When people asked me why I moved here from New York, I had few concrete reasons why Sacramento, compared to all of the reasons why not New York anymore. I was in a state of escape vs. arrival.
Maybe it was all that time in nature, something I craved in New York, and knowing how accessible it all was in my life now, that flipped the switch. Or it’s been a gradual process I only became aware of in the last couple days.
But I’m ready to call Sacramento home.
It doesn’t mean I won’t come back to New York (in fact, I’ll be there in about two weeks), but I’m no longer trying to figure out how I’d make it work there.
People who’ve lived in New York way longer than I did talk about how much the city has changed, how so much of the magic of it is getting lost in rent hikes and skyscrapers for the 1% and tacky suburbanization. (A Panda Express is opening on the corner of the street I used to live on in Hell’s Kitchen…)
I’m not speaking for the old soul of New York, but certainly since I moved there in 2007, it’s changed drastically, and mostly not for the better. But more importantly, I changed drastically. (Pretty much all for the better, by the way.)
For some reason, Time Out New York is now getting delivered to my apartment here in Sacramento. The feature story was boasting a number of reasons New York is “the greatest city in the world (and always will be).”
There was a time when I would have thought, “Amen, sister!” But now it feels like a used car salesman trying to convince me to buy this Buick Skylark that’s seen better decades.
Here’s a truth you discover when you leave New York: almost no one outside of New York cares about what’s happening in New York. And there is SO much happening outside of New York, that parenthetical asides like “and always will be” feel nervously arrogant, if that’s possible.
And the nervousness makes sense. Because leaving New York–going above 14th St or 96th St or whatever antiquated borders people create between the New York they want to see and the one they want other people to “clean up”–opens you up to all of the amazing art, theatre, music and food happening in the rest of the country.
Brilliant creators and innovators are doing amazing things in what are often called “second-tier cities” because those cities are affordable and accessible. When you lower the cost of admission, that doesn’t automatically mean the quality is lower as well.
When it’s so expensive just to have a workspace or studio or place to perform, talent is no longer enough, and any kind of meritocracy we place on things like theatre and art goes right out the window.
I saw this even when I was in New York. I have dozed off at packed Broadway shows, and been left in tears from something I saw on a random Tuesday during the Fringe Festival.
I’m not saying anything new here, or anything people in New York don’t already know and feel implicitly. But until I left New York, I didn’t fully accept how true this was on a national level. I have been routinely underwhelmed by what is commonly considered the Best of the Best.
Sacramento, however, is different. Contrary to what I’m sure many people think, it’s enough. It’s more than enough. It’s enough and growing. It’s enough with promise for more, and a sense of “more” that I can feel included in.
It doesn’t make Sacramento better than New York, or frankly, vice versa. If you really like to be in nature, New York is the worst. But I still haven’t found pizza quite as good here as it is there, so in that case, New York has the upper hand.
That’s the ultimate beauty of leaving New York and letting go of it as the be all, end all–you end up appreciating it more. It’s hard to love a place that makes it so hard to stick around some days. People say love when they mean “endurance.”
As if you two have been through so much together, how could you possibly leave now?
New York doesn’t care what you’ve been through, because New York is just a piece of land with buildings on it.
It doesn’t care that you’re crying on its subways or sleeping with so many of its inappropriate male residents.
It gives you no brownie points for trudging up five flights of stairs home every day, or storing your shoes in the oven of one of its tiny apartments.
You don’t earn points for how much you can put up with. And even if you did earn some kind of points, their inherent value can’t be much greater than a Chuck E. Cheese token. Something that means absolutely nothing outside of very specific circles and confines.
I say all of this sounding very anti-New York—and let’s be real, I broke up with it, so obviously I put my stake in the ground about how I feel—but the reality is, it’s home for some people.
And it may be home for you. You may thrive there.
Or you may occasionally fantasize about leaving, but think, “Where would I go?!” And so you stay.
Or you may be totally fucking over it, like I was. Years before I finally left.
So if you’re reading this and you’re feeling like this race to an unknown finishing line simply isn’t worth the slog, I’ll just say this:
Listen closely to that.
Otherwise, it sounds like there’s A LOT of planned subway work coming up this year, so maybe waiting 20+ minutes on a sweaty, packed platform underground this summer will help clarify things a bit.
It certainly did for me.