Most “naturalized” New Yorkers go through cyclical phases of cynicism with the crazy place in which they live. It’s thrilling and overwhelming, it’s bustling and chaotic, it’s lively and overstimulating. It is a thriving blend of contradictions, and it works just as much as it doesn’t. And at some point, many people come to find that, for them, it mostly doesn’t.
Feelings of discontent begin to drag on, season after season. The craving to experience another way of life seems to become part of the air we breathe. And it’s through this distracting fog that we navigate what we’ve called home for years and years… until we ultimately leave.
Over the past year, I’ve come to realize that my latest “phase” of needing change isn’t a phase after all. It’s what both my mind and body are begging for. And while admitting to myself that my current stint in this city will come to an end with the conclusion of my current apartment lease is incredibly difficult, both mentally and emotionally, the greater struggle actually lies in deciding where I’ll go next and feeling self-assured in that decision.
I’ve made a true effort to figure this out by exploring new cities, mainly out west, that embody all of the elements of New York I’ve come to love and those that I’ve deeply missed since leaving my more rural, nature-oriented roots. And a few really check off a lot of those boxes on my list — Denver, Portland and Seattle, to name a few. But when I added a small city less than two hours away from my childhood home in North Carolina to my moving list, I realized what exactly I’m searching for.
I’m trying to return home without actually landing in the same place from which I came.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve had this bizarre aversion to “ending up where I started.” To me, that would say that I have failed — that I have failed to launch from my childhood and adolescence into a successful adulthood.
Both of my parents left their respective homes in North Carolina and Pennsylvania to pursue degrees and careers in Boston before meeting one another and ultimately settling down. And we all planned, more or less, for my brother and I to follow a similar pattern. We traded public schools for private schools to make sure we had every opportunity to advance to the colleges we desired. In college, we chose career-oriented majors and created 5-year plans to make sure we had a strong idea of where we were going. The moment I graduated, I flew the coop and headed for New York City where my master’s degree and media career awaited me. And I did the damn thing for six years. I launched. I succeeded. And I learned a hell of a lot.
But now, those years are done. I’m in a space where I’m creating my next 5-year plan, and this time, I want it to look and feel vastly different from this world I’ve created for myself in my 20s. Right now, that means going home.
So I have to work on rewriting this script that I read to myself every day. It’s not that I’ve failed to launch. It’s that I’m done launching. I did it. I’m returning home a victor — and a much wiser woman than when I left. And it’s with these new gains that I can design and move onto the next challenge in my life — one that will exist in the lovely mountains of Asheville, North Carolina. There should be no shame or sense of failure in that, so I have to stop leaving space for those kinds of false judgments to creep in.
The truth is that I love where I come from. I loved that I could navigate lakes, mountains and beaches all within one state. I loved that each season looked nothing like the one that preceded or followed it. And I loved my easy access to pockets of progressive thought, foodie culture, great music and wonderful people throughout the state.
I also deeply miss my family. There comes a time for every person — some sooner than others — when they realize how much proximity to their loved ones matters to them. And after spending six years more than 650 miles away from mine, I wish I could be closer and more connected to them. I miss having the ability to drive home on a random weekend just because I want to see how my mom and dad are doing in person. And I feel like the two 20-minute phone calls we share each week just aren’t enough to find the depth we desire.
These next five years will be ones where I’m brutally honest with myself. I will reassess my preconceived notions of how things “should” be. I will re-learn how to take pause for extended periods of time and enjoy the beautiful things that kind of reset can bring to your life. I will talk less and listen more. And I will prioritize places that offer open space for my mind to wander and, ultimately, create all the things I’ve dreamt of creating.
When I drive away at the end of the summer, I won’t feel broken, lost or defeated. I didn’t fail New York, and New York didn’t fail me. It gave me what I need in order to follow the next part of my path and achieve just as much success there as I did here. And for that, I am forever grateful.