Excited, Worried, Scared Shitless: How I Feel About Moving

Photo May 08, 19 16 27
Apartments in SoHo, April.

As I’ve certainly mentioned here countless times already, I’m moving to New York City at the end of the summer–in just three and a half months. I’ve wanted to do this for years, and I’ve visited the city so many times while I’ve been in college that it’s long felt like a second home. Or third. Or whatever.

My love for the city is like nothing else I’ve ever felt. I’m not really one to be a huge “fan” of things–TV shows, book series, comics, games, drinks, anything–but when it comes to New York I’m like one of those obsessive fans, an aficionado, a groupie. I read about its history and geography. I trek through its streets and make my own mental maps. I follow its news and politics. A particularly stunning photo of New York will often make me tear up, and when Hurricane Sandy hit last fall it was like getting punched in the gut. But each time I travel there and see the lights of Manhattan through the plane window yet again, it’s like reuniting with one of those friends–you know, the ones you’ve only known for a few years, but feel like you’ve actually known since childhood and wonder how you ever lived without.

So in many ways, when I move in three and a half months it’ll feel less like moving and more like coming home.

Who’s cutting onions in here, by the way? Yikes.

Most people who know me know all this, because I talk about it all the damn time. You know those people who won’t shut the fuck up about Beyonce or cats or beer or whatever? That’s me with New York. Many people have even mistakenly assumed that I’m from there, which puzzled me until I realized that in this country it’s customary to love the place you’re from. If I love New York so much, that must be my hometown.

So, when I got into graduate school and told everyone I’m finally-finally-finally moving to the city I love, people were happy for me because they knew how much this means. And as the still-undecided date nears, conversations with people often go like this: “So you’re moving soon! Isn’t that SO EXCITING? Aren’t you SO EXCITED?”

Yeah, I am, and that’s obviously a reasonable assumption to make. But that’s not at all the only thing I’m feeling right now, and when people ask me that it makes it impossible to talk to them about what this is really like for me, in all its complexity. (When I’ve tried it with people I know well by saying things like, “Yeah, I’m really excited, although it’ll also be pretty stressful finding a place to live,” they usually wave it off with something like “Yeah but you’ll figure it out I mean come on NEW YORK ISN’T THAT EXCITING?”)

Of the two extremes, this is by far the better one. There have also been people in my life before who seem desperate to make everything into a negative: “Oh, boy, just wait till you see what it’s really like. Unaffordable, hot, loud, and smells like garbage. You’ll be back in the Midwest before you know it.” Uh, thanks, dude, but I think I know where I’d prefer to live.

It’s true that I dislike small talk and prefer conversations that actually go somewhere and result in people actually learning things about each other, so maybe that’s why being compelled to grin and talk about how excited I am rubs me the wrong way. Maybe people don’t really want to hear about some of the other thoughts I have about moving. Which is fine.

That’s why I have a blog.

So yeah, I’m excited. But I’m also scared shitless. How will I find a place to live? How will I be able to afford the things I need, let alone just a few of the ones I want? How will I find a job in two years?

I’m also proud. Because despite being scared shitless, I’m doing it anyway, and I might not’ve at an earlier point in my life. I might’ve chosen to stay close to my family and the friends I already have and decided that the risk of moving somewhere new and dealing with those new stressors was too much for me to handle. And I wouldn’t blame anyone for doing that, but I still get to be proud of myself for overcoming those fears.

I’m also just unsure. Will I miss the leafy streets of the suburbs I’ve lived in? Will I miss the quiet? Will I miss the smell of freshly mowed lawns, and the joy of running through sprinklers in the summer? Will I miss lying by the pool, everything silent except for kids laughing somewhere in the distance? Will I miss going to parks in the fall? I don’t mean like Central Park. I mean big state parks with trails and rivers and ravines and fallen trees you have to step over. People have told me my whole life that I belong in a big city, but were they right?

(Sometimes I miss my parents’ house so much I can’t breathe. Sometimes I just wish I could call it mine again.)

I’m also curious. Who will my friends be? What will my routine be like? Which subway stop will become “mine”? Where will I go thrifting, where will I buy groceries, which bookstores will I fall in love with? Will I ever find a coffee shop that has wifi and outlets and at least one empty table? I know I won’t get to do all the things I want to do, but which ones will I get to do? Will I take up martial arts? Will I volunteer somewhere? Will I join some queer/poly groups?

I’m also worried. Which of my friends will I never see again? How will I be able to visit my parents? Will I still be able to go to conferences? How will I work out? Will I have to choose between eating healthy food and buying clothes when my old ones rip?

I’m also sad. I’m sad to be leaving everyone and everything behind, and sad that I didn’t grow up in New York so I wouldn’t have to abandon my life just to live there. I’m sad that I can’t look at my room anymore without imagining it already packed up into boxes. I’m sad that, to a certain extent, wanting to move to New York so much kept me from just being happy to be here.

All of this I cannot say when people ask me if I’m excited, expecting an unhesitant “Yes!”. And although I’m happy to talk about how much I love the city and how much I’m looking forward to moving, sometimes the weight of the unspoken fears and regrets and uncertainties feels heavier than the boxes into which I’ll pack up my life and send it–by car or train or plane or all three–800 miles east.

But, yes, I’m excited. I’m excited to drive over the bridge to Manhattan for the last time, excited to check out CFI-NYC and meet all the people here, excited to help lead my school’s feminist student group, excited to start my classes and my internship. I’m excited to finally get a pet, if my lease allows it, and to have a creature to love and take care of.

I’m excited to finally explore all the places I’ve wanted to explore and all the ones I haven’t even heard of yet, and to return to the ones I already love. I’m excited to see the new World Trade Center when it’s finished. I’m excited to watch Central Park turn orange, red, and yellow in a few months.

I’m excited to take the subway to Queens or Brooklyn to see my family. I’m excited to get to know even better these distant relatives whom I nevertheless call “aunts” and “cousins” because that’s a better approximation of how it feels. I’m excited to get out of the city sometimes–to Long Island to go to the beach, upstate to go camping, to New England to go skiing, to Boston and DC to see friends.

I’m excited for all the nights out, the lectures and talks, the yoga classes, the concerts and operas and ballets, the sports games, the dates, the shopping trips, and the days at the beach that are in my future. But not only that–I’m excited for the nights spend cooking and watching TV with my roommates, the weekends spent writing at my desk, glancing out the window to see the snow fall. I’m excited to feel like I can just relax at home for as long as I want without the pressure to go out and explore, because my days in the city won’t be numbered anymore.

I’m excited to finally put down roots somewhere for the first time, because for my whole life I’ve known that “home” is only temporary. I don’t want to move anymore. I don’t want to move for years and years, if ever.

I’m excited for the day when someone asks me where I’m from and, for the first time, I instinctively say, “New York.”

Railroad tracks to Manhattan
Railroad tracks to Manhattan
Excited, Worried, Scared Shitless: How I Feel About Moving

20 thoughts on “Excited, Worried, Scared Shitless: How I Feel About Moving

  1. 1

    As someone who has made 3 serious moves (Dublin, Ireland, to Vancouver, Canada, to Mito, Japan, and back to Vancouver), I hear ya.

    These kinds of major life changes are certainly a mixed bag, full of things to look forward to, and things to miss. I recall walking around Tallaght (the suburb of Dublin where I lived) thinking “this is pretty much the last time I’ll see ‘x’, the last time I’ll talk to ‘y'”. It really felt like the end of my life (as I had known it).

    The people who discuss it in extremes bother me too. It’s hard to discuss your concerns when they are dismissed so readily, or else endorsed *so* heavily that your hopes are thrown out instead.

    I hope you easily find folk in NY to talk these feelings through with. But it’s one of those cities where some many people are from somewhere else. I wish you a smooth and boring transition. 😉

  2. 2

    I hear you so much on the “YOU MUST BE SO EXCITED” thing. When I was moving to the US for grad school none of the people saying “ARE YOU SUPER EXCITED??!!!” wanted to hear the “well, yes, but also sad to be leaving my undergrad university and my friends and family behind, and scared about whether I chose the wrong school, and nervous about grad school in general” — all of that was brushed off with “but, you’re moving to AMERICA!! That’s SO EXCITING!!!!!”. It’s a little bit like when people ask “how are you?” but don’t actually want to know so the right answer is “very well, you?”, but agreeing to all the EXCITEMENT is somehow more tiring.

    Anyway. Good luck with the move!

  3. 3

    Your ordeal reminds me of when my brother moved to China. As the move got closer and closer, he became aware of more and more things that would be different, down to whether or not he’d be able to get a good cup of coffee or how on earth he’d keep up with American independent cinema, but also wondered what totally new and unprecedented things he’d discover and enjoy.

    NYC would be quite the place to live. I’m very partial to NYC not just because of the culture and all the attractions, but also because of the great mass transit.

  4. 4

    To each their own; I’m excited about building a house out in the middle of nowhere, where the mountains meet the desert, and the nearest place to put a mailbox is 2 miles down the road. Groceries of any kind are 15 miles away; a real supermarket is 40 miles away. The driveway is long enough to require a snow blower, not a shovel. There’s no cell phone service, and internet is fragile. But it’s beautiful; you can walk and walk and walk, and see all kinds of wildlife, and have a greenhouse, and paint, and dream, and keep critters if you want.

  5. 5

    “Will I miss going to parks in the fall? I don’t mean like Central Park. I mean big state parks with trails and rivers and ravines and fallen trees you have to step over. ”

    First, there’s Inwood Hill Park, the last surviving natural area in Manhattan.

    Second, you can take Metro-North or Amtrak upstate. The first hiking stop is Breakneck Ridge.

    So, no worries about that. 🙂

  6. 6

    Hi there

    I can totally relate to this blog…I’m nearly 32 and Ive never moved out from where I was born (due to cultural reasons) , I’ve been rooted here ALL MY LIFE so far…I’ve missed many an opportunity cause of my fear , it keeps holding me back,,but now I’m making the HUGE leap of moving from the UK where I live now all the way to Vancouver in Canada…I’m scared shitless as well as excited…for the first time I feel like I will get to finally spread my wings..but a part of me is going through the same feelings as you, the whole getting sad about not getting to see people, sad about seeing my life packed up into boxes…sad that I’m gonna be leaving the home that I grew up in and had tons of memories in…somedays it makes me so tearful, but I know the big change is what my character needs to grow and I’m making myself go for it…I’m trying to feel the fear and do it anyways….

  7. 7

    @Tina: Vancouver is fantastic. There’ll be a surprising amount of culture shock (even if you’re coming from the dominant UK culture), but I’ve found it to be a radically more positive and open place to live compared to Ireland. I hope you find it to be the same.

    (And google/facebook/meetup.com is your friend for finding stuff to do and people to meet 🙂 )

    1. 7.1

      Hi Brian,

      Thankyou, its nice to hear that Vancouver is a positive and open place to live, and yeah I will be using social media to get out and do stuff…how did you manage to stop yourself from getting too homesick etc?


      1. Hi Tina,

        I had a few bouts of loneliness to get over in Vancouver (more when I moved to Japan), and the only way I found to get over them was to reach out to the friends that had made here. Feeling like a burden, I discovered, not only worsened the feelings of isolation, but was limited to myself: my friends never considered me sharing my feelings to be burdensome.

        Moreover, most people here will know what you’re going through. Even putting aside the 40% of the city who were born outside of Canada, the vast majority of the rest were born somewhere else in Canada. I’ve met less than 20 people who were born and raised in Vancouver since coming here in 2006.

        The best advice I could give, I guess, is to start getting to know people earlier, and… take a chance when you feel lonely, and tell someone.

        (you’re welcome to hit me up when you get here, I’m happy to help you figure out the lay of the land)

        1. Hi Brian

          It sounds like you have been in Van quite a while , so I guess by now you can kind of call it home? 🙂 Im sure I am going to have quite a few bouts of homesickness, I will have to resist the urge to get on the first plane back lol Ive wanted to move here for SO long, its crazy that now the time is here that I am THIS anxious… Like yourself, I hate being a burden to people, under any context but I suppose this time like you say its best when I get there and do experience those moments of lonliness to try and tell someone. How long would you say it took for you to get the homesickness out of your system?

          Thankyou by the way, I really appreciate your gesture of helping when I get there, Its really kind of you! 🙂

          1. Vancouver is very much my home now. Honestly, Ireland never felt like home (for reasons we don’t need to get into on a public blog).

            I lived in Japan for 18 months, and I was dreadfully homesick while I was there. Compounding that was that this trip was something of a big deal for me, something that I had planned for literally years. For it to be going poorly, especially since I knew so many people who claimed to have had nothing but positive experiences, really felt isolating, something that I couldn’t discuss with those people with whom I should be able to discuss the most intimate aspects of my life with.

            I found that reaching out to my friends back in Vancouver, getting over the pride, fear, embarrassment and shame, alleviated much of anxiety and sadness.

            In terms of time, it really depends on how good a life a person has before they move, versus the amount/quality of positive experiences they have in the new place. If they can make some friends, create some social circles and start to make a life in a new place, their feelings of loss for where they used to be will fade more quickly than if they don’t do those things, and simply dwell on how things ‘used to be’. I’ve taught English here in conversation clubs, and I find the people who are most homesick (and most vocal about how much better their previous home was) are the people who simply go home everyday after school and watch tv.

        2. Hey Brian ,
          It sounds like you came through to the other side on your homesickness…and Japan Im sure was very different to Vancouver! I’ve never been there so I could only imagine how different it was.. So many people like you have moved to new places and successfully adapted, I just have to tell myself that if others can , so can I , apparently these experiences make you stronger right? I am going to take your advice and try to meet people and establish new friendships so I can kick homesickness in the ass when it hits hard … Do you have an email address at all that we can stay in touch via?

          1. Hi Tina & Brian,

            I was reading your thread with great intent as i have just moved to Vancouver from the UK as well.
            I am totally overwhelmed and although i know in a short time i will feel better the fear is consuming me.

            It was really good to read your thread and know I’m not the only one that has had this feeling about moving.
            I left London and all my friends and family not so long ago and its not that i am homesick it is that i am daunted by what is ahead of me.

            I thought i would take your advice and reach out to you guys about how I’m feeling.

            Thanks for giving me a glimmer of hope on a foggy friday morning.


          2. Hey Alice,

            I’m glad that the conversation helped you feel less alone. I can’t recommend http://www.issbc.org/ enough. While I haven’t used their services, I volunteer with them from time to time (pretty rarely, as my work doesn’t really line up with their hours).

            If you feel it would help, you’re more than welcome to email me, and I’d be happy to show you around, point you towards other online resources, or just go for a coffee as needed. 🙂


  8. 8

    This is painfully relevant. I’m also moving to New York this fall, and I’m scared witless. And excited! But scared witless. Especially since I’m moving without a job or an internship or a school or a group of friends or family or…

    … I’m just going to hide under the couch for ten minutes.
    ANYWAY, I feel your ambivalence and your excitement. Emotions! They are complicated.

  9. 9

    I am a few months late to jump in here, but I have to chime in to say that I am terrified to move too. I am 36 years old with three kids and a husband. We have lived in Seattle for 8 years now (wow? 8 years?). It’s time to move on now. That was the original plan anyway. To move on after 5 years in Seattle to California. But things changed. The housing market caused huge problems for us and we set down roots. That is so easy to do once you have kids. We have some of the best friends in the world. How can we leave them? It feels like an unwanted divorce, are we crazy to be doing this? But the weather here is such a burden for me. I like having 4 seasons, but seattle’s summer season sometimes doesnt arrive, and almost never arrives fully to my satisfaction.
    Now to go to southern CA where the weather is beautiful, but seasons are not so prominent. where we will be in a good neighborhood (we are not in a good one now), in a beach city (I have always dreamed of that), where i will make new friends? I will be close to my sister, who is my best friend, but far from my borther and his 4 kids. How can I rip my kids from their 4 cousins? How can I rip them out of school? Will it truly be better? What if this is a mistake? I wish that there was no choice. That everything about seattle was horrible and everything about SoCal was perfect, but that isn’t so. I am paralyzed with fear and today I want to call the whole thing off. But tomorrow will I feel that way? Probably not. I have flip flopped all over the place.
    How has your move gone? are you settling in well?

  10. 10

    Hey Alice Wilson

    I am in Vancouver, have been here 5 weeks now, My homesickness is pretty bad still…AND I am just as daunted by you as whats ahead, I left all my close family and friends in Coventry and I miss them a lot so I know what kind of feelings you are going through…. I need to study for an exam right now but please contact me on my email and converse with me if you wish , anything to help a fellow brit 🙂

    Tina Kaur

    [email protected]

  11. 11

    I am moving in USA in a few weeks I have sold my business, rented my home my husband left 6 months ago we have sacrificed a lot for this life in the US. We only get one go at life I believe we should grab every move with both hands.

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