Dear readers, if you don’t already know her, meet Robin. I became an instant follower of Robin’s blog after I read this piece she wrote about her decision to leave London and move back to the States. Its a dilemma I know most of us who live abroad grapple with constantly but I immediately identified with her reasons to move and admired the honesty with which she stuck to what she knew would make her happy. One day an analogy came up about how an international move can feel just like a breakup. And we knew the piece had to be written…
Sometimes I wonder what it’s like for people who live their whole lives in one place. To never have to deal with the constant packing, the lack of ownership, the feeling of not being grounded. To not know what it’s like to live in a forever-temporary state.
To have never gone through a breakup.
But not that kind of a breakup. I’m talking about another kind entirely. The kind that deals with leaving cities, countries, whole worlds behind and relocating to somewhere else.
The kind that has a tendency to leave you penniless, clueless, and starting anew after months of fighting battles over logistical details. Get through those stages, and you’re likely left feeling a little broken-hearted.
I’d argue leaving a city and leaving a relationship are more similar than they are different. Many of us have been there, whether it’s breaking up a romantic relationship or breaking up with a city. Both ideas are about leaving lives you’ve built for yourself and starting over again. It’s scary and invigorating; often needed.
Aside from the fact that leaving a city you love and going through a relationship breakup are similar on paper (moves, costs, new experiences), these two seemingly different experiences also have a tendency to bring up similar feelings.
Like the feeling of loss, confusion and being alone in a new place. And the worst, gosh, the worst, is the idea that a place or a person doesn’t belong to you anymore.
I moved from New York to London in 2012, just a few months shy of Hurricane Sandy. It was nothing short of heartbreaking to see my city taken over by a reckless storm. As I watched the coverage on the news and read about it in the Evening Standard, I kept thinking how I should’ve been there, to help, to document, to just be there. How dare I abandon New York during a time like this.
Like so many others, New York was always my city. I grew up dreaming about it, tagged along on my dad’s business trips, and swore I’d move there – and I did, within a week of graduating from college. I stayed for five years and then love took me elsewhere. It tends to do that.
The worst part about leaving New York is, similar to a relationship breakup, the way that it follows you. Once you start paying attention, you might notice that New York is referenced constantly. In nearly every TV show, every movie, on bus advertisements, in songs, and even bagel commercials, for whatever reason New York seems to be a constant part of the conversation. This is all fine, unless you’re currently in the middle of a breakup with your one true love of a city.
It took me a good year and a half of living in London before I stopped comparing everything to New York. Even today, I still haven’t been back, though I’d like to go this year. It’s been three years since I left, early in the morning at the start of June. It feels like a lifetime.
Thinking about New York gives me a little pang in my heart, and if I thought about it, I’d easily be able to conjure up some tears. Like every single tourist t-shirt and tote bag in the city, I love New York and always will.
But that’s how it goes. Leave a relationship, or a relationship with a city, and some of it stays with you.
That’s just the way breakups work.
You can read more of Robin’s beautiful thoughts on her blog, Second Floor Flat (ps – check out her Indie fashion designer directory. She has also designed jewelry that sold at Anthropologie… which essentially makes her my hero.)
Photo credits: D Watterson III, Robin’s incredibly-talented-with-a-camera husband