Outside of making the decision to move to New York, making the decision to leave is one of the most emotional I’ve ever made. Think of a relationship you’ve been in that you know you needed to nix — You may very well still be in love with that person, but you know the relationship needs to end, or exist on a different level, for you to maintain your sanity. That’s where I’ve been finding myself lately. Not with a boy, but with this crazy place that I’ve called home for the past three years.
What I’m starting to realize, though, is that home is where you’re surrounded by meaningful relationships. When I moved to New York three years ago, the relationship that meant the most to me was the one I have with myself. I moved to New York to challenge myself professionally, to catapult myself well outside of my comfort zone, and ultimately, even though I didn’t realize it at the time, to figure out who I am and who I’m not. In some ways, three years has absolutely flown by, and in other ways, I feel like I’ve lived ten years of life in New York City. I could write a few books on all of the crazy shenanigans that Hallie and I have gotten ourselves into, I could write a book filled with all of my unbelievable dating stories, and I could write another book about all of my living situations here in New York.
I’ve had the time of my life in NYC, honestly. I’ve had so many days where I think “Holy F*CK, can life actually get any better than this?!” I’ve gotten the chance to meet and get to know some of the most interesting and influential people in the fashion industry and beyond. I’ve made friends that I know I’ll have for life and friends that will be in my wedding one day. I’ve had some of the most fun, exhilarating, satisfying, and wildly entertaining times of my life here. I’ve explored the city over and over and still somehow get love drunk when I see certain sights. There have been countless days where I feel like I’m on top of the world. But remember that relationship analogy I mentioned before? It’s kind of like when your brain chooses to only remember those really great parts of the relationship and you somehow forget all of the bad times. You know what I mean? When I think back over the years, I’ve had some pretty epic lows here, too. I’ve cried in public more times that I can even count — on the subway, on the bus, on the sidewalk, at work, at the gym, at bars, you name it. And I’m not even a crier! New York has a really sick way of knocking you when you’re down here.
New York is a world of absolute extremes. Rats, dirty streets, weather, jobs, etc. The rats here are the size of cats in the other cities. When it comes to cleanliness of the sidewalks, you just learn to accept that it looks like trash day mixed with an F5 tornado on a daily basis. There aren’t just homeless people in New York — There are people on the street that will yell at you, curse at you, throw things at you, scream just for the hell of it, and actually sleep facedown across the sidewalk. (It’s absolutely frightening when you first move to New York and get accustomed to it.) Don’t even get me started on the weather here — When it rains, it doesn’t just lightly drizzle like it does in London. It downpours so hard that it starts to mimic Hurricane Sandy. (I would know. Remember this post?) When it snows, it blizzards. When it’s hot and humid in the summer, all of the concrete traps in the heat and it’s literally hard to breathe. And then you go down to the Subway, where it’s somehow worse, and for a second contemplate jumping on the tracks because it’s so stuffy and disgusting.
But then there are those days that are truly unlike any other! As I sit here and write this from a bench in Central Park, I don’t think life could get any better (outside of the child screaming a few yards away). It’s 73 degrees, breezy, birds are chirping, flowers are blooming, and the park is alive while feeling so sleepy at the same time. In this moment, I never want to leave the city. You truly can’t find a magical oasis like Central Park amist any other city anywhere else. It’s times like these that make me fall in love with New York all over again and where I can’t see myself ever living anywhere else. But of course, earlier today was a different story. New York is a constant roller coaster ride!
I had always heard that it doesn’t matter where you live in NYC because you’re never home. My question, however, is which came first? It’s a chicken and the egg situation. Are you never home because you over schedule yourself because sitting in your apartment triggers claustrophobia? Or are you never home because your schedule is jam packed? I have been working from home the last month or two, and I can barely concentrate in my own apartment. I find myself leaving to clear my head. Working from a coffee shop brings a new perspective because I feel like I can look around without fixating on the overcrowded countertops, drawers, floors, chairs, and cabinets. When I’m away from home, I can escape the less than 350 square foot apartment that feels like it belongs in an episode of hoarders.
About two months ago, I quit my full-time job in fashion. (Yeah, we’ve got a lot to catch up on. Life has been batshit crazy lately.) Before I moved here three years ago, if you would have told me that I would have had my dream job three years later, I surely wouldn’t have believed you. And if you would have told me that I would eventually quit that job, I would have thought you were f*cking crazy. But life unfolds in the strangest of ways, doesn’t it?
Since I left my job, I’ve been traveling a ton. Travel has kind of been my escape lately. Traveling and working out. But what I’ve noticed as I’ve been traveling is that something has shifted with me mentally. When I first moved to NYC, I used to get anxiety any time I would leave New York. I would be excited to spend a weekend with my friends or family, sure, but I would get immense amounts of sadness thinking about missing a weekend in my city. And then when I would land back at LaGuardia, I would feel so much joy and so much more at ease. But for whatever reason, those feelings have been opposite since probably October and I’d say they’ve really intensified over the last three months. I have been feeling an immediate sigh of relief the second that the plane leaves New York soil and I have been getting ALL OF THE ANXIETY each time that a trip ends and I have to go back to NYC. Over the years, I’ve gotten pretty good at recognizing, listening to, and following my intuition. These anxious feelings were something that just I couldn’t ignore.
When I was trying to figure out if I should leave New York, I kept Googling things like “How to Know When You’re Ready to Leave NYC” and “Signs You Should Leave New York,” but I think the reality is that there will never really be a right time. But I’ve come to the conclusion, that if you look hard enough and put yourself out there, the right time will kind of find you.
I decided to move to New York in a split second. You can read that story here. In that moment, I knew that THIS was my time. It was as serendipitous as it could have been! While there were so many things that didn’t make sense (quitting my job in Chicago, finding a job in New York, leaving all of my friends and family behind) and plans that I would have to shift around, I knew that this was my time to move and if I didn’t do it then, things might not fall so perfectly into place in the future.
And strangely enough, that’s the exact same situation that I’m finding myself in now. While I’m not 100% ready to leave New York yet, the timing and dates add up in a way that I can’t really ignore. Long story short — I got evicted from my apartment on May 1st. Sounds pretty harsh, and I guess it really is, but they gave me 60 days to leave so I still have a place to live until June 30th. Why was I evicted, you ask? Oh man, you guys, most people don’t even believe me when I tell them. My building decided to “not renew me as a tenant” for the amount of packages I receive. I kid you not! My first thought was, “You’ve got to be f*cking kidding me.” My second was, “Is this even legal?!” Turns out, it is. I rent in a co-op building, meaning that each of the ten units are individually owned but a board oversees the building. So technically, I sublet from my landlord, the woman who owns my unit. And I guess when you’re subletting in a co-op, the board can make you leave at any time for any reason. My landlord didn’t want me to leave, but the board made the decision and that was that. Pretty messed up, right? Lesson learned. Never rent in a co-op.
I’m going to be really real with you guys. I essentially had a nervous breakdown on April 30th. On that day, I wanted to be ANYWHERE but New York City. It was something random that triggered it on that Thursday morning, but it had been a long chain of events for a few months that eventually led to me kind of snapping and losing my shit. Yes, I get stressed out and have mini meltdowns every so often, but this was bigger. I felt like I was at my breaking point and I knew I needed a change of some sort. I was laying on the floor, sobbing on the phone to my mom for a few hours, but the problem was an overarching sense of suffocation from my current environment. Luckily, I had a two-week trip booked to Illinois a week later and would be able to escape for a bit. The one thing that stuck with me from that tear-soaked conversation? My mom telling me “Jessica, it sounds like it’s time for you to leave New York.” I remember hearing her, but what was I supposed to do? I had signed a lease for another year! Would I be able to sublease since I’m technically a sub-leaser? It seemed like such a hassle. And then the whole part about where would I go? I figured I was definitely going to have to get through this lease, but had decided that this coming year would probably be my last year in New York.
And then, like clockwork, I got a call from my landlord the very next day breaking the eviction news. Can you believe it? It still gives me goosebumps thinking about the timing.
Another factor that’s been weighing on my decision — so many of my friends are leaving. It’s been a mass exodus from Manhattan lately! Julia & Anel moved to Connecticut, Jackie & Jeremy moved to New Jersey, Victoria & Joe moved to San Francisco, Mackenzie & Will moved to Dallas, and my other friends talk about where they want to end up eventually, too. Oh, and Hallie is moving out of New York, as well. I’ll let her tell you that story, but basically we’ve known since December or January that she would most likely have to relocate sometime in the first half of 2015. And as timing has it, her move date is end of June. (Read all about Hallie’s big move here.)
And you know what they say — leave before New York makes you hard. I’m almost afraid that if I stay here until I’m 100% ready to leave, I’ll be way too old and way too senile to go anywhere else. I’ve always had a bit of sass at the surface, but New York has totally intensified it. In a city of 8.5 million people, you see and hear so much that you actually become a little bit numb. People curse you out on the street. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve audibly been called a bitch for walking down the sidewalk and minding my own business. I’ve seen a man masturbate on the subway. I’ve seen a mouse in my apartment. I’ve seen homeless people passed out face down and wondered if they were actually alive as I’ve walked past. All of these things make you crazy after a while. I mean, how can they not? We are all unfazed by the constant bullshit, but these emotions come out elsewhere. I’ve yelled at cab drivers. I’ve yelled at people on the street after they’ve run into me from staring down at their phone. I’ve huffed and puffed at tourists on the sidewalk that have been in my way. I’ve blatantly told cat-callers to f*ck off. Most days, I’ve got a permanent bitchy look plastered on my face as I walk down the street. Am I proud of these things? Certainly not, but it’s just the way it is here. I don’t notice these awful characteristics until I leave New York. When I was in my hometown, I found myself accidentally ignoring someone that was talking to me because I’m so trained to ignore every person that tries to talk to you on the sidewalk in New York. I get hot and heated in the Starbucks line in Illinois because the baristas are so much slower than New York. I find myself generally getting short with people, and not in a mean way, but just in an “I don’t have time for formalities way.” Again, I’m not proud of these things, but I’ve noticed them and acknowledged that I’ve developed some pretty crappy habits from the faster-than-fast-paced culture in NYC.
Sometimes you bitch and moan about your current situation and long for a different one, or at least I’ve been known to do so. But then when you find yourself leaping into a different situation, the old one doesn’t look so bad. Am I right? The grass is always greener. But here I am, with a lease signed in a different city, and I’m really sad about all the things I’ll be leaving behind when I leave NYC. Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited for a new adventure, but it’s a bittersweet goodbye.
When I think back, I wasn’t 100% ready to leave Chicago when I moved to New York. I wish I would have written more back then to be able to reflect on and remember more of my thought process, but I know it was a really hard few months before I moved. My Bucket List was still a mile long. There were still neighborhoods I wanted to explore and restaurants I wanted to eat at. I still wanted to ride my bike along the lake. But I also knew that I needed something from a city that Chicago wasn’t giving me. I needed that energy that only New York City possessed. My to-do list didn’t matter as much as what I was longing for deep-down. And now here we are… I don’t think my Bucket List in NYC will ever end. I think I’ll keep it running even after I move. But my priorities have shifted a bit in the last three years. I’ve gotten so high off of that New York energy that I’m not sure that I’ll ever come down. I’ve ran the rat race. I’ve had amazing successes and really deep lows. I will never tire of that unforgettable aura in New York, and I know I’ll come back and visit with only the fondest of memories. Right now, though, deep down I know that I need a change. I know that I need more space and need more organization and neatness in my life. (I’m a Virgo and deeply affected by my surroundings.) While a large part of me doesn’t want to leave New York, a large part of me knows that I need to leave in order to maintain my sanity. When you’re having mental breakdowns on the reg and find yourself thinking about how much you need a vacation, even days after you return from one, maybe you just need different surroundings all together. Ya know?
One of the craziest things for me has been the reaction of others when I break the moving news. So many “Congrats!” (I think I was expecting people to say, “OMG. You’re crazy! Why are you moving?!”) and so many friends that have said that they saw it coming. I keep thinking, “You did?!?!” How did everyone see it coming except me?! I’ve always known that I have absolutely no poker face and tend to wear my emotions on my sleeve. I’m realizing that there was a lot of unhappiness deep down that I wasn’t acknowledging myself, but it was showing.
So where am I going? That was the question I kept asking myself, too. Outside of New York, my only other ties to a city are in Chicago. To avoid throwing a dart at a map to figure out where to live, I decided to move back to Chicago when I was visiting a few weeks ago. I was looking at apartments both in NYC and Chicago and they just didn’t compare. My new apartment in Chicago is a true one-bedroom (versus the studio that I have in NYC), the square footage is double, it has in-unit Washer/Dryer (I currently have to send my laundry out to a laundromat), floor-to-ceiling windows, a 6 foot x 8 foot walk-in closet, a rooftop pool on the 35th floor of the building, a gym, package receiving, you name it! And it’s over $500 cheaper per month than I’m currently paying in NYC. Kind of seems like a no-brainer, right? My family is a 3.5 hour drive from Chicago, all of my college friends live in Chicago, there’s finally a SoulCycle in Chicago, and now Hallie will be in Chicago, too.
Let’s f*cking do it, Chitown. I’ll see you in three short weeks! xo