Breaking Up and Moving On

Pop quiz: What is the #1 thing that people ask of you with the promise of pizza and beer? Hint: it involves boxes and sweat and avoiding their phone calls.

Yep, moving.

Two responses to that real quick. 1. Pizza and beer in exchange for hours of hauling furniture is not – nor has it ever been – a fair trade. 2. If you are in your 30s this is no longer an acceptable or appropriate offer. But I’m not here to talk about pizza and beer (though wonderful topics, of course.) I’m here to talk about moving. And no, not the neighborhood switch you so bravely made last fall or the post-marriage, city-to-suburb exodus you took part in.

I’m talking about moving far away, picking up and replanting; taking a job, or a lovah, or a ‘just because, dammit,’ and crossing state lines, the country, the world. I’ve done this a few times in my young(ish) life, and it’s a lot of things: it’s new and exciting, it’s confusing, it’s scary.

It’s….a lot like a breakup.

Sure, you’re probably not going to describe a breakup as exciting (unless you are a masochist). But in my opinion change is always exciting. Eventually. I realized this moving/breakup parallel when I migrated back to Chicago after a few years away. As it turned out, my move unfolded (and felt) much like many of my breakups: it started with a minor sense of disconnect, then some time apart, followed by big questions, some bigger realizations and decisions, and finally, the big split.

The whole thing took me by surprise, actually. One could say I never saw it coming (a line I have honestly said about at least two of my relationship-endings). I was simply spending the summer in Chicago because it happens to be pretty perfect that time of year (Hello, 100 Days of Summer) and also because it was my sister and her husband’s final summer in the city before moving West. I couldn’t have known how myself I would feel as I got back into city life. I couldn’t have known that a career opportunity would serendipitously present itself there. I couldn’t have known how perfect it would be that my stuff was in storage, awaiting a new apartment in Nashville whose September first lease I had not actually signed yet. As it turned out, I was accidentally primed to leave a city that I hadn’t even realized was no longer right for me.

Then came the hard part: announcing my decision.

This is where it really felt like breaking up with a boyfriend. There were a lot of ‘ It’s not you, it’s me’s (which feel really true at the time,) there were some ‘Maybe this is just temporary!’s, and there was tons of explaining something that actually doesn’t have a great explanation. You just know when you know, don’t ya? In my moving (and relationship) experience, when the place where you are living/loving stops making sense, stops bringing you joy, stops feeling like home: you know. Even if it’s hiding behind a few layers there in your inner knower. My mother describes it as the moment “when the peace is gone.” It can almost be startling; how the things that used to click seem to suddenly switch gears. Whatever used to work just stopped working. People change, places change, and it is peculiar and amazing all at once.

So I moved; and I moved on. I said goodbyes, I looked into eyes that really didn’t understand why I was going, I stuck to my guns, and I reminded myself of what felt the rightest in the moment. Because what else can you do other than trust what you know to be true right now?

A few months went by before I ran into my ex. And by ‘run into my ex’ I mean, of course, I visited the city I had left. This is the part where you realize that <gasp!> things have gone on without you. Yes, even without your glorious presence, this thing that you left behind grew, changed, became better. That weekend I went to three different new restaurants, saw new developments, boutiques, coffee houses; grumbling under my breath the whole time about how it suuuuuure was nice that these had just popped up right when I left. It was like running into your ex and seeing that he finally taken all of your advice. Great, Nick, I’m really glad to see you got rid of those horrible pageboy hats only after we broke up. No, no it’s cool. I wasn’t embarrassed for 2 years by your Livestrong bracelet or anything…Yeah, your hair looks great! Oh, Crossfit? Oh wow. You workout now? Neat. My first trip back to Nashville was a lot of squinty eyed observation, wistful nostalgia, but then reassurance that I had done the right thing. It wasn’t for me anymore, but I still held fondness for it. I wanted it to do and be well. It didn’t feel like home, but I still held closely the memory of when it did.

I remember a poignant breakup in my early 20s when I wrote letters to all of my ex’s friends and family saying how much they’d meant to me and how much I would miss them (I spent some years being  a walking RomCom, okay?). The funny thing is I’m pretty sure I never wrote a letter to him, just his people. I was clearly ready to say goodbye to him, just not those he’d brought into my life. And so it is with moving. You’re never really ready to leave the people you leave, even if you’re ready to leave the place where you met (and loved them). At least in my experience. They stay immortalized in your memory as wonderful, pivotal, truly irreplaceable people bound to a city you can no longer call home.

That’s the rub. That’s the real pain of the breakup. You know you never would’ve been the same person without them, but at the same time, you’d never be the right person if you didn’t let them go when it was time.

Not everyone experiences this unique coin that is half pain half joyful rediscovery. Some people have the beautiful luxury of staying in one place all their lives, or planting roots effortlessly and early. But for those of us who feel the restless call to go; to move, I say take the gamble. Not because it’s easy, not because it makes sense to everyone (or anyone), not because you’re sure it’s right. But because one of the best things in life you can do is learn how to listen to yourself; one of the best thing you can do in life is know when to say goodbye.

So what was your hardest ‘city breakup’? Your best? How did you know it was the right time to go or stay?

  • I moved to NYC from Columbus, Ohio (where i’ve lived my whole life) about 9 months ago. It has been a messy breakup because i’ve known from the start I want to go back in a few years. I looove New York–I moved here a week after graduation for a job and to be with my boyfriend–but I would never want to get married or have kids here. My childhood in Ohio was amazing and I want the same for my future family!

    It has been hard to put down real roots in NYC without a clean break from my hometown. I’m working on not letting “but i’ll be leaving in a few years” affect my decisions and potential relationships. New York is a pretty good rebound city, after all. 🙂

    • Lyndsay Rush

      Thanks Allison! Ooh also you should pick up “Goodbye to All That: Stories of Loving and Leaving New York.” it’s really great and totally about this very idea (and re: NYC in particular.)

  • Anna

    This describes everything perfectly! I made the move from Grand Rapids, Michigan to just outside of Toronto kind of on a whim. Decided to take my dual-citizenship and do something about it. Best decision I ever made. It was terrifying and difficult to be on my own for the first time and Murphy hit me pretty hard the first year, but I wouldn’t change a thing!

    I love it here, and, even when I travel back to visit my family, I enjoy checking out my old haunts, but not to the point where I want to move back. People ask me all the time, “Don’t you want to move back? Miss it?, etc?” Nope.

    It’s a total rush to move and definitely worth it even if you only do it for a little while! You learn you’re stronger than you think and capable of WAY more than you give yourself credit for!

  • This came at a perfect time! I just wrote about my ‘breakup’. I moved to the Bay Area (California) from Columbus, Ohio where I grew, schooled…everything. The last four months of 2013 showed me that Columbus wasn’t where I needed to be and through a course of various events in a weeks span, I knew that if I didn’t breakup immediately, I’d be more stressed and stuck even longer. It’s great reading other peoples stories and realizing that you’re not alone.

  • Erin Henry

    While I haven’t ever made the “big move” (I’m born and raised and still in Columbus, Ohio) I can totally relate to being okay with saying goodbye to the man and truly missing the people you met in his life. I like my ex’s family far more than I like him and miss them while I don’t give him a second thought.

  • Carolyn

    How funny to read this today – when my movers come the day after tomorrow! I am leaving a city I’ve lived in for 4 years, and moving about 3 hours away. I’m excited. But also scared. Ever since my first move after college, I’ve had a safety net everywhere I’ve lived, and this time around, I don’t. It will be a challenge, but I’ve already started to make plans – I signed up for a gym, I’ve connected with my sorority alumnae chapter, and I signed up for a career weekend at the university I’ll be working at – so all that’s left is to pack up and go!

  • Ashley

    Just moved from a small town in Louisiana to Austin TX where I don’t really know anyone. Super scary but extremely liberating at the same time! I miss home but I’m glad I decided to move. I’m currently trying to figure out how to meet new people in a town where you’re basically on your own.

  • Meghan

    This completely hits home and I can relate to so many things you bring up. I moved to Boston right out of college, a city I always thought I wanted to live in, but sadly it just didn’t feel right. It wasn’t home. I loved the people I met there but it wasn’t for me. It was hard to explain that feeling to other people. I had a good job, a good apartment, what’s not to love? Revently I took a leap of faith and moved to NYC. Everybody thought I was crazy or stupid (or both) but it feels so much more right. Between Boston and NYC I also lived in DC but even there, it wasn’t my city. Here’s hoping it’s lucky city number 3…

  • Lauren

    I moved from Indiana to Houston TX about 7 months ago. It was not too
    bad at first. I moved right after graduation. I was so busy with
    figuring out my first job, the traffic, the heat etc. that I didn’t have
    time to think about home too often. I am just settling down now and
    finally starting to meet people. Its hard to put yourself out there.
    After I went home for 5 days during the holidays, I was homesick for the
    first time. I keep thinking I want to move back to the Midwest but I
    know in my heart I have to give this a chance. Now that I have things
    somewhat “figured out” with the job, I am trying to plant roots by
    joining different activities or volunteering. Hopefully it will help!

  • Jordan Kragen

    This is one of the few articles that I have related to in a while. Moving to Dallas from California for college was a difficult decision, and it was an even harder to decide to stay here after college and never return “home”. It has been a life changing experience though, and I feel as though I had the opportunity to grow so much more. The hardest part truly is going back to where you are from and realizing that it isn’t your home anymore. Thank you for writing this!

  • Vanessa

    I moved from NYC to Oklahoma City for a job and a lovah…neither ended up working but I made great group of girlfriends and now I’m laying down roots in Boston in a job and city I love!

    Thanks for sharing your pizza and beer story…it validates the whole purpose of being young and being adaptable to new surroundings and new people! Cheers, xo

  • Priscilla

    I just (temporarily) moved to a small-ish town Georgia, It’s very small by this Southern California girls standards. Anyway, I took a job back I’m June 2013 that would require me to move to different parts of the country for about a year and a half to fill in for different sales reps for various reasons such as a maternity leave. I have a family that I’m very close to, great friends and a loving boyfriend of 7 years and yet I felt the need to get away and move somewhere unknown and totally alone. I’ve had to force myself to meet new people and learn to enjoy my own company. It definitely gets lonely but I’ve met a lot of new people and gained new experiences and while I’m still pretty young, not married and without kids I figured, why not!?

  • Hinge Studio

    Thanks for the read…lately I’ve felt the need to move back closer to home (TN). The life I thought I’d make in Denver slipped through my hands after a heartbreak 2 years ago and I feel like if I left maybe the sadness would stay here and not follow me…..

  • Norma Jean

    I loved this article! It perfectly describes what I’m feeling right now. 2 years ago I left New York City (slightly kicking and screaming) for a job opportunity and because I needed the adventure in that moment, I needed… to do something else, to be someone else. I thought I might find that “something else” in Atlanta. It was scary and new, but every visit home I was eager to fly back because I thought what I was looking for was in Atlanta. Well two years later that peace that I found here in the stars, in the quiet nights and in the clear air no longer exists, it just doesn’t work anymore. While hesitantly jumping back into the job search, I realized I’ve been trying to fix the life I have here with small bandaids for months now. But the truth is that what I had here once is broken and I’m ready for something else. This article really affirmed that I should be listening to my gut, no matter what anyone else says and go find that peace somewhere else.

    • Lyndsay Rush

      Love this!! It is really crazy how something can be right for a season, and then shift. We have to remember that it can be as true THEN that it felt right as it is NOW that it doesn’t.

  • Ashley

    This is a great read, thanks for sharing. Great to know others feel the same way. For the past year, I’ve been itching for change–to move away, experience a different city, try a new adventure, etc. I grew up in the midwest, went to school here, and made a career here. I love my job and my coworkers, am so close with my family, and have a great group of friends here…the whole deal. However, I feel like I’m missing something. I feel guilty for not being satisfied and completely happy because I do have a great gig. I’m taking this article as another sign (there have been many lately) to quit talking about it and just do it. Something I have to keep telling myself…there will never be a “right” time for this kind of change so just take a leap of faith and do it!

  • marie

    I went to college in DC from NC, which never felt like home to me. It was always nice to come back to my family, but every time I came home from school, there would always come a point (usually a week or two) where I would be ready to go home – DC. I graduated last May, and had to move back to NC due to no job offers in the district coming to fruition (interviews – yes, job offers – no). I honestly thought it would only be a couple of months before I’d be able to move back to DC but that just never happened. I felt like I couldn’t just move there because I needed job security, that city is expensive and I’m pretty cautious about spending my money. But now, I’ve been in NC for over six months and every day, I feel worse here. I’m still unemployed, which doesn’t help, but this city has never felt like home. I’m homesick for DC, when I’m technically home.
    Now there’s the possibility of a job here in NC, my dream job with a company I’ve always wanted to work for, but the idea of being stuck in this city for another two years honestly makes me feel like there’s a hole in my chest. I’ve been telling myself before this job became a possibility that I’ll just be moving out of here come summertime, either because of grad school or because it was pointless to stick around and I’ll have better luck with jobs in a bigger city. But if I do get this job in NC, I have to take it even though everything about staying here just makes me feel badly. I’m still hoping I’ll get it because maybe having a job will make me feel better about being here and living here will certainly enable me to pay off my student loans more quickly, on top of the fact that it’s a job that could really get me started in the direction I want my career to head. But I feel like I can’t talk to anyone about how badly I feel here or why staying here is so daunting. This article just made me feel like I’m not crazy for craving a place that I turned into my home on my own.

  • Alexis

    I am a native California beach girl who lived all my life on the beach. I had a tough 4 years after my Mom died and I needed a change. I visited a state I had never been to 3 times and decided to move. Everyone was supportive but concerned. They were right , after 6 months and much reflection I decided to move back. My friends have been nothing but supportive and some admire the life I have where I can pick up and do what I want, no family , no kids and zero ties that keep me bound. I am a free spirit and I do not regret it with the exception of he money spent. it was a good learning experience to teach me where I was originally was where I am supposed to be. Sometimes you have to learn a hard lesson to truly understand that you do belong where you where with friends that love and support you. and the place that has captured your heart for all time, my Pacific ocean. So as I pack for the 2nd interstate move in just a few months, I do so not with regrets or negativity, I do so with thanks for the ability to do what makes me happy in life and the courage to make it happen.

  • Lucy

    What a great article. About a year and a half ago I left a great job in Charleston, SC and family in NYC to pick up and move to Dublin, Ireland. They say it gets easier after you move far away from your family, and I really don’t feel that way. It only gets harder! I constantly have that “it’s only for a few years” situation happening, but I’m trying to not let that affect day to day life or friendships I’ve started to build here. I feel like there’s always someone/something/some place I am missing no matter where I’ll end up. I think you’re really spot on saying it’s a “break-up” and you have to “move-on”. Thanks for this xx, Lucy

  • Nelsy Pereira

    this article is really helpfull for me right now, im trying to make the big change, moving away to another country, leaving behind my family and lots of friends. its been a while since my hometown become the place where i feel i cant go further, and i feel its not working for me anymore. ive found friends and family that when i talk about it they make the ¨you are crazy face¨ but this encourage me to continue and make the big step. Thank You!

  • Lynne

    This article makes me feel like you must have known exactly what I was going through. This past July nearly the exact situation presented itself. An opportunity to move up in the company, a lease re-newal request that kept getting lost in translation, no boyfriend or family requirements in the area that would need me to stay. So I accepted and moved from my Chicago. I knew I would leave Chicago eventually but once it happened it was like I kept grasping for what I had just lost. Once I realized, 5 months later, that it was the apartment complex management I hated, and my new job (that was supposed to be great and promising) that I’ve unfortunately come to loathe, NOT the new city, I feel differently towards my new city. It’s not THAT bad (its not amazing of course, but it’s not too bad). Next up is a career change, back into a field, that I left for money years ago, and desperately miss.

    • Lyndsay Rush

      Love this, Lynne. And good for you!!

  • Hannah

    This was great to stumble upon. I’m about to make a big “breakup” move and have been feeling a lot of apprehension despite knowing that in the long run, it’s the right decision. Thanks for the insight!

  • ellieannfulton

    This is an interesting perspective to me because all my major moves started as temporary and became more permanent. Moving to the Northeast for college – first hating it and eventually loving it…and being heartbroken when I finally left for good, to move to South Africa for a year. I didn’t know where I was going to go after that year. But then I met my now husband in SA, and my one year has since been three. It’s been a continual process of saying goodbye to cities and adapting to new ones. My husband and I are planning to move back to the US eventually and I actually look forward to a small move, one day, to the suburbs or just a new house.

  • JWSoul .

    Personally I think this attitude and thinking is only for the beautiful and successful. Especially in regards to leaving a partner as well. To be so secure and so positive in yourself that you can leave everything you know when really there was little or even nothing wrong is frightening. To be in a relationship with someone who could just do that. Lot to be ssid for this way of thinking but often it leaves a trail of hurt people in its wake and breaks hearts.

    In regards to ex’s to many choices in modern life for women and some VERY goodlooking men. Ever heard of trying to work on a relationship? Becoming a more popular choice of the women I know at least. Few mistakes dump him move on and out new guy 2 weeks a month b (“at a psh later”)! Sad fact I see consistently in the Uk.

    • Lyndsay Rush

      I definitely agree with you that we as a culture are very quick (too quick, often) to get bored or tired about a relationship and just move on to ‘something better.’ without much effort to repair or grow.I’m in no way advocating that .I am absolutely for working on relationships (see earlier articles) or sticking out hard times in hard places and with people you love. Of course! This article is just about allowing yourself to make that equally-hard choice: to go.

  • I loved reading this! So nice to know I’m not the only one who likes to spread her wings and try everything!
    My messiest “break-up” has been with Missoula, MT. I went to college there, and left because of an actual break-up with my boyfriend. I moved home to Seattle, then picked up and moved to LA without knowing anyone or hardly anything about it (which is a whole other story).
    I refer to it as MisSOULa, because it really has my soul, and I feel the pull every time I go back there. It’s just like that relationship that keeps reeling you back in, making you believe it’s the absolute right one for you, even though, deep down, you know there are bigger and better things waiting to feed your soul.

  • Brooke

    Your article just made me cry because it resonated so much with my very recent move, a move that occurred only 30 days ago from Chicago to the mountains of Colorado. I never thought my love for Chicago would fade but after 12 years it was time for less city and more scenery, just a different lifestyle all together.

    Leaving some of the greatest friends I will ever have the pleasure of having in my life and knowing that from this moment forward, they will most likely always be long distance friends now, this has been the toughest realization. But like you said, “you just know when you know” and I just knew it was time to move on.

    Thank you for your perspective and for helping me not feel crazy for choosing a place where I know no one over a place with many familiar faces I love. It’s difficult to explain and even more difficult for others to understand but it just feels right…

  • Many of my moves have come about unwillingly. I have spent many years overseas, in various countries, and had to move when my visas expired. It’s bittersweet for sure, but each time I had a “disappointment” in not staying permanently, it opened the door for the next adventure. And so the ball keeps on rolling. Much like a breakup and subsequent relationships, complete with friends left behind. I never really thought of it that way before. Great analogy!!

  • Thank you so much for sharing your story and analogy! I moved from the Bay Area to Los Angeles for college and stayed after graduation. 9 years later, I’m inching back towards San Francisco. It’s tough, and I’m scared to disappoint friends, but more and more it feels like the right decision. I know I will miss it, but I also know I have to follow my heart/gut.

    x Catherine

  • Sarah Garramone

    This is my fav Everygirl article of all time; I seem to come back to it all the time 🙂 So, so true!

  • Christine

    I migrated to America almost 5 years ago. My father petitioned me. That’s by far my best and “biggest move” in life. I had a pretty good life in my home country. I was a young dancer, student, and an emcee there… We had maids and cooks there. I had many friends and I was having the time of my life there… but I left everything behind me and started a brand new life here.

    I was young. I wasn’t sure what would be the next thing for me here but I knew it was time to leave; it was time for a new beginning. I had to reunite with my father. It was the time for a change. I went through what most new immigrants have gotten through. It wasn’t easy but I don’t regret it.

    I studied. I worked. I stopped studying. I studied again. I learned a lot.

    There’s a lot differences that I had to adapt such as culture,cost of living, transportation system, policies, and weather. Thankfully, english is also widely-spoken in my home country so language is not a problem.
    I feel like I’m always the new girl in town. Most people are curious about my culture. I am often asked “why” and “how” questions by the locals & natives; I understand the curiousity but I don’t feel the obligation to always explain myself to everybody.

  • Evan Jones

    “You know you never would’ve been the same person without them, but at the same time, you’d never be the right person if you didn’t let them go when it was time.”

    This hit home for me. Just getting over an awful breakup and prepping myself for a move – away from my friends and family to a city where I know no one. And yet…I know that both of these changes are what I need.

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  • Sondra Caskey

    I’m from Cincinnati, born and raised! So Being 27 I decided it was finally time for me to branch out. So I moved here to Chicago. I’ve been here for 4 months now and I am so happy I made the move! I know what you mean about the whole breakup feeling. My family and friends didn’t understand why I wanted to move to a big city on my own, but I honestly needed to do it for myself. I wanted to be independent and to truly find myself in this big city. Sometimes I look at my facebook and I see all the things I am missing out on in Cincinnati, but making new memories here in Chicago helps me stay motivated! Plus there have been so many friendly people here in Chicago which makes me feel more welcomed and happier with my decision 🙂

  • ash

    OMG, I am about to leave Nashville. Wow, I guess I really did need to read this. I am going back home for a while and then, to who knows where. I spent most of my 20’s in Nashville and it was good for me as an artist! But now that I am in my early 30’s, certain things have been happening in my life, sort of pushing me to leave and I have finally surrendered. 🙂 I imagine it will be hard because a lot of my growing as an adult was done here. I will still be back and forth because I still have art obligations here, but I can’t live here anymore.

    Thanks for this article. Great read! 🙂

  • ash

    OMG, I am about to leave Nashville. Wow, I guess I really did need to read this. I am going back home for a while and then, to who knows where. I spent most of my 20’s in Nashville and it was good for me as an artist! But now that I am in my early 30’s, certain things have been happening in my life, sort of pushing me to leave and I have finally surrendered. 🙂 I imagine it will be hard because a lot of my growing as an adult was done here. I will still be back and forth because I still have art obligations here, but I can’t live here anymore.

    Thanks for this article. Great read! 🙂