A New Yorker’s Near-LA Experience Made Him Appreciate What He Has
On January 8th, my new boss that I barely knew sat me down with our new COO that I also barely knew and told me I was laid off. I knew it was coming, but I incorrectly guessed I had another month before the ax fell. They read me some pre-written language off a piece of paper (real personal) and sent me on my way. It was a startup, so this is wont to happen. The upper management was fond of saying that we were “punching above our weight,” a metaphor that was pretty fitting because, frankly, we got knocked the fuck out. Sucked for them, sucked for me, but as soon as I walked out of the conference room I said to myself — “fuck this, its time to go.”
I’ve been living in New York for 13 years. Those years have had some ups and downs, but let’s look at the data:
- 7 apartments
- 3 live-in girlfriends
- 7 jobs
- 2 motorcycles
- 1 wife
- Countless drunk cab rides home
- Two parents that survived cancer
- Many unfortunate haircuts
As you can imagine, spending my 20s in New York City offered quite a few adventures. But as I slid into my 30s, my perception of the city and all it had to offer started to change. I saw my friends that live in other places in the country buying house and cars, having kids and taking vacations. Meanwhile, I’m riding the subway and being inconvenienced at every possible fucking opportunity. I started to grow bitter about this city and how my life was turning out. I sometimes jokingly say that “people that live in New York City stay 25 for 10 years.” However, it started to become woefully true for me. Didn’t own a home. No kids. All the things that normally constitute as adulting I was doing none of. Aside from a motorcycle, a job I liked 60% of the time and a steady girlfriend, I didn’t have much to show for myself. On top of that, this dirty, broken city was all I ever knew. I’ve never lived more than 85 miles from where I grew up, and it felt like my world was too small to continue living in.
My wife and I had discussed LA for a long time. The things we want to do in our lives are easy to do in California and exponentially harder to do here. I had grown sick of winters and subways and broken things. It was almost like New York’s constant attitude is “well, tough shit” and California, it seemed, was more welcoming, and things were just … easier. After being unceremoniously kicked out of a job I gave 110% effort to, it seemed like the perfect time to dip out. Or so I thought.
I spent almost a month applying exclusively to jobs in LA. Entertainment jobs, non-profits, anything I could find that my skill set could handle. I had a couple of first interviews, and a couple of second interviews, but nothing solid was coming back. After a while, it seemed kind of hopeless. Eventually, I heard back from two huge companies that wanted to fly me out to LA for final interviews. The idea of leaving was no longer an idea, but a very real and distinct possibility.
Waiting for my trips out to LA, I wasted a ton of time researching stuff we would need to live there. Looking at apartments, calling my friends that live there about neighborhood tips, fuel-efficient cars, new furniture, etc. It was fun thinking about what parts of my life I was going to jettison and replace with new shit. As I was making dumb spreadsheets and researching, my wife became more and more concerned. To her great wisdom, she knew that all this was futile and that we didn’t need to think about this until we knew we were going. In all the excitement, I lost track of what really leaving would cost us.
Finally it came down to my wife and I having a Very Serious Talk about what all this meant. We weighed the pros and cons, ran a couple of scenarios and discussed our true feelings about the situation. We came to the conclusion that we both wanted change, but change doesn’t always mean completely abandoning the life you’ve built. Meanwhile, our friends and family were 100% not supportive of this move. Aside from our friends that live in LA already, our people here raised as many points as they could to convince us this was a bad move.
- What about the traffic!
- It’s so big it takes hours to get anywhere!
- What if you have a baby!
- People in LA are vapid dickheads!
- The company you are interviewing with is an evil overlord!
- They’re all going to laugh you!
I tried to ignore it, and firmly told myself that they didn’t get it. Despite the naysayers, I continued on with my plans. Eventually, the week came where I spent more time flying than living. I had good interviews (I’m very good at interviews), ate some (eventually) free food and briefly saw some good friends. Looking out the window of my Lyft rides, I suddenly felt this pang of sadness and panic. One thing kept flashing into my mind — THIS IS FUCKING REAL.
As it would turn out, it was not real. I did not get either job, and received no explanation as to why. I figure that it was because I was from out of town and I wouldn’t be able to start for a few weeks, and they wanted someone who could start sooner. They knew that before they flew me out there, but whatever. Their loss. “Their loss” is what I told myself, but it took a little while to realize that it was also my gain.
I got word that I didn’t get either job on the same day, within hours of each other. That seriously sucked. However, it being a Tuesday, I went to trivia at Black Rabbit as I do every week. Tuesdays are my going out night, as I’m guaranteed to see friends and have a few laughs without even leaving my block. My friends, of course, were thrilled. At first I was sarcastically like “gee thanks guys,” a little miffed about how they didn’t want us to leave and now we definitely weren’t. After some time to process all this, I’m feeling differently about it.
Los Angeles is a different planet. Compared to New York, it’s different in every discernable way. Not bad different, just different, and as a New Englander who has spent over a third of their life in NYC, it would have been a system shock that I’m not confident I would have enjoyed. LA is a nice place to visit and think about, but living there is a completely different thing altogether. The think pieces will tell you that people, especially in my business, are leaving New York for LA in droves, and that’s fine, but for the foreseeable future I’m not one of them, and that’s just fine with me.
This experience has taught me quite a lot, but most of all how lucky I am. I’m lucky because:
- I was only out of work for about three months
- I didn’t have to touch my “Whoops I’m Fired” emergency fund (anyone who works in media knows what this is)
- I have a wonderful wife who helped me through this both financially and emotionally
- I escaped a company that wasn’t valuing me
- I had the time and space to really think about what I want
With the dust settled and the path cleared, I’ve been able to reflect on the things I do have instead of what I don’t. The idea that New York has made me what I am used to make me cringe, but after nearly leaving it for seemingly greener pastures, I’m seeing it from a new angle. While it’s true I hate that the subway escalators are always broken and the CVS across the street from my house does 2AM load-ins on Sunday nights right outside my bedroom window, those things seem trivial in the face of Real Life Shit.
These are the cold, hard facts:
- I now have a job that is more in line with my experience level, making significantly more money
- Some of my best friends are a 10-minute walk away
- I have a neighborhood bar where everyone knows my name
- My siblings are a 20-minute train ride away
- My parents are two hours away
- If I had given up on this place, I wouldn’t have gotten together with my wife
- I have the biggest, best apartment in the best neighborhood in Brooklyn that’s a steal in rent
- I live on the same block as a rad karaoke bar
- I have infinite culture and Interesting Things at my fingertips at all times
Despite all my shit talking about New York, one fact is undeniable — this is my home. In 5 years, I will have lived here longer than I lived in Connecticut, and those are going to fly by (and I’ll be forty, fuck). I’ve built a good, fulfilling life here. Yeah, it sucks sometimes, but that’s true of anywhere. But if I were to make a Powerpoint graph about it, the good things far outweigh the bad, and it took almost abandoning all this to realize that. Things are always going to sound better than your current shit in theory, but that’s just it — it’s a theory. You never really know a place until you live there. And I know this city, and it knows me. New York has this weird personification to it. It’s like an old friend that I sometimes can’t stand but would be lost without. It has defined the parts of my life that shapes and molds you into the person you’ll ultimately become, and I can think of worse places to do that. However corny this is, I’m glad that I didn’t quit New York, because it hasn’t quit on me.
Whatever the future holds no one can say, but I’m seeing this city in all it’s dirty, smelly glory with clear eyes for the first time in a very long time. This past Christmas, I saw “It’s A Wonderful Life” for the first time. I cried at the end, I’ll admit. I cried because George Bailey rediscovered the valuable things in his life, and it rejuvenated him, made him appreciate all that he had in his life, and ultimately found a reason to keep on living it. I didn’t have an angel visit me, but almost moving to LA has had the same effect on me. It’s not a bad feeling.
Thanks, New York. For everything.