One false move is all you need to start thinking seriously about leaving New York, since everyone arrives with the idea of leaving already firmly implanted in their minds. They don’t really expect it to go well, so that when it doesn’t they immediately start thinking about getting out. One day your friend seems to be doing okay and the next you’re at their goodbye party and they’re moving to Saskatchewan. New York goodbye parties always feel like celebrating a failure, partly because the guests — people who are staying in New York — have to think of leaving New York as a failure in order to justify staying. It’s also because the person leaving probably thinks of it as a failure, unless they truly hated New York, in which case they are just relieved and elated like I was when I left Boston after one hateful year.
The truth is that where you live doesn’t really matter in terms of happiness, since a place is just a place and can’t do anything personal to you. This is especially true if you are someone I know, since all we do anyway is move in a triangle from San Francisco to New York to L.A. or in the opposite order with the same result, which is to eventually get tired of moving and settle down wherever the last place was and hopefully it is San Francisco, so when you have enough money to move to Sonoma you’ll be nearby already.
In AA they call moving around to try to change your life, “seeking the geographical cure.” They say it doesn’t work since wherever you go, there you are, and in my experience this is both true and not true. Moving, like traveling or almost being hit by a car or breaking up with someone will almost always have the effect of snapping you to attention, at least initially, which is sometimes all you need to change your perspective. It’s like a juice cleanse: you aren’t going to do it forever, but feeling better for 3 days can have the effect of making you want to keep feeling better.
Of course it is exactly this temporariness that makes the juice cleanse completely unappealing to me, since the only things I want to do are the ones which once started must be stuck with forever. So that you have to spend ages agonizing over whether or not to do it, and therefore never have to do anything. It’s why I’ve been intermittently obsessed with the idea of getting a tattoo for nearly ten years, but have never done it and never will, since at the end of the day I find tattoos terminally embarrassing and the act of telling a stranger you want him to stab a line from “Cat’s Cradle” into your arm more embarrassing still.