You’ve always wanted to live in New York, haven’t you? Imagine loving NYC and fantasizing about living here for most of your life, and then, finally having the opportunity to make that fantasy come true. It may have been an uphill battle, but you’ve arrived. You’re in NYC, working and living for a period –– a few years, or perhaps longer. Maybe, you came to go to college and stayed for a job. Maybe you came for love, and met the guy or girl of your dreams, got married (or not), but decided to stay because you hate long-distance relationships, and well, you’re in love, after all. Or maybe, you came because you love New York and no job or person was involved . For whatever reason, you made it to New York, and despite big city life’s ups and downs, you’re somehow figuring it all out.
But for a minute, forget all the romance. Somewhere along the way, between practically selling your soul to get here and affording to make the escalating rent month after month and all the other expenses you need to pay just to stay in the city, life happened. So you’re not really too sure that you should be in New York any longer. In fact, you’ve decided that it could be time to leave New York.
I know, let’s get this straight. You wanted to live in NYC for as long as you can remember, and now, you are…..but want to leave?
You’re not the only one. It happens.
In a nutshell, the above is the premise of the book that follows in the footsteps of Joan Didion’s famed essay “Goodbye to All That.”
Edited by Sari Botton, Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York isn’t a new book. It was published in 2013. The book is an anthology in which 28 female writers tell their stories about falling in love with New York and eventually leaving for more space, cleaner air, a degree, relationship, house, family, sanity.
I adore this book. My favorite essay is by Maggie Estep, who, sadly, passed away in 2014. Here’s a selection of quotes from her story…
On her first encounter with New York:
“I fell in love with New York City one day in 1971, when I saw dozens of people blithely stepping over a dead body on a sidewalk. I was seven years old, walking in Midtown with my grandfather. It was summer. The air smelled like rotting fruit. Steam rose from food vendor carts. There were snarls of traffic, bleating horns, women in cheap knee-length skirts. And that dead body. On the sidewalk.”
On one of her apartments in the East Village:
“I moved into a room in a rent-controlled apartment on Avenue C. There were rats. I would hear them at night, knocking things over. I’d put boots on, walk into the kitchen, flick the lights on, and find the rats nonchalantly snacking on dry goods, like a bunch of old people at an early-bird buffet.”
On realizing that she might leave the city:
“….I started taking longer and longer bike rides, pushing into the far reaches of the outer boroughs, looking for still-untamed pockets of my city. I was location scouting. For books I was writing or would write. For images of the city that would burn into my heart. I didn’t know it yet, but I was starting the long process of breaking up with New York.”
I’d be lying if I said the thought of leaving New York has never crossed my mind.
I’ve been asking myself a few questions lately. “What happens if/when New York loses its magic? Does that mean it’s time to leave? Will it happen to me? Will I know when it does? As I get older, I wonder about sustaining this insanely overpriced lifestyle, and how practical it is to continue living in NYC. I also love my time away, and adore exploring places I’ve never been to before. (I type this right now from a hotel in Basque Country, Spain.)
Would love to know what you think about loving and leaving New York. I don’t think there’s an easy answer. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.