Decision Process of Moving from the West Coast to the East Coast

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I woke up from a phone call from my recruiter. He called about the interview days before: I was two minutes late to a phone interview (the commute was horrible!). I made a bad joke within a few minutes. I answered a question and ended it off by saying, “I’m not sure why I said that”. The questions stopped immediately afterwards. They ended the interview and thanked me for my time.

For a second, I wanted to plead, “can we pretend we talked for a few more minutes so I feel better about this?” but calculated the damage was already done.

Anyways, back to Alex — he called. He told me I got the position after three successful interviews and he extended a warm congratulations at 7 am. I laughed — that ugly snorting breathless laughter where you lose your breath — and I repeated to him, like he didn’t already know from the texts and emails I had sent earlier, “Alex, the interview was only seven minutes”.

I got the job.

I wanted this job for a number of reasons. It was a four month contract that would help me land on my feet in New York. It paid well enough. I could job hunt and apartment hunt for bigger and better things in those four months — plenty of time to figure out my next steps, whether it was to start a four year grad program or work in a new career.

In less than an hour, though, the high of a recent accomplishment was replaced by frustration. The apartment I had almost leased weeks ago was off the market — it was a one bedroom, white washed small apartment in Lower East Side with a view of the Manhattan bridge from the window. It was conveniently located near my favorite Indian restaurant, where my ex-fiance first met my family. It was blocks down from my favorite bar where I met a guy who I’ll ironically be working with on this new job. It felt like home the moment I stepped in.

It was perfect and it was gone.

I couldn’t find another comparable price, feel and location. Best of all, the apartment in LES had been month to month. If all went to shit in the Big Apple, I could jump ship and leave Manhattan.

Now I was back to square one, searching for a unicorn in New York, debating on costs, choices and practicality of this trans coastal move, while experiencing a flurry of emotions.


Hope

Why was I moving? I asked myself this question over and over again. It would make sense if I had been accepted into a grad program or been offered my dream job. It would make this decision more respectable and responsible.

I wanted to move because I simply wanted something more.

Was that a good enough reason to move?

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I wanted to settle down and see what opportunities I could carve out for myself in terms of global health, international development and humanitarian work.

I wanted to run across the Manhattan bridge during sunset, watch the sun dip behind the skyline and paint the Brooklyn bridge, the water and the train in burnt orange. I wanted the wind in my face, the sweat from running that four mile loop and the freedom that comes from being in a new city.

I wanted the anonymity, the energy, the sense of a new beginning. I wanted to get lost in the crowd, become another face in a city of dreamers and hustlers. I wanted to settle down after years of consulting and traveling. In New York, the possibilities seem endless.

Was that selfish?

Was that a good enough reason to get up and move?


Fear

As I searched more and more listings through various sites, gauging the costs and benefits of each studio apartment, I became conflicted.

What if I don’t find a month to month lease? What if I don’t have a job after four months and I’m locked in a twelve month lease in one of the most cut throat, expensive cities in the world?

The “what ifs” spiraled further out of control with scenarios including nightmarish living conditions, rat infested apartments, psycho roommates, seedy AirBnBs, strict leases, five grand + rent and shady brokers.

I began to wonder if it was even worth the move. I had a great life in LA. Why would anyone give up the beaches, the mellow vibe, support network and connections with various universities and hospitals?

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New York is one of the most difficult cities to survive in.

Over the years, I’ve worked in the Bronx, Long Island and Manhattan. Undeniably, there is an unique vibe to New York. The moment you step into Penn station, life speeds up. The hustle is on. The soundtrack of subway, sirens, traffic, people and motion floods your ears. The smell of hot dog, halal, and trash wafts in through various food carts and restaurants. People move with purpose. There’s an energy here. It’s alive.

If I could bottle it up and sell it, it would be called ambition.

If it was a person, New York would be a sleek, perfectly groomed suited John Hamm look a like, who based off a quick assessment, either tells you to get lost and go home or to meet him for drinks in a posh bar later. It’s a sink or swim city — you either survive or you don’t.

Take this for example: have you ordered breakfast in Manhattan at a hole in the wall restaurant? The owner will literally ask you, “whadya want?” and become frustrated if you seem unsure and hesitate for a second too long, telling you, “c’mon kid, it’s not rocket science” or, “look girlie, we got more customers here”. Like sharks and blood, they can smell weakness: New York will eat and spit out your naive, baby faced body if you’re missing the confidence, thick skin and street smarts to make it.

What if instead of coming out on top, I fail miserably and became broke, jobless or homeless?

What if I get lost in the crowd, become alone, become lost?

Some of the fear fueled possibilities became outrageous (i.e. resorting to be being a dancer at a plus size strip joint) but the underlying fear of failing in New York remained.

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Guilt

I’m very close to my family and friends in LA. I have a best friend I’ve known since the first grade and my other friends have lasted in over 13 years of friendship (not sure how they do it). I always look forward to seeing them, catching them up with stories, telling them how much I missed them.

Recently, my sister had her first baby and now I have a niece — a four month old, beautiful niece with big eyes and an infectious laugh. Although we’re in the early stages of our relationship where we’re still getting to know each other, I think I’m already in love with her. Don’t tell her though — she already has a strong fan base.

A few days ago, over chai, my sister confessed, “I wanted you to stay so that you and her could have a relationship”. I feel guilty. She’s just a baby right now. What if she forgets me? What if I come back and she’s closer with other people and I lost my spot in her life?

I want my relationship with my niece.

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I want to see her start to crawl, eat her first food, say her first words, wear this navy dress I saved for her for years. I love making her smile. I especially rejoice in making her giggle (she’s a tough audience sometimes).

After she drinks milk, my sister lets me hold her. She has this habit of looking me dead in the eyes. Her big round eyes lock into me and she holds my gaze, smiling, her entire concentration fixated on me. Time stops. She softly coos and earnestly tells me in her own gibberish how happy she is. It’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever experienced: it is innocence, intimacy, love and trust all rolled into an embrace that distinctly smells like baby powder.

I’m sure I’d deliver a positive urine sample for oxytocin if tested afterwards.

I deduced a few things about her already: She’s curious. She’s intelligent. She’s goofy. She’s mischievous. She’s going to do big things.

I’ve been scheduling more story times with her before my flight on Sunday, reading books written by Chelsea Clinton or about a girl named Grace who ran for President. As her warm little bald head rests under my chin, I wonder, “what if I miss out on all of this while I’m away chasing my dreams?”.


Regret

I fell asleep yesterday deciding that I wasn’t going to leave. I was going to stay in LA. I began to think about the big picture, how I would feel months from now and decided a few hours later that I already hated the feeling of the bitter taste of regret.

I couldn’t stay.

I could always come back if I hate living in New York. I gave myself a timeframe, tried to make the most educated guess in terms of finance, leasing and jobs.

I had to try this though.

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The pay offs for this could be incredible and life changing: I could land my dream job and begin my career after my contract. Or I could decide that this city was better visited than lived in and I could plot my next move. Regardless, I’ll have my answer rather than living with, “what if I had taken that chance?”. I could do this.

Regardless of my own fears of failing and settling down, I know I can bounce back. I’ve taken big risks before. Two years ago, I quit a full time job and a became an independent consultant at 25. Last year, I took on 2 semesters worth of grad classes in 1 semester, risking getting expelled if I failed. I’ve succeeded. For importantly, I’ve failed and gotten back up.

The best moves are always those that frighten you.

They’re the ones that’ll shape you for the better because you’ll actually have room to grow.

I was scared to take those risks back then too and they ended up paying off. Right now was no time to start letting the fear get the better of me.

We’re leaving with no apartment and a one way ticket to New York in three days.

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