We see it in movies and magazines, we dream about it in between our business meetings and on subway rides, meeting THE ONE, falling in love, and having everything else go easily.
Usually it doesn't work that way. In my case, I met the guy of my dreams in New York City and six months later he decided he'd be moving to San Francisco for a job transfer.
"Do you want to come live with me?" He asked as I sipped wine in his Upper West Side apartment.
To say I was shocked that he wanted to move would be lying. He hated New York, and that was the part I hated about him. I couldn't imagine not living there, couldn't imagine not having my friends, my professional network, and most of all I couldn't imagine falling in love with someone who didn't feel the same way I felt about New York.
From the beginning, I knew it was only a matter of time before Sam would move away. In my starry-eyed delusion I had convinced myself I would have more time to get to know this person that I loved, enough time to know for sure if he was absolutely the right person for me.
To give some back story, I had been a part of a fairly recent case study that proved this kind of move could end in disaster. A year and a half before, I had been dating someone long distance, who decided to up-root his life in Los Angeles and moved to the Big Apple. Almost immediately upon arrival, I sensed a change in his personality. To keep the story short, he just wasn't the same person in New York. New York changed him in a way that made me fall out of love with him.
A few months later we broke up and he moved back to Los Angeles. The breakup left me feeling guilty about my intentions and left him with little of the money he had been saving since college.
So when Sam asked me to make the move to San Francisco, I was afraid of the same thing happening to me. What if New York was as much a part of my identity as Los Angeles was of my ex-boyfriend's? What if I was moving to a city that would make me into someone Sam didn't want to be with and I would have to go crawling back alone?
For me, that is the biggest reason why leaving your life behind to follow a nearly perfect stranger to a nearly perfectly strange city is usually a bad idea. I had no idea what I would be getting myself into.
On top of that, I would be leaving a professional network I had spent years building. I was proud of my ability to thrive in my career even when many of my peers were still feeling the effects of the recession. I knew no one on the west coast that would offer me a job. I couldn't convince my company to transfer me to their San Francisco office, even briefly. The thought of leaving my contacts behind made me feel like I would have to start all over again, from scratch.
I tried proposing other options, staying long distance or trying to find a "bi-coastal" job. In the end there was no denying it, if I didn't go I would lose Sam and I didn't want that. Which made me feel like the most nonindependent and unfeminist version of myself. I would be giving up a life I had forged for myself, for a man.
If someone asked me what they should do in a similar situation, I would tell them to stay in New York City. I would argue that a job, a desire for change, or a need for a home with less proximity to the Polar Vortex was a worthy endeavor. But for a boyfriend you've only known six months? That is the reason women get stereotyped as crazy and end up with broken hearts.
The prospect wasn't just about changing cities, it was about changing lives. The decision to move would transform me into someone that I wouldn't recognize and couldn't be sure that I would like.
But I decided to do it. Against all logic, I took a chance on a new life. New York will always be there. To be fair, it hurts even now to know I gave up my rent stabilized apartment. But if everything decides to fall apart tomorrow, I know I can always go back (it will just cost an additional arm and a leg in rent).
This back-up plan comforts me less and less each day, because in the six months since I've been here, the worst case scenario didn't occur. What happened was better than I could have expected.
Although my professional network was based in New York, it was wide enough to help me land me a job almost as soon as I touched down in SFO. I’ve had a bigger impact and more responsibility with half the stress than I did at my company in New York.
Recently, my Instagram account was filled with pictures of friends clomping through sludgy snow and icy weekends spent inside. I displayed the photos to my new coworkers then we peered out our sunny office window while I explained,
They looked at me like I was an idiot for stating such an obvious fact. But still, I was truly baffled by the luck of it all.
After a day's work, I come home to my apartment with SEVEN closets, a DISHWASHER, and my OWN office. On top of which, my relationship with Sam gets better every day; I am grateful especially through the harder times that I have someone who loves me deeply. We host dinner parties for our new friends, ride our bikes to the beach on Saturdays, and bask in the sweet glow that emanates from the home we are building together.
Choosing to move because of Sam didn't mean I lost agency to create a life that is my own. In fact, taking the risk ultimately meant I sacrificed little and gained a life that was fuller than the one I had in New York. I risked things turning out badly, but I'm lucky they didn't. And I haven’t looked back.