hometown dreams: 5 reasons why I'm leaving new york city

(a little song I wrote about coming and going)

After 2 years, I'm moving back home to California in two(!) weeks and would be remiss if I didn't write a lengthy, introspective post explaining why:

(I'm also secretly hoping it'll save me from exhausting conversations, but who am I kidding, no one reads this anyway so I'm really doing this for my own catharsis--what's new?)

1. My arms aren't so great.
Eleven months in, I feel like a broken record whenever I bring up my arm tendonitis, but it is what it is and they haven't been feeling much (or any) better. I thought that if I were careful, I could perform at my new job (cooking in a test kitchen) without aggravating them too much, but I was wrong. This is my most immediate reason for moving back home--it'll be easier to rest, receive treatment, take care of myself and move towards a complete recovery. But there are other, more long-standing reasons, too:

2. New York went from exciting to exhausting.
There's a shared, pervasive contempt here that slips its way into your psyche even if you don't believe it, and it sounds like this: you've only "made it" if you've made it here. It's rarely said aloud, because of how douche-y it'd sound, but it manifests itself all the same: in television shows, cliched mantras, subway ads and everyday conversations with well-meaning friends. It shows up in the unpaid, minimum-wage, and/or borderline abusive jobs that exist at prestigious places because there will always be droves of happy, naive applicants to take them, and in the quietly ignored labor laws that no one really talks about (because that's just the "culture here"). It pollutes the air as much as the urine and secondhand smoke and burnt halal kebobs do, and I'd be lying if I said I haven't been persuaded myself. I was gauging my success, or rather, my lack of it, by the benchmarks set around me. I wanted the title, the recognition, the admiration and the won jealousy of others, the apartment too high for even the most determined of mice (damn ALL the mice), a salary that allowed me to use a Westside Market as a one-stop shop. I became more money-obsessed than I'd ever been, mostly because I didn't have it. Basically, I wanted more than I'd ever wanted (and in the end, didn't really want [see #3]), but with less resources than ever to get them. (If I sound a little bitter, hey, falling out of love can do that to you.)

3) I want to be near family.
Somewhere during that state of constant dissatisfaction, which I tried to relieve one slice at a time, I saw my family again. It was actually everything I wanted, and in effect, the sort of glass-shattering moment of truth that threw everything off. I came back to the city missing them like crazy and questioning whether the success story I'd written for myself would really make me happy. I still saw people who led "ideal" lives, but I also noticed all those who'd been here longer and still lived no better than I did (read: shared apartment in a gentrifying-but-still-kinda-sketch part of Brooklyn, 1-hour commute from work, far from family, lugging laundry to off-site laundromats, single...-insert George Bluth-). I realized choosing to "make it" here would actually mean staying out here, duh, and staying here would mean staying away from my family (because seriously, pigs will fly before my family moves out of California). And no hypothetical dream gig really seemed good enough to make that worth it (ok, maybe a few, but none in the happening-in-the-near-future variety). For the first time I really knew that being near my family, or at least having the finances and flexibility to see them often, factored integrally into my definition of success. It started making less sense to build a career here once I knew I didn't even want to stay.

4) I'm figuring things out.
While I hope to be happy and driven in my future job(s), I'm relearning that my work does not define me. My job title is not a subtitle for my name (take that, New York!). There are other, greater things in my life to fulfill me and give me worth, direction and joy. Sometimes I get scared my arms won't ever get better, and I learn just how much identity I find in being "someone who cooks" whenever the future of that title is threatened. I still love cooking--I know this because I can get really dorky about it, and what is love if it doesn't turn you into a dork now and then? But cooking full-time isn't really in the cards right now, and I have yet to land a writing job that'll pay the bills. I'm figuring out whether I need to change courses slightly, completely and/or temporarily, and what that would look like. I have a couple of ideas, but they're ideas and New York is an expensive place to explore them (i.e. breathe).

5) I'm California-blooded.
It's nice to witness seasons changing for once, and snow can indeed be magical during its first few minutes, but At least, if gloomy weather doesn't make me depressed, sunny weather definitely makes me happy. It's hard not to be when Birkenstocks, t-shirts and pajamas that masquerade as real clothing are all legitimate year-round apparel. I just don't have the sort of waif-y frame that looks good under 10 layers; I'm more of the walking-sleeping-bag type. Also, I learned I have sweaty feet (TMI?). Have you even tried wearing leakproof L.L. Bean boots with sweaty feet? Girl NEEDS ventilated footwear.

I know 2 years isn't a very long time to have come full-circle...not so long ago, I saw myself staying for another 5 years, and anyone who's talked to me during my time here knows I fell hard for the city (as one diehard California friend dramatically put it, I "lost my roots"). And honestly, if certain circumstances had been different, I'm sure all of this could have been postponed. But right now, as things stand, I'm at peace with the move and maybe even excited about it.

(I may have to refer to this two weeks later when I start getting panic attacks.

But I think I'll be ok.)