This is a post from Make Love, Not Debt staff blogger, Abby.
When I was a (younger) person, living in in a town not far from Manhattan, I spent much of my time fantasizing about how wonderful my life would be as an adult. I would, of course, live in New York City, where everything good in the world resides, and where I would have an exciting, lovely life doing something creative and interesting and drinking gin cocktails (I read a lot of Dorothy Parker in my tweens) with my creative and interesting friends. I would live in a perfect apartment somewhere along the Upper West Side, and spend long Saturdays on the roof deck of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I would live in New York, because where else would you live?
This wasn’t such a crazy, out of reach idea to me at the time. My family has been in New York for as long as they’ve been in the country. My grandmother, mother, and I had been born and raised in the Bronx; except for a very brief move to Maryland in elementary school, I’d been in New York my entire life. I had spent my childhood going to museums with my grandmother, eating the milk and cookie plate at Sarabeth’s in Manhattan, and seeing musicals on weekends. I consumed bagels weekly, had lunch at diners and Jewish delis, and stopped for a slice of pizza at corner shops with regularity. All family events had chopped liver and tongue sandwiches (they’re delicious, be quiet) and Dr. Brown’s cream soda. I was (and like to think I still am), as a friend put it, a dyed-in-the-wool New Yorker.
Then, I went to college. I started getting internships in New York. I learned how little publishing pays, and how expensive everything about New York City is. I graduated, and lived at home for a year to save money. I cringed every time I bought a metro card, and couldn’t get over what my friends were spending in rent. I thought about what I wanted out of life (a little more quiet, a little more money, a little less difficulty, a different career), and moved to New England to start a new job and to rent an apartment for an amount of money that wouldn’t get you a closet in New York. I married my husband, who is from one of the most rural places in America and can’t conceal his disdain every time he steps foot in New York City. And I slowly realized that I will likely not be moving back to New York to live out that long-ago idealized version of my life.
Perhaps most interesting to me about this development is how okay with it I am. We all gradually realize what we want out of life, and I’ve gradually realized that I don’t want to live in New York. I love the city, and I will raise my children to understand that their mother is a New Yorker, and that it’s in their blood, and that it’s a wonderful, amazing place filled with more things than you can do (or eat) in a lifetime. But I do not want to raise my children there. I do not want to join the ranks of so many families struggling to make sure they’re in the right zone for public schools, or trying to get their children into the right preschools, or unable to save any money because so much of it is going towards rent and food and general necessities. I want a house with a yard, and some quiet when I want it, and the general understanding that I can take my kids to the local school and it will be good.
Clearly, a lot of this is tied to the idea that I will one day have a family. When my grandmother and mother were growing up in New York, everyone in our family lived in a three-block radius of each other. The local schools were great, your family was close by, and you could live in a nice apartment and be comfortable. You could be middle-class and make it in New York. I don’t think that’s in my future. Even my mother has acknowledged that it’s insanely expensive, and our family has gradually relocated.
This isn’t to say I want to retreat to a farm. I like being in an urban area, and particularly in a college town. I would like to keep living in places where I can go grab a good drink and some food with friends when I want to. I would like to be able to see museums and shows, and to generally be around some bustle. I just don’t think New York is part of the picture anymore.
Have you reconsidered what you want out of life based on expense?
Image: Amanda Tetrault