In September of 2016, I was 27, turning 28. I’d lived in New York City for a little over six years. I had a studio in the West Village, I worked at a media startup within walking distance of my apartment (the dream!), and was still enjoying everything the city had to offer.
But around my 28th birthday, I decided to pack it all up. I decided to leave the place I’d called home for the last six years (actually, the only place I’d ever really felt at home) to move a new city I’d never spent time in, to take a job with a new company I knew little about.
Crazy? Maybe. Risky? Yes. Illogical? Not at all.
My happy place on the Hudson River
Although my life in NYC sounds absolutely perfect when I paint it in broad strokes, it was far from it in reality. Living in New York can feel like you’re trying to put together a giant puzzle every single day, and you can never seem to get the pieces to fit quite right. It was always busy, loud, and either too hot or too cold. I missed nature. I wanted to see my family more often, and a lot of my friends had already abandoned the city in favor of more stable lives.
So, I started Googling jobs in other cities—D.C., Denver, Atlanta. I came across a listing in Atlanta, which sounded nearly identical to my dream job. My family lives about a two and a half hours away by car. It was warm. And the apartments looked like palaces, for less than half of what I was paying in New York.
Meanwhile, all those cliche motivational sayings were ringing in my ears and popping up on my Instagram feed: All progress takes place outside the comfort zone. Don’t wait for it to happen. Make it happen. If you don’t try, you’ll never know.
I started to think that taking a risk—making a big change—and leaving NYC was really the only possible next step.
So I applied to said job, immediately got an interview, eventually, an offer that seemed too good to be true (spoiler alert: it was), and I moved to Atlanta.
While the move hasn’t been as easy or as awesome as I’d hoped it would be, it hasn’t been all bad—and I know it helped me grow as a person. So both for myself, and anyone else facing a life choice (whether it’s moving, or something else!), here’s what I’ve learned since moving.
1. A huge change doesn’t always lead to happiness.
You know all those quotes about going outside your comfort zone? Well, I call B.S. Don’t get me wrong—I’m all for inspirational quotes (just check my Insta). But I do think there’s danger in blindly buying into that risk-taking mindset. Maybe a big move is the perfect solution for you. Maybe that’s exactly what you need to do. But know that moving can also be just another temporary escape from the real issues at hand. Because…
2. You’re 100% responsible for your own happiness.
It’s another cliche, but it’s 100% true: Happiness comes from within. I thought that a new place, a new job would solve all my “problems” (which weren’t really problems at all, looking back). But true happiness isn’t lying in wait in a new city or a new job. True happiness doesn’t come from a paycheck, or a new apartment—even one with Bluetooth speakers and a rooftop pool. Happiness, for me, sounds a lot like author Marianne Williamson’s definition of success: “Success means we to bed at night knowing that our talents and our abilities were used in a way that served people.”
3. Don’t take risks too lightly.
I think I confused “taking a risk” with “leaping into the great unknown,” which aren’t exactly the same thing. I didn’t do much research about Atlanta or the job I was taking before deciding to move. The city felt familiar since I was from Florida and knew lots of people here, but I really didn’t know too much about it. I also figured if the job didn’t work out, I’d find another one, easily. (Narrator: It wasn’t easy.) Next time, I plan to think more critically about what I truly want in my career and in my life before making a big decision like this.
4. Figure out your top values in life, and live accordingly.
Ask yourself: What truly matters to me right now? Like, literally list out your top five values in your life right now. Then think about the best way—and place—for you to live them.
5. Ask yourself: What’s the best that could happen?
If you’re wondering about a decision, think about what would happen if everything did work out perfectly (on both sides). If things went perfectly according to plan on both sides of the coin, which side appeals to you more? Which “new life” is the one you truly want?
6. The worst-case scenario really isn’t that bad.
This has been the most refreshing, and comforting, realization. The job I moved for didn’t at all align with the description, so I left after six months. But even though that was the worst-case scenario, career-wise, the past year hasn’t been half-bad—at all.
I’ve made some fantastic friends. I’ve had a lot of fun. I’ve spent more time with my family. I’ve traveled a ton. I’ve thought long and hard about what I truly want out life. I’ve even checked off a few major career goals! I started freelance writing and part-time content consulting for an awesome startup. I’ve written for some dream publications, such as Women’s Health, Huffington Post, Self, The Today Show, MindBodyGreen, and more. I also became a certified health coach and personal trainer, a big goal of mine.
7. New places give you new perspectives.
New York City is undoubtedly insular. While it is figuratively the epicenter of the world, I think living in NYC ironically obscures our view of the rest of the world—the rest of the country even. Living in Atlanta, at least, has given me some realistic views about what most Americans are dealing with. From my volunteer work with inner-city children to simply driving through different neighborhoods on my way to work, I get a sense here of the deep divide between levels of income in our nation on a daily basis—more so than I ever did in NYC. It makes me giggle and even roll my eyes at some of the trendy things people in NYC are concerned about. Not getting into SoulCycle classes? Unicorn bread? Really?
Still, a year and a half later, this city doesn’t feel exactly like home, and I’m realizing it’s not giving me what I had hoped to find in a city. Again, I’m not saying that my move was a bad decision, or the wrong one. I am seeing it as a lesson, one that I had to learn to live my most fulfilling life possible.