, drinks, and brunch to pay for, leaving didn’t seem like such a bad career move.
5. You need to listen to Spotify just to block out the noise.
The furniture store that blasted music from a speaker on the sidewalk. The boring and very predictable nightly conjugation from the apartment upstairs. The construction of the building next door, a hammer pounding on the other side of the wall. The train that runs under your room. Though earplugs are a great alternative to skipping town, I found that the noise was pervasive enough to make me start dreaming of a quieter location.
6. You can’t quite remember this thing, but you know it was outside, it was green, there were animals and plants … ah yes, Nature.
Cities are beautiful: murals in unexpected places, the majesty of the skyline when I rode my bike over the Williamsburg bridge at night. But with garbage for flowers and rats for wildlife, I found myself yearning for more natural beauty — or rather, just exposure to sunlight and clean oxygen. If you find yourself yearning for an open sky and stars at night, you might be in the wrong place.
7. Your two recreational options on a Saturday have become: “I could go out and drink, or I could catch up on Game of Thrones .”
We all get stuck in social routines sometimes, and maybe if you’ve grown tired of your local bar you should just go to another bar. There are plenty of ways to shake things up: attend a concert, theater, or some other cultural sh*t. My favorite pastime was drinking with friends, and it was draining my spirit, wallet, and energy. Another way to end a recreational rut is to change cities.
8. Romance doesn’t seem possible to you without some kind of app.
When I found out that I would only be able to find true love via the Internet, I enlisted my roommate for assistance, who has kind of a sixth sense about these things. “He’s going to be really short,” she’d say. “Nope, he looks different in all of his photos.” Inconsistency, I learned, was a sure sign of false advertisement. Sorting the crazies from the normals was exhausting, and after three bummer dates I was disheartened. “Why can’t I just meet someone in a pumpkin patch?” I thought. Then I realized there weren’t any local pumpkin patches. It was time for me to go somewhere where meeting people is a little less difficult.
9. You just have the itch to discover somewhere new.
You’ve got no ties, no loved ones, no earthly belongings, you can quit your job any day. Living different places is like a form of deep, extensive travel. Why not get a little lost in the world?