I was 22, broke, and had no real concept of what living in New York City was like. I had looked at maps, but I'd never really been in New York before, so I had no idea what to expect. I ended up finding a place in Harlem – and now, at 27 going on 28, I'm cleaning out this apartment I've lived in for 5 years and I'm honestly so happy at how this journey has gone.
It's been really tough to tell people I'm leaving New York. The reaction I've gotten from people has generally been something along the lines of: "Awww," but that's been bothering me because I don't want to feel sad about it. I'm glad I moved to New York when I did, even though I'm glad to be leaving it too.
"Perhaps you should move?" she said. "Move out to Brooklyn where the rest of us are."
The "rest" being, at the time, where she and many of my friends live (and still live). I wasn't quite sure about it, but I did think about it. I even looked at some apartments, but in the end, I stayed where I was, and I'm happy that I did. At the time, it wasn't my living environment that was getting me down. Actually, it was maybe the only thing about my life that actually brought me joy. If you've been to my apartment, you probably know why I love it. And my neighborhood is more "home" to me than any apartment (or living room) I've lived in since 2011. I think, in the end, it was more about my career and lack of community/support, distance from family that was making me feel the way I was feeling.
So I started trying to find things that would bring me more joy, and so much of it had to do with being by myself: going to movies alone, learning the ukulele, taking walks uptown and enjoying the peace. I started traveling and trying to see the world, while also remembering to go home more than once a year. When I came out of my mini-hibernation, I tried to consciously surrounding myself with people who didn't write me off for the moments where I didn't feel whole.
If I had moved to Brooklyn, I know it wouldn't have solved anything and it might have made me even more depressed. But this current move to California, at this time, feels right. It's just the next step in a really tough journey, and the support I've gotten from my friends and family at home has been incredible.
I've also learned, in this move, to remind myself to make choices based on what I think is right for me. And even though I'll make mistakes and all of my choices won't always be the right ones, I think that's OK right now. I've taken a lot of risks in the last six years since leaving California, but I don't want my return to be just some return to an old routine. I'm ready to really build a life.