Fair warning: This is a long one, because I just felt like I needed to write things down.
When we moved from NYC to South Florida, I had a difficult time adjusting. That might be the understatement of the year, for anyone who saw me crying in my closet, in front of my favorite restaurants, and as we entered our new home. I waited until the day we left to tell several of my friends, because I was too upset to have the same conversation over and over while I was already struggling with our decision.
Despite being our choice when a lot of people weren’t afforded that luxury, moving back home felt like admitting defeat.
We’re taught to keep moving forward. That’s the ultimate goal, isn’t it? Maybe that’s why moving home, no matter how much it makes sense or can better your life, feels like such a huge step back despite being cyclical. You can move exclusively forward and you’ll still return to the beginning if you’re running in a circle.
And is that always bad?
I guess it depends on a few things: where you started, how much you and that starting point have changed since then, and what state of mind you’re in.
Why I moved to NYC
For me, I always said that where I was born was a great place to grow up, but not the best place to establish a life. I had to leave my hometown to allow myself to grow. To do scary things without a safety net. To push myself, as I knew I had to. I wanted more, but could sense myself getting comfortable in a life that wasn’t fulfilling.
And so I moved, onward and upward to one of the hardest and most exciting cities to live in: New York City. I found a home in Brooklyn and flourished in a way I didn’t even think was possible. I met the most wonderful people and had the most incredible experiences. No one made an impact on my life as much as New York did. She is and forever will be my biggest champion.
But gradually, I found myself living a slower life in a fast-paced city.
When things started to change
After nearly 15 years of having a movie-worthy New York life experience, everything changed. I’d actually say it happened by year 12 and I was a bit in denial, but it took me awhile to admit to it. I stopped attending events all the time, all but quit going to Fashion Week. Friends moved, circumstances changed. New faces moved in and I was lost in a sea of extraordinary talent, tossed on the back burner. My life went from nonstop excitement, constant companionship, and ever-growing opportunities to…I don’t know. Not that. And somehow, I just didn’t see it coming. Because my life wasn’t changing all that much and everyone else’s was. I didn’t consider the direct effect that would have on my life, because I just thought everything would always be.
You know what it’s like? That last time you and all your friends played outside before dinner, without realizing it was going to be the last time. And then one day no one wants to play anymore. I was the one who didn’t get the memo that climbing trees and swimming on horseback was replaced with malls and boys. And I think that same thing happened to me in my mid thirties. Everyone was marrying, buying properties, starting families, moving. Girls trips and 3 hour dinners weren’t the norm anymore. Because most people grow up and move on. Most people keep moving forward.
But me? Sometimes I need a push.
Why I moved back home
That push to move back home ended up being the pandemic.
Well before the city shut down, I was spending more and more time not just in Brooklyn, but directly in my neighborhood. And that’s all fine — life slows down — but New York is a very expensive place to live when you’re not taking advantage of all it has to offer. And feeling lonely in a sea of people? It can feel worse than actually being alone. So here I was, hustling 24/7 just to keep going. Just to keep a studio open, and live in a nice apartment that I’d rarely leave.
Paying New York prices with a lonely suburbanite lifestyle just didn’t make sense.
Bobby was ready to leave long before I was, but I was getting there. I just didn’t know where to go. We considered Nashville, we considered upstate. We even — for a very short time — considered Los Angeles. Those were early days. Bobby would often bring up the idea of moving back to South Florida, but I had this rule when I left home: if New York didn’t pan out, I could always move. But I had to keep moving forward. Even though that was back when I told myself I had to stay at least a year, I always had that in the back of my mind. Moving home = moving backward. It was not an option. And yet, every time I came back from a trip to see my family, I’d spend several days feeling so homesick, sad and lonely and missing my family.
In 2019, after we lost Miku, we went home to be surrounded by our loved ones. My sister said to me, “Maybe it’s time for you to move home.” No one ever pressured me to move back, or made me feel guilty for not being there, so this was a first.
Another first? I considered it.
I’ve seen several friends make the same decision to move back home and be closer to their parents, grandparents, siblings. The funny thing is, I never look at that and think “they’re moving backwards.” Ever. It was only how I felt about me. So I had to sit with and examine that.
After much discussion, Bobby and I decided it was time to work on buying a home, wherever that would be. We left it kind of open, with both Florida and Tennessee as options. We usually came back to Florida making the most sense since almost all of my family is here. My pocket savings account, however, was vaguely titled “home” with a goal date of October 2023. It felt far off enough to not be too scary or final, but gave us a realistic date to leave and start the next chapter.
And then the whole world shut down. We were still in Brooklyn, and the rest of my family was in Florida. Being away from my family for a full year made me reprioritize everything. I moved the goal date up from October 2023 to December 2020, when our lease was ending. And it was without a doubt that we would go to Florida, because I couldn’t bear the idea of being away from them anymore. I’ll talk a little more about how we were able to buy a home a full three years earlier than our goal date in another post.
How it started vs. how it’s going
I know it might seem weird that I was such a basket case about a decision we thoughtfully made. But change is complicated. I wanted to be with family, but selfishly I mourned the end of my life in Brooklyn. Because moving to New York represented self growth, I felt like moving back home meant I had stopped growing. That the most exciting parts of my own life were behind me. I peaked, and everyone would forget about me once I was no longer directly in front of them.
Looking back with clearer vision, I can say that I wasn’t entirely right or wrong. Life is different, and I do feel this sense of irrelevance now that I’m no longer in the city. Especially now that I’ve been dropped from an agency. But the latter? I think that would have happened whether or not I was in NYC. Thankfully it happened when I had much less overhead to worry about. I also know I still have a career. There’s room to grow and change and even have more freedom to make those decisions entirely my own. So it’s not better or worse, it’s just different. As it should be.
Listen, do I miss New York? Of course I do.
I’ll never be the person who goes back to the city and pretends I don’t miss it. A long time ago, a girl I knew came back to the city for an event, after moving. She kept saying, “I don’t miss this at ALL!” and pointing out every shortcoming of the city I loved so much. It started to get under my skin.
Maybe that was her truth, or maybe it was a defense mechanism — who knows? I know I was guilty of the same exact thing, when it came to Florida. I went into Florida life with a chip on my shoulder and New York as my entire personality. Green Acres, but suburban edition. But even now that I’ve adjusted to life as a Floridian, I can say this for certain: New York will always be my first true love.
I look back fondly on all my relationships that have ended one way or another, New York included. I don’t think the ending of a relationship means it was a failure. It took me awhile to look at moving on in the same way. Nothing has to be forever. It can teach you lessons, help you grow, give you beautiful and complicated experiences before you peacefully part ways. New York and I have peacefully parted ways, but we’ll always have a thing. New York taught me a lot about life and love and success. She gave me culture I didn’t even know that I was missing. She was the relationship that taught me never to settle for less than what I deserve. And for all of that, I’m super grateful.
The life I left. The life I’m living.
I left a life of 24/7 hustle, adventure, and opportunity for a quieter life closer to the people I love, with a bit more of a focus on having a stable future. And while that makes it sound like I’m settling into the Shady Pines retirement home, I’m not ready to trade my passport for shuffleboard quite yet. What I’ve found is that a quieter life can afford me more opportunities to have adventures while not worrying about living beyond my means. Since I can work from anywhere, it just makes sense to do it somewhere with less overhead. Now I can travel more. So, I traded a life of 24/7 adventure that I couldn’t keep up with for a slower life with more room for big adventures. It ended up being a pretty solid move.
Other than the obvious of being near my family, here are some other good things about my life in Florida:
- Without the tethers of an agency or tremendous overhead of living in NYC, I’m able to take it easier than I ever have. I can hustle when I want to, and focus on jobs that bring me joy without worrying how I’m going to pay the bills. I can take mental health breaks when necessary. I don’t have anyone telling me I’m too much of this or too little of that.
- Owning a home is pretty cool. I’ve enjoyed making it our own, little by little.
- Even though I hate the heat, I love the sunshine and longer days. That has been great for my mental health.
- I love the beach. I took that for granted when I was younger.
- The thrifting is so. good.
- We use our Florida resident annual passes to Disney World pretty often!
- We added two more progressive votes for Florida by moving here. And wow, does our state need it.
- Kitty Boos got to have a year of sunshine, chasing lizards (unsuccessfully), and rolling in the dirt before we had to say goodbye. I’m so grateful his last year with us was such a happy one for him. He even met the love of his life, Shirley — the raccoon who clearly thought Boo was one, too.
- Lacy loves having a house to explore, and sunshine all day.
- With our lower expenses, we can spend more on new adventures. Travel has always been a priority for me and it’s much easier to afford now that our mortgage is 1/3 of what we paid in rent alone. But also, check my post about how I cut travel expenses because I’ll never stop doing that!
I write this not only as a personal update, but just in case anyone is in a similar situation of needing change but not feeling totally ready for it. Talking to people in similar transitional stages of life made me feel a lot better, a little less ridiculous (although, let’s be real, I was a little ridiculous sometimes) and like I wasn’t alone. Bobby and I are now over two years in to our Florida life — which feels absolutely wild to say — and we’ve both adjusted very well. We have two very big trips and lots of small ones coming this year, and that probably wouldn’t have been possible when we lived in NYC, even with our New York incomes.
I still miss you, New York. But I think I made the right move.