In 2013, after about five years of living in LA, I packed up my bags and left for New York. With two suitcases and a broken heart, I set out to the Big Apple with hopes of healing and adventure. It gave me both. I thought I could stay there forever, as there is truly not a city I love more, but after a few years I felt my heart tugging me back to the west coast. My head thought my heart was crazy.
For months I suppressed it. I prayed, a lot. I journaled the pros and cons. I walked aimlessly around the city immersed in gratitude for things like blaring horns and the occasional shouted obscenity. I had learned to appreciate whatever it is about ball-busting no frills New York that chews you up and spits you out and makes you feel alive. Who in their right mind would trade that in for Tinseltown?
Yet, that gut feeling persisted. Though I had solid friendships in New York and people that meant the world to me, I was craving meaningful relationships like the ones I had built before I left LA. I also missed the sun, the sand, and the square footage.
But it’s New York! I rationalized. I’m content here, and there’s so much I haven’t done yet. I want to go to another Broadway show. I haven’t even been to MoMA, or gone to Montauk, I’ve never even seen a show at Carnegie Hall for God’s sake. I decided I would jot these under a mental “Can’t Leave New York Without” list, satisfied with the time it would buy me.
That evening I got an email from our building’s community board. It said:
“Free – On The Town Ticket. I was just given one single ticket to see On The Town on Broadway tonight at 7pm. Can no longer go and I’m willing to give away for FREE.”
It was 6:43 PM when I responded to the email, and by 7:00 PM I was in my orchestra seat watching a show about fun-loving sailors who have 24 hours in New York and want to make every second count. The irony of the situation didn’t really occur to me until I woke up the next morning. Hmm, I thought, maybe that was a sign.
As somewhat of a test, I called Nina, my most spontaneous friend, and asked if she wanted to go to Montauk for the weekend. “I’d love to, but I can’t. I don’t have my car and I’m pretty sure we’d need one to get around,” she said. Okay then, maybe not.
Later that morning I got a text from an old friend I hadn’t seen in years letting me know that he was in town. I suggested we grab lunch, but he said he was only free that evening and asked if we could meet at MoMA. Okay, this is getting weird.
I was pleasantly surprised to find out that MoMA is free on Friday nights. Paul and I spent hours walking around, taking in exhibits by Andy Warhol, Yoko Ono, and many brilliant artists in-between. I left happy, inspired, and entirely more receptive to the beauty around me. On the way out, I looked up and saw a sign that said: “What looks good today may not look good tomorrow. Now’s the time.” Perhaps now is the time, I thought.
Early the next week came the call from my friend Fabienne. “Would you want to go to Montauk this weekend?” she asked.
You’ve gotta be kidding me. “Don’t we need a car?”
“No, we’ll take the train and figure it out,” she replied, as if we weren’t both Type A planners. And so solidified our weekend plans.
That Saturday, Fabienne and I were lying on the beach in Montauk, taking in the sounds of the ocean lapping against the sand. Why don’t we do this all the time? I wondered. Then I remembered getting there required a three-hour train ride and sheer luck that a friend happened to be around to pick us up as there were no cabs. So I took it in for what it was: the perfect escape from the city, and one of the best days I’ve had in New York.
Two months later the movers were booked and most of my things were packed, but I wasn’t feeling entirely ready. I was finishing up at work when I noticed one of our artists was performing at Carnegie Hall that week at a tribute show for Bill Withers. I requested tickets but was told there weren’t any available because Ed Sheeran (aka: my favorite artist on the planet) was also performing. Bummed, I let it go and headed home.
The day of the show, my boss casually invited me to join him as his guest. That evening I found myself standing stage right at Carnegie Hall, shoulder-to-shoulder with Ed Sheeran and his friends, singing along to “Lean on Me” before Ed went on stage to perform. It was like God bypassed the New York list and said now you can just die happy. Icing on the cake.
All that to say, though my move was prompted by a stirring in my soul, this was the sequence of events that catapulted me into certainty, and sent me on my merry little way to Los Angeles. It has been over a year since I’ve been back in LA and if I’m being honest it hasn’t always been easy and I still terribly miss New York, but I have no doubt in my mind that this is where I am supposed to be.
Have you ever felt called to a new city? Share your story below.