Argh -- I Keep Changing My Mind About Where To Live

I'm never fully satisfied with where I'm living. When I'm there, I want to be here. When I'm here, I want to be there. Why's the grass always gotta look so much greener?

Jul 28, 2013 at 3:00pm | Leave a comment

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Why's the grass always look so much greener, dammit?

As I’ve mentioned, I have a severe grass-is-greener complex. That little bitch loves suddenly springing up in unexpected areas of my life, jabbing her hooks of ruminative doubt into otherwise fine situations. And she sneaks in ALL THE TIME when I think about where I want to live.

Which I do often, because I’m never quiiiiite geographically satisfied. I grew up in Washington DC, but fantasized, throughout my New England college years, about hightailing it to New York City the moment I graduated. Everything would be different there. I was -- like infinite numbers of others, before and since -- entranced with its sprawling anonymity and winking array of “maybes.” I would become a glamorous, stereotypical New York writer who drank martinis, wore sexy hats (pulled jauntily over one eye, of course), and smoked cigarettes with sarcastic intellectuals in low-lit bars. I was going to make it, dammit -- I was going to have a magazine-editing job I was passionate about, and a smart, kind, adorable partner who made me eggs and left me witty love notes on the bathroom mirror.

Surprise! Things didn’t end up that way. When I got to NYC after college, I landed a magazine-editing job I was completely half-assed about (and hey, I'm lucky to have even landed that -- so I won't complain too much). During my ensuing 5 years in NY, I had a painful string of unsuccessful relationships and laughably horrific Internet dates. I struggled to land editing jobs I barely liked or wanted. The competition felt cutthroat. I did find a bit of success as a freelance writer, but definitely not to the point where I’d say I “made it” -- and overall I was miserable. The NYC reality didn’t match my fantasy -- and I’d grown to resent it for that. My greener-grass complex kicked into gear: I was moving to San Francisco.

I’d visited the City by the Bay a few times growing up, and I’d always been smitten with its colorful Victorians, thriving arts scene, and natural gorgeousness. Who WOULDN’T want to live there, especially after becoming so beaten down by New York City? It would allllllll be different in SF, I told myself. A fresh start.

And it was, for a minute. The novelty kept SF exciting for a good five years. Sometimes I’d walk around the city and feel breathtakingly lucky, enthralled by San Francisco’s stunning good looks and quirkily charming people. I made a few friends, dated some people, got a job I didn’t hate, kept writing on the side. I moved into the world's cutest little cottage and adopted a rescue dog (to round out my household of 2 shelter kitties). San Francisco finally felt like home.

Until a few years ago, when that greener-grass bug bit me AGAIN.

Right around the time my father died of cancer in 2010 (which is, obviously, a whole different article), I began fantasizing about moving back to New York. It was closer to my DC hometown, and I missed my friends and routines. I craved the safety of being someplace utterly familiar again. The problem? “Familiar” doesn’t trump “good.” My family and closest friends were on the East Coast, yes, and I missed them. But I still felt torn about whether I'd be moving for the right reasons -- i.e., genuinely wanting to live there again, vs. missing my old, comfortable life because I was reeling from shock and grief and felt the need to do SOMETHING.

I didn’t move back to New York, though I’ve come close a couple times. But my greener-grass complex rears her ugly head almost daily (if not hourly!). Lately she’s been whispering that I should move back to DC -- never mind the fact that I didn’t actually like DC when I grew up there. Other hot spots she helpfully suggests? Austin, Los Angeles, Portland, Baltimore, Seattle, Providence ... the list goes on.

So yeah, in short: I have no idea where I want to live. And no idea whether to take this pull to uproot seriously, or just ignore ignore ignore. I like San Francisco -- I still get awed by its crazy beauty -- but I miss the East Coast, like, A LOT. And there's just no telling where this jerky greener-grass bug will lead me.

Where would you most want to move, if you could move anywhere?