Saying Goodbye to the City that Never Stops

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After 18 years of living in New York City, Deb Ross says goodbye. In this heartfelt piece, one mom reflects on the many lives she has lived in the city, and how you’re never really ready to say goodbye to a major phase of your life. 

I am just going to say it.

I am moving out of NYC.

After 18 years.

I am scared.  

I am excited.  

I am every feeling you are thinking about right now.

A friend once told me you are never ready to leave the city, you just try one day and hopefully on the other side you find out that you are okay, maybe even calmer and happier than your city-self.

It’s hard to move out of the city that you grew up in since you were 21 years old fresh out of college. It echos that feeling of leaving your parents house for college. You are so ready and you are so not ready. But you know it is time to go.  

It’s also like breaking up with a deeply soulful partner that knows you so intimately that not being in that relationship feels like you are losing an aspect of yourself. A consistent compass that has guided you through almost two decades worth of life. Finding and losing your way over and over again. It has given you both everything and at times nothing.

I have lived many lives in NYC – from the angsty twenties girl hating “real life and jobs” —  a first job in fashion and beauty PR, followed by an early quarter life crisis (it’s a real thing, my mom even sent me the book, look it up), into three years of graduate school at 25 because I found my passion in Traditional Chinese Medicine.  Then there were my NYC love lives. I said I love you for the first time in this city at 23 and for the last time at 30. The city is a melting pot and so was my dating life. From South American to Indian, younger to way too old, and from Path train to L train to Brooklyn, I traveled the boroughs looking for love. I finally got lucky, finally meeting the “one” – my husband through a best friend who met him at work and thought we would like each other (she was obviously spot on). After traversing all over this city for love, turns out my love lived across Madison Square Park from me. Me East. Him West. In this city, I was a girlfriend, an ex girlfriend, a friends with benefits, a lover, a fiancé and wife. I also became a mother twice in this city to two daughters. The city literally gave me life, and I gave it two lives back.   

I moved here the summer after college at the University of Wisconsin with four of my five besties. We lived on the Upper West side in a two bedroom converted in four. We did our 20’s here. You know the decade no one tells you is filled with tremendous soul searching and angst trying to figure out the “now what”?  For me it was more like “this is it”. It meaning life. Don’t get me wrong, I also experienced the other side of that NYC in your 20’s – dancing on tables, late nite diners, Twilo, concerts, Lot 61, the birth of the Meatpacking district, awful Hamptons shares, hangovers, hook ups, brunches, deep conversations that lasted days, beautiful friendships and truly loving the city that never sleeps so you can be as wild or mild as you want to be on any given day. I also experienced the city in its most painful and terrifying moments witnessing 9/11 and its aftermath, the summer black-out that was initially scary and then turned into one of those NYC nights that we still reminisce about, and those huge snow storms that leave the city so quiet and oh so beautiful and magical. The high intensity energy of the city worked for me.

In my thirties the city conspired with all my intentions and prayers and gave me everything I wanted. A thriving career, a husband, and two children. I went from angsty pensive 20’s girl into living the modern woman’s dilemma of what it means to have it all without compromising things that made you you, before becoming a wife and mother. I was happy, confused, guilt ridden and overwhelmed. I was mad for feeling guilty and confused at feeling overwhelmed. Motherhood was a huge emotional and identity shake up for me. With my first it took me a long time to feel confident in this new role. But the city was a constant companion. I knew the city. It hadn’t changed just because I had a baby and it gave me sense of security in a time when I didn’t feel like me. It knew me before baby and was okay with accepting me now. When I was bored or felt disconnected, I simply wore the baby and went outside on the streets and watched and walked along with the vibe of the city.  Sometimes it helped connect me back to me, other times it made me feel more lonely. And that was okay. Eventually, I figured out the NYC mom culture (which is a thing) and returned to work at the clinic a few days a week – which was my balance.  I wanted to be a present and involved mom, while still working with patients because I loved it and I loved that it rooted me back to pre-everything me.  And that worked really well for a while until baby number 2 entered our world three years later.  She rounded out our family beautifully — from a triangle to a square we became one. Motherhood this time around was easier, I was more grounded, calm and had mom wisdom. Now it was about figuring out my balance again. Balance is not a fixed thing, it’s fluid and ever changing from moment- to-moment to day- to- day. Logistics was new challenge. I was happy, confused, guilt ridden and overwhelmed again. It took about 7 months for me to return to work. I’m thankful that I had the time, flexibility, job and support to take that time to return. I respect and understand a lot of moms do not have this luxury. The city welcomed my need for time and my double stroller (the pedestrians not so much).  And I found my balance with two kids, preschool drop off, baby classes, work, working out, and date nights. Sometimes crushing it, sometimes getting crushed. Such is the ebb and flow of life.

And now as I am rounding the corner into this new phase outside of the city, which so happens correlates with my birthday – a new decade of life nonetheless (4-Oh!) – the city is showing me all of its beauty and ugliness. I see what I have been ignoring for years – the vomit on the street, the trash, constantly sharing personal space with everyone, the bumps, traffic and hectic pace. All the while loving my mini village in Chelsea where in 6 blocks I can workout at 5 different boutique fitness classes, grocery shop at the trifecta of Whole Foods, Fairway and Trader Joes, see my therapist, drink my americano at 7 different cool coffee shops and eat at numerous organic, healthy food options. The city lives in that constant flux between good vs bad – often it’s a matter of your mindset that day that either makes it a fierce struggle or the “only in New York” magical day. And some days share both components because balance is not fixed and neither is the city that never stops.

I am not saying goodbye because it’s not like I am moving to Mars, it’s upstate for heaven’s sake. But I am trying to face our impending move with an open heart and with space (actual space, not just emotional space) for a lot of unwinding. I only know how to be in the city.  So there’s a lot of unlearning and relearning to embrace.  And I agree with my dear friend, I don’t think you are ever really ready to leave the city, I think you just have to take the great unknown step and just see what happens.  

So NYC I love you, respect you and thank you for being a my consistent partner for 18 years.  I will always check in, visit and keep you updated on how life feels on the other side.