And so it was written: you can’t be a 20-something with any degree of professional, social, or creative ambition and not boldly, decisively declare your intentions to move to NYC, like, every 3-6 months. And mostly, that never happens. Our stated reasons usually involve “getting wrapped up in other projects,” or “the timing not being good,” or “syphilis.” In truth, we’re just too poor, too lazy, or too afraid of failing because we’re not delusional enough to ignore the brutal truth that NYC is where hopeful young people go to become poorer and more soul-saddened by failure. For me, an Atlanta-based, wanderlusty young flight risk, my reasons for not making the oft-threatened leap to the Big Apple are as follows.
1. I already live somewhere else
I will never downplay the irreplaceable thrill of digging your exploring fingers deep into the meat of a new city, of discovering new places and watching them evolve and become “your” places, of experiencing the jarring, enlightening vertigo of being thrust out of your comfort zone, of feeling impossibly lonely and displaced, and hating it, and then loving it for giving you the humility and perspective and re-engaged curiosity you didn’t fully realize you needed, of painstakingly, slowly, deservedly earning a working knowledge of a once strange place. There is nothing better than that. Except possibly for the feeling of walking into a bar and having familiar faces excited to see you, of knowing which cheap burrito places will fill you with warm, beany magic, and which will fill you with food poisoning, of driving around streets that radiate with the beautiful, aching echoes of a history you’ve built there, capable of pulling you out of the most desolate of moods on the drive home. The idea of walking among stony, unknowing buildings after eating at some shitty place because you didn’t know better, and not even having a safe, familiar bar where you can wrap your weary face around a bottle of whatever until everything feels better… it’s exhausting to contemplate, and even more exhausting to live.
Winter is bullshit. Obviously NYC isn’t as bad as it gets, but it’s certainly home to the harshest winter of any city I would reasonably consider moving to. Don’t talk to me about global warming like that means everywhere is always warmer now because that’s not what global warming fucking even means, and anyway, it was like minus EVERYTHING degrees in NYC last week. Let’s also not talk about how cute cold weather clothes are. I agree. I feel like a cuddly goddamn snugglebeast in warm, soft layers, but that only goes as far as the freezing mark. Anything below that, and darling winter outfits get laughed off the subway by giant, puffy, NASA-approved, insulated space survivalist gear. I went to college in Boston. I tried. I never failed to expel a furious string of obscenities into the frigid air when I walked outside, not that you could hear them since they froze into tiny word icicles on the way out of my mouth and crumbled and died on the sidewalk and the evil wind laughed in my face and I wanted to kill myself. Every single day. I’m not excited about going through that again. Here’s winter in Atlanta: it gets down to maybe 30 degrees a few times, and we’re all like, “Ugh, I don’t liiiiike this”, and then God is like, “Okay, my babies, no problem”, and suddenly it’s spring. And that’s it. I know my limits.
It’s not like I haven’t tried. I’ve lived in Paris and Boston and have made an honest-to-god effort to turn a glorified closest into something wholly habitable. But Atlanta has pretty much spoiled me. It’s truly a city full of every variety of excellent radness you could want, AND holy fuck my face, the square footage here is luxurious. It’s like the intro to The Sound of Music every time I open my front door, minus the pageboy haircut and Nazis. There was absolutely a time in my life when I got down with the dingy romance of packing it in with roommates in 500 square feet of Ikea and thrift store finds, and having drunk roomie nights, and fighting about using all the hot water, and all that amazing shit, but those days are passed. Which is sad, because those are especially wonderful days. But in an ongoing attempt at self-awareness, I have to be real with myself that physically closed-in spaces now result in a kind of mental stagnation and emotional shrinkage that makes me want to quit life and hide in bed and eat chicken wings until I die or someone buys me a penthouse. I have this deal with myself that I’ll move to NYC only once I earn the kind of cheddar to be able to live there fabulously. So, like, see ya never.
All the noise
I’m not talking about actual loud sounds, although there is plenty of that. But that doesn’t bug me. In fact, I find city noise really soothing and comforting, especially when I’m sleeping, like a constant affirmation that the world hasn’t ended and people are still living whenever I decide to get out of bed and join them. I’m referring to the overwhelming cultural din. It seems like everything that could be created or built has already been done. Finding new creative real estate in NYC feels like an insurmountable challenge. By contrast, Atlanta has the perfect balance of pre-existing infrastructure for achievement — buildings, institutions, audience, other brilliant people doing brilliant things — while still retaining plenty of wide-open potential. There are empty buildings with open-minded owners, and ideas that haven’t been realized. These mid-level cities have yet seen it all, which makes them hungrier for it. If you’re a doer, there’s nothing more motivating than that.