This post was originally published on quarterlette.com.
By Emily Long
Way back in July I moved out of New York City. My boyfriend and I had been moving my life down to Washington, DC since February after my roommates and I had decided against re-signing our lease and turned in the keys to our apartment of four years. However, July was the final Band-Aid pull. My last set of keys to a NYC apartment were left on my friend's counter. The friend that had let me crash in her spare bedroom for the 5 months it took me to sort out my leap to DC. Matt and I were finally closing the distance gap on our two-and-a-half-year relationship, my new apartment now being 100 feet from his back door. Sounded perfect.
On our Quarterlette Instagram account, I help us post photos of myself (#E) doing exciting activities and the things that make life peachy. For the most part it is just so. Kayaking in the Potomac is a regular part of my workout routine; we go hiking all the time now, eat at fabulous restaurants, go to concerts, are still enjoying warmish weather (perk of moving further south), and rather than saying goodbye to Matt at the end of the weekend, we're grocery shopping and making dinner. I work from home (living the dream, right?), which people perceive as my having the freedom to stay in my PJs all day and roam around as I please. Yup, perfect.
But it's not. I have never been so lonely.
What I failed to realize is how difficult it is to pick up your life. I had moved to New York City with a "this is temporary" attitude and ended up staying eight years. Year after year, lease signing after lease signing, New York burrowed deeper into my heart. Despite the many tourists (I'm often convinced no one speaks English in this city, btw) blocking my path in midtown, people breathing on me during my subway commute and the lack of outdoor space, I fell hard for that place. I love its busy, fast pace, the fact that every band I ever wanted to see came through, the reliably yummy food, a Duane Reade on every other corner, my Metrocard that let me go everywhere, its grit. All of it. So while many people leave NYC hating its guts, I was still madly in love.
People often say they want to go back to college and re-live those years. I loved Penn State and all, but my twenties in NYC were the best years to date. Those weren't even perfect; they were full of heartbreak, family emergencies and tough days at work, but they were the years I grew up. It was here that I started a successful website with a close friend, created family-like bonds with my roommates, grew closer to my actual family and learned that an adventure is always right around the corner if you take it.
So there I have been since July, missing this life while slowly embracing my new one. The dark side of myself that I don't let you see includes the weekly deep sobs I try to mute into Matt's shoulder. I deeply miss my family and often find myself looking at photos of my newishly born nephew with tears streaming down my face. Often, by the end of a busy day, I am so terribly antsy and agitated because I have failed to leave my apartment for fresh air. I still feel like I am missing out on what everyone is doing back in NYC and want so badly to be included in what people are doing in DC. Usually motivated to take on solo explorations, I had been too disoriented to convince myself I can figure out the city on my own. I had known my way around NYC so well and with such comfort.
Let me finish by saying, I do not regret my decision to move to DC. I have no urge to pack my bags and move back to NYC. I am slowly building a life here, seeing Matt every day, spending time with friends and building relationships with new ones that I have made. I am over coming my disorientation one area of the city at a time by teaching myself how to get around. Mostly this means I've stopped calling Matt for directions when I get lost - relying on my own sense of direction, Google and strangers to find my way instead.
When you see the photos I post on Instagram I hope you like them. But I hope you remember that what is behind those photos is not picture-perfect. Those smiles are sometimes matched with eyes puffy with tears. I am not perfect. And you don't need to be either.