A year ago today, I packed up my last box, gathered my family and cats, and left the city I’d called home for 14 years. I tried to smile as Shane took one last photo of us outside our very own apartment, and my heart broke right there on 78th street.
I didn’t expect heartbreak.
We’d been flirting with leaving the city for years. We considered Rhode Island, spent a day with a realtor in the suburbs of Portland, Maine, put bids on a couple of houses in Westchester.
We loathed the brutal commute we made to Cape Cod 5 months out of the year. We resented it’s potential for being under 5 hours, but somehow always taking 6 hours or more once you finally got over the bridge and found parking.
The parking! So much time spent driving around looking for parking in New York. Eventually one of us would drop the other one off with the kids, and load our stuff into the lobby and dumbwaiter. And then drive around some more, finally finding a space miles away. If we were lucky, we’d get a Thursday spot.
New York is noisy, and I don’t like noise. 8 years of calling 311 about cars honking at the intersection near our building never yielded the ‘No Honking $500 Fine Sign’ I repeatedly requested. In summer it seemed there was always a parade steps from our front door, with a singular anthem playing on repeat at maximum volume, at nap time.
There was the trash smell in summer, the bed bugs, the crowds, the lack of competence in snow. But also I loved it.
I loved my neighborhood, Jackson Heights Queens. I loved my corner store, my local coffee shop, seeing everyone at the Sunday farmer’s market, CSA pickup & compost drop off.
I loved the ease of getting around by Subway and the proximity of all Manhattan has to offer. Taking Rose home from school on the Roosevelt Island tram. I loved that I always met someone I knew on the street. I loved my apartment and our co-op garden. I loved the diversity, my family, friends, neighbors, my community.
We left it all because we needed a change. Shane’s job was making him miserable, my career was going nowhere, we needed another bathroom and more space for our growing family. So when I was offered a job here, we moved to Boston. To be precise, we moved into my childhood home in Brookline Massachusetts, with my parents.
I always admired people who had the good sense to leave New York, and would congratulate my friends as they made their escape. I figured after a few weeks in Boston, we’d wonder why we hadn’t left New York sooner. Instead I’ve spent nearly a year grieving and feeling like a complete failure.
Even though I grew up here, Boston seemed weird and alien at first. They’re so clean! Shane and I whispered, as we marveled at the impeccable personal tidiness demonstrated by our fellow Bostonians. We were in one of those chain restaurants designed to seem like it’s not a chain restaurant—a place we never would have set foot in in New York. We could never look that clean, we said. Do they shave before and after work? Whats with the excessively fancy shoes? How do you get hair to do that?
I was surprised to discover that the T is not designed to handle a lot of passengers, and that people gather by the doors leaving seats unoccupied. Unoccupied! There is a distinct lack of “man spread” but Boston never got the memo about taking off your backpack while on the train. Paying your fare is more or less an honor system at rush hour.
New York doesn’t have a reputation for being friendly, but it really is. There’s a comraderie among New Yorkers, a feeling that we’re all in it together. In New York, you could meet someone on at the playground and have a new best friend by evening. Here it takes work, I’ve had to stalk moms at the park.
I don’t want to become jaded though. There are good things about living here too. I really like my job and my co-workers are rad. My career is finally theoretically going somewhere. I might actually be able to retire one day.
My kids are developing the most wonderful relationship with my parents whom they now see every day. One of the great pleasures of living here is listening to my parents take care of Sid while I work from home on Fridays.
Brookline has wild turkeys all over the place, which I find surreal and endlessly entertaining. We can garden, and there’s a playground—albeit an often empty one—right out the back gate.
There are really cool houses here, some of them are not even on streets, they’re just behind other houses. This fascinates me. And there are walking paths everywhere. Little ways and stairways that cut between the curvy knotted streets.
We no longer think twice about hopping in the car and going somewhere, because now we have a parking spot. Cape Cod is 2 hours away with traffic. We can go every weekend. We can have dinner there on Sunday and be home by the kids’ bedtime.
Recently, I’ve started to not feel heartbroken all the time. I no longer stand with my eyes closed, brushing my teeth in my new bathroom, picturing myself in my old bathroom, and hoping that when I open them I’ll be back in my old life.
It still makes my stomach sink to look at pictures from our life in New York. I get choked up every time I have to look at a map of Manhattan at work, but I no longer have to talk myself out of taking the rest of the day off to mourn.
What Shane has been saying to me all along is that it’s not better or worse, it’s just different. He’s been right all along too, but I’m just starting to grasp that now. If we hadn’t left that life, we’d only have that life. Now we’ve had that life, and we also have this life.
I’m not sure I’ll fall in love with Boston, but we’ll be good here. We’ll be here, and little pieces of my heart will be there, right there on 78th street.