As if enough things weren’t already going on this year, we’re also moving across the country at the end of August.
I have a LOT to say about this, as you can imagine. This has been a long time coming, for those of you longtime readers.
I moved to New York in the summer of 2004 (exactly eight years ago today) to join the NYC Teaching Fellows program. I knew I would be here for two years, and in my second year of teaching (which was by far the best of any of the six years I taught), I definitely wanted to stay for a third year. The fourth year I ended up staying by default, and then I left the public school system. I interviewed at a KIPP school in Austin and would have been happy to accept a job there if they’d offered it. I ended up at a different charter school that kicked my ass, and then the following year taught at another charter school, which ended up being at least partially a disaster.
(Side note: one of my sweet students from that year still keeps in touch; we email back and forth. She is the cutest thing and I want to hug her. She is under so much pressure to do well in school though, and some of the things she writes just breaks my heart.
(Second side note re: great second year teaching: Recently I posted a status on facebook that said, “WHY can’t people read?!!! Argh!” And a student from that year, who just graduated from high school (!), replied, “Because they never had English with you.” !!! Could you just die? See how great that year was with kids who turned out like that?? [Not only that, but she is right. If the GROWN ADULTS who I encounter in various ways had had me for an English teacher, they would not be so dumb and bad at reading comprehension!])
Even with all of those extensions, I moved to New York knowing it was temporary. I didn’t bring a lot of stuff with me (but good lord have I acquired plenty in my eight years!); it took three years to get a New York drivers license (shhh, don’t tell); I never fully mentally ‘unpacked’, so to speak. Living in a series of apartments, great though some of them were (others shitty enough to balance out), only increased that sense of “I’m only here for a short time.” Apartments are very transient to me somehow; even though we’ve lived in this particular (fantastic) apartment for three years, it doesn’t have the same feel of ‘home’ as a house might.
Plus, as the child of divorced parents and shared custody, I always had two houses, which meant that my stuff (clothes, books, toys, schoolwork, etc) was always split between two places. I often couldn’t find things because I didn’t know which house it was in, and then there was always the risk that someone moved things around while I was gone. So now that my stuff is crammed into my own apartment but that a bunch of my stuff is also in my dad’s barn and my mom’s garage…I have this low-level anxiety at the back of my mind. It’s pretty far back there; I don’t actively stress about it or even think about it often. But when I do think about my belongings, it makes me anxious because I’ve always been so desperate to have ALL of my things in ONE PLACE. A home, with roots, to settle into.
Andy had a sort of idyllic American childhood, in that his parents are still married, they grew up in a small, educated town so they had plenty of happy time playing at school and exploring some nearby nature, the family has lived in the same house for like 25 years now so there are still memories and things stored in the childhood home. So our experiences and outlooks on that are pretty much opposite.
We’ve had discussions (which usually ended up getting a bit emotional) for years, because I’ve always wanted to leave New York, and he has never wanted to leave. I was over it when I got here. I lived and worked in eastern Queens for four years and now Brooklyn for four, so I never was in that party-Manhattan-cool-kids scene. New Yorkers and a lot of people who live in New York tend to be in love with New York as the Best City Ever in the World And You’re Stupid If You Think Otherwise or Desire to Even Travel Somewhere Else. I quickly learned that I couldn’t say I was from Washington, because the only Washington that exists is the capital. [One time even though I said I was from Seattle, the guy goes, “Ah, DC?” What?!!] Not only do people not seem to know their geography, many of them just haven’t been anywhere. Florida and the Caribbean are the exceptions–everyone here goes to one of those two places. But the West Coast? Central America? Europe? No way, what are you talking about, why would you want to go there?
Anywhere you go in New York, anything you do, at any time of day, there will be anywhere from 500-5,000 people with that exact same idea. There are people EVERYWHERE. And while it makes for good people-watching, it makes for a shitty time walking down a sidewalk or getting through a rush hour subway commute. Sure, there are lots of cultural activities to blossom your brain! But no one has the time or energy to do that during the week, what with an actual work week happening. Then you’re left with the weekend, which isn’t a lot of time, and you have to seriously weigh the coolness of the activity with the doing that cool activity with hordes of other people and how much time that will take. There are great restaurants! Yes, there are! We have a number of them that we love and frequent. But psst, do you know what? There exist great restaurants in other cities too! I know, it’s such a shock! Oh, and there’s so much nature here in New York, such great parks to get away from the hustle and bustle of the urban life! Yes, there are a handful of big, beautiful parks. But does that really make up for wild nature? What if you wanted to experience real, actual nature from NYC? Well, you’d have to drive for up to an hour, fighting traffic and pay $13 in tolls just to get out of the city limits. Then you can drive another hour up to Bear “Mountain”, which is a small hill with a parking lot on top. Or yes, the Poconos are two hours (plus) west, or even the Berkshires, two hours northeast. But don’t forget to add an hour of extra traffic time on the way home. Even in the middle of the night, you’ll sit bumper to bumper.
So yes, there are a lot of great things about New York. But they aren’t necessarily something that you need to live here year-round to exclusively have access to.
Which brings me back to this year, for us. Andy’s been putting me off for a year or two about moving–well, we can’t this year, so probably next year. Next year comes: well, it would be tough this year for reason xyz, so probably next year.
The mere idea of lugging a baby and its accoutrements around the subway system has always horrified and exhausted me. Not to mention the cost of daycare and food in this market, the ridiculous preschool sign ups before birth, the fact that apartment living has no immediate greenspace, and the general culture of snooty moms I’ve heard so much about. And the weather being so extreme for big portions of the year that you need all kinds of gear just to go outside!
Now multiply those costs by TWO. NO FREAKING WAY do I want to deal with the extreme hassle of two tiny babies and New York City!
And no way would it make any kind of sense to move AFTER they arrive. We will have mountains more stuff, plus two more people (albeit very small), and be WAY more tired. No, we need to move now.
The lifestyle in most cities that aren’t New York (or other super big ones) are a lot more laid back, plus there is more space, physically, mentally, naturally. I think that’s just what we need with the huge change we’re embarking on.
Our lease is up at the end of August. We-slash-I ended up settling on Portland, Oregon as our next place to live. It’s a few hours from my family, so there will be some support near-ish. It’s a new city for both of us, so one of us won’t be at a disadvantage. It’s a smaller city (much smaller), so it’s a lot more affordable. We can afford to rent a three bedroom house! With a garage or driveway! And possibly a yard that I won’t be good at maintaining! And a washer/dryer (we hope) and dishwasher! And most importantly, SPACE!
It’s ridiculously easy to get around by car. It’s got a huge bike culture, which Mister M is/will be/should be excited about (and me too, when I’m back on my feet. Or butt, as it may be). Fewer people means fewer cars means less traffic (and easier parking!), so we can get out of the city quickly and easily. The coast is an hour and a half west; the mountains are a couple hours east (or north or south). The air is cleaner. There’s an NBA team with affordable tickets.There are a ton of great restaurants, whose prices are a lot lower.
Yes, it’s really scary to leave our life here. It’s really scary to start over where we only know a couple people. We’re both nervous about that. But homeostatis is a dumb reason to live in New York forever. The addition of two small and expensive people is a good reason to get out now and settle in for a new kind of life. One in which we won’t ever give up on adventures, or even New York, for a visit.