You Should Stay in New York City – A Letter

New Yorker

So you told me that you are thinking about leaving New York. Which, I suppose, plenty of transplants think of doing. It’s not the first time and probably won’t be the last.

But these waves of thoughts were different than before. It was triggered when your sister had her baby, her first child and your first nephew, and you weren’t there. Instead, you spent that Friday checking mousetraps. You met your nephew via Skype. It has also been officially a year since you’ve been here and you’ve reevaluated the facts.

Living in Bed-Stuy is precisely what one could have assumed living in Bed-Stuy to be like, just with more cat-calls from tough guys in groups wondering why you’re so rude for not welcoming their advances. Never has being around so many made you feel so alone. You thought you would have found your Miranda and Charlotte by now, not watching them on DVD wondering how a show could get so much right and wrong in the same season.

Every day it becomes clearer that New York is the greatest place to be when you matter but it’s the worst place to be when you don’t. Around every corner is a better apartment, or a better happy hour, or all the makings of a wonderful life you wish you had.

But I don’t think you should leave New York.

At least, not yet.

In your heart, you know you were not meant for an ordinary life. You flourish in a life surrounded by innovators and passionate people. You found that here.

There’s a life for you back home. It was pre-wrapped for you from birth. It’s comfortable, featuring your friends, your family, your car. It all sits waiting for you like a lottery ticket with the winning numbers unscratched. It’s tempting, no doubt.

There’s nothing magical about New York City. It is an amazing place just as there are amazing places everywhere, each with its own strengths and opportunities and disadvantages. You could have discovered and followed your passions in dozens of cities or towns. But for you, you knew in your heart that place was New York. And so you came.

Your nephew won’t ever remember you weren’t there for his birth. But one day you might find he’ll remember the time he visited his favorite aunt up north. The one who left home to make her name is the greatest place to make a name.

I hope you find solidarity knowing you are like so many others. You’re a special kind of person, the kind who decided to choose what their destiny would be, not have it laid out for them. Their New York might be in Los Angeles. Or Nashville. Or a sustainable farm in South America. That isn’t the point. The point is you didn’t commit to change because this city would make you the woman you wanted to be. You knew the woman you were. You know the woman you demanded yourself to become, and she belonged in New York.

Remember that CD you bought from those subway musicians at Lorimer? You paid ten dollars for only 5 songs. I told you that was a rip-off. You disagreed. You liked their music and wanted to support them in a simple way. You decided if those guys make their name outside of the subway system, you said you’d be glad to have been there when they had only the backs of people waiting for the next G train.

It is very possible that the financial, emotional, and physical toll this move to New York took on you will not be worth it. It is very possible that you will go home and resume being yourself as you would have otherwise been, understanding the life you had imagined isn’t a fairy tale. But when it comes to your success, I’d put ten dollars on you.

And I’d put ten dollars on your success happening here.


55 thoughts on “You Should Stay in New York City – A Letter”

  1. Well said! You’ve captured the lure of New York for me very well. Impossible to turn your back on it no matter how bitchy it is. Sounds like you’re hooked. Takes one to know one 🙂

  2. Simply said but very big sentiment..Many of us have journeyed out of our comfort zone seeking our Life Purpose..As you said @the person we demand ourselves to become. And I co-sign that sentiment that it usually isn’t found until we take a huge leap of Faith..And that Faith is heavily banking the underlying hope, wish & prayer that we’ve made the right move..I can attest that it can indeed work out for the very best..I’m living proof of it also. Glad Cheri shared this; it was yet another confirmation for me. 2 thumbs UP on your write!

  3. It’s a tough town but it will pull from your your best — and it may be 1000% better than the best demanded or required by smaller and less demanding places. That’s worth it to me.

  4. This really just made me believe in my choice to move to NYC in January even more than I did before. Thank you for this beautiful post.

  5. Yes, NYC can be an inspiring and magical place and I think 2 years is usually a good amount of time to realize if it’s a good place for you. However, it’s also important to remember that when you’ve had enough and you need to leave, there’s absolutely no failure or giving up in that. I think it’s imperative to recognize the reality within the mystique of this place. This letter is vague and unspecific not only in why this place can royally suck, but also in why anyone should stay here. While I agree it can be the most inspirational place in the world, I’ve also seen it be an absolute hell hole for some very intelligent, driven, hard-working friends of mine. It’s easy to romanticize this place, but I think many people become self-righteous about their city and role within it. Sure, give it a try, but if things don’t progress in a way that’s satisfying, then get out and recalibrate elsewhere. Success is relative, but I’m not sure why the writer thinks everyone who tries NYC will have that here. The sheer numbers of talented people pursuing the same dreams make that entirely impossible for many. I’ve known countless hard-working, infinitely talented artists and performers who had no luck in this city, got out, and were able to live in a way that allowed them to focus their energy on art and creation instead of scraping by with some crappy job they are overqualified for. Yes, NYC can be the best place in the world, but so can a lot of other places. I think getting out if it’s not working doesn’t mean that you’ve given up, but that you’re standing up for your own potential.

  6. Hey I’m from Charleston, SC and I recently decided to go to NYC by myself! Never had been up north or to a city outside of Atlanta or charleston that was THAT BIG. I LOVED EVERY SECOND OF THAT WEEKEND even though i worried the fuck out of my family because I told them I was going once I was on the plane. eeeek

  7. Wow, as I was reading this, I had to look back and make sure you didn’t write this to me personally… I was like wait, did this guy read one of my posts and write to me? Thank you for this. This was so pretty and inspirational.

  8. I recently took my second NYC trip and I fell in love with it even harder than I was before. It’s a magical city. I realized I belong there more than I do in California. Well written.

  9. thank you for this. I’ve been going back & forth about relocating back from Europe to the US & try out NYC. Your piece has “pinched me” & given me that yet another reason to give it a try if only temporarily. After-all we’re just travelers & explorers on this planet.

  10. It’s very inspiring to believe in yourself and strike out on your own, despite the tide’s direction. It’s hard when you seem to find yourself alone along your life’s journey. But trust me, there are others like you who has taken a similar path and you sharing your story is a true inspiration and keeps the rest of us going. Keep it up!

  11. Reblogged this on Life Around the World and commented:
    As my days leaving New York is getting closer, I do have better understandings why people all over the world moves to this crazy place. Life is probably more comfortable elsewhere for most of the people. Yet, they decided to stay in this city. New York might not be home, but it’s place where everyone can have a place. I think this article quite captures the essence of this city.

  12. Grew up in New York it was an awesome experience. There’s nothing like it in the worlddddd. The culture, people, and buildings…and shake shack 😀

  13. I don’t live in New York but my heart does. All it takes is a photo of the city – anywhere in the city – to get me all clumsy in the head. I don’t live in New York but I write about it. New York is the biggest, most important character in any of my stories.
    Thanks for this post; I’ve reblogged it on my own site ( and on Twitter. Come check me out!

  14. The band I was referencing is Bird Courage, who plays show all over New York but still perform a lot at Lorimor/Metropolitan. But I know Mountain Animation too! Their dueling banjo/fiddle combination is brilliant. That’s a hot spot for buskers!

  15. Completely agree. I recently moved to D.C. on a whim. I figured New York City isn’t going anywhere soon. So there’s no reason not to explore something new. New York is my home. I can always go back when the itch gets too strong to successfully scratch. So to speak 😉

  16. I often ask people from California “Which state’s energy suits your personality more: New York or California?” There’s no reason to think both can’t. But it’s a tough choice.

  17. Thank you for reading and your comment. As a lifelong New Yorker, I take for granted the scope and scale of our city and the immense choice it is for new arrivals who try to tame it. I really respect that determination. Writing this was as much for my acknowledging that bravery as it was to encourage my friend. Good luck to you and I look forward to following your adventures!

  18. And who says New Yorkers are the tough ones??? That’s a bit too bold, even for me lol. Charleston is an amazing city. I’m surprised you were willing to make that kind of leap but we’ll see if you’re still around come winter 😉

  19. This touched my heart. Love and faith can be so strong, seeing something in someone else that they are unable to see themselves . I left New York a year and a half ago and I miss it like crazy. There is a fight necessary to live there, to encompass yourself in complete chaos yet not lose your soul and your integrity and your essence. It’s the kind of place where, as they say, only the strong survive. Don’t let their dreams die. Whoever you speak of, remind them, day after day of their initial intention in the same way that you told us. New York can always use another success story. Lots of luck to you.

  20. This is very cute. Although in a way it does remind me of that Sex and the City episode where Miranda almost goes out with a guy who never left NY…

  21. Beautiful. I visited NY in this past September for the second time in my life (the first was 14 years ago) and I was charmed, dazzled and fell in love. I will visit again and who knows, live there one day. Thank you.

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