“New York was no mere city. It was instead an infinitely romantic action, the mysterious nexus of all love and money and power, the shining and perishable dream itself.” – Joan Didion


When Joan Didion wrote Goodbye to All That in 1967, her ode to loving and then leaving New York, I doubt she knew that it would be the genesis of a literary genre all its own. Falling in and out of love with the city has spawned countless listicles and essays on the subject, from the forlorn to the downright indignant.  There is no other city of big dreams and grandeur (not even Los Angeles or Paris) that receives such a heavy emphasis on the “sayonara, sucker” stories than any other.

In fact, the Goodbye essay has become so prolific over the last year or so that not only has The Onion joked about it (“8.4 Million New Yorkers Suddenly Realize New York City A Horrible Place To Live”), but an entire anthology of these pieces has been made into a book, Goodbye To All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York.

So, am I here to add my voice to list of malcontents? No. I’m actually here to do the opposite.

I was born and raised in New York City. And somehow, I still love it. And frankly, I find the insistence that an entire city full of millions of people is “over”  just… Well, beyond stupid. “Pack it in everyone, we’ve had a good run. New York City just isn’t cool anymore.” SPARE ME.

Sure, I’ve had a hard time singing its praises when I’m shoved up against 100 strangers on the F train, already running 20 minutes behind schedule. I don’t exactly care for it when drunken college kids walk by my third floor bedroom window at 3 a.m. screaming and singing and generally being youthful (I am an 85-year-old in a 25-year-old’s body. No shame.)


Who can be happy when MetroCards cost half your paycheck (if you’re even lucky enough to have a steady one), the only way you could ever afford to move out of your mom’s place is if you move in with at least four other people in an apartment the size of your current bedroom, and you can’t manage to get two blocks without running into a horde of leftover Occupy Wall Street’ers and their many assorted backpacks?

It’s never been a secret that living in New York is hard. Or maybe it’s never been a secret for those of us who have actually lived here for a long time. Somehow or other, the mythos of New York has apparently led outsiders to believe that the entire island is surrounded by the fairy dust of dreams come true and that all you have to do is buy a plane ticket and you will be embraced by the city in a warm hug and handed a plate of fresh cookies, a designer wardrobe and a full-time job. Sorry, but that’s just not going to happen. New York is not a flighty mistress, tempting you with neon signs and the promise of fame and fortune.


I think that my enduring love of New York mostly has to do with my definition of what really makes this place the nexus of that “shining and perishable dream.” Whatever magic there is in New York is not in what she can give you and it’s definitely not in the easy. Most of the time she will give you nothing. She will take your money, your sanity, your comfort and your personal space.

The magic is in what YOU can take from HER (shout out JFK); working through the frustration and the fear and making it through to the other side is half the joy. She rewards people with grit and fight and determination. In this city you will mostly be overwhelmed: by the work, by the noise by the extreme nature of everything from the check-out line at the corner deli (one of the most stressful experiences a person can have) to the weather (incredibly cold winters, insanely hot summers and only about two weeks of respite in-between.) You can underwhelmed by the opportunities you aren’t receiving, the money you aren’t making, the relationships you aren’t in, the home you aren’t living in (apparently you can buy a small castle for the price of a studio in midtown, I kid you not… We all saw the BuzzFeed). New York City isn’t really a place where you can ever just be “whelmed” (’90s teen movie references FTW!).


But isn’t that part of the fun? Isn’t that what makes you the top of the heap, A-number-one… If you can make it there you can make it anywhere? New York is not and never was for the faint of heart.

But, if you’re drafting your leaving NYC essay as we speak, here is why I’m actually glad you’re saying goodbye to all that:

— Not a day goes by where I don’t find myself recanting that scene from The Office where Dwight says, “There are too many people on this Earth. We need a new plague.” I dream of one day riding the subway at rush hour with at least an inch of space around me on all sides. If a few people leave the city this might be a thing that can happen! Plus, maybe if apartments, transportation and sustenance were in less of a demand they would actually be… Cheaper? I don’t know, but a girl can dream.

— I’m kind of tired of my favorite old school restaurants, pizza joints and record stores being closed so that some incredibly expensive and overhyped boutique can open with five pieces of clothing in it, all priced in the thousands and catering to implants with a taste for luxury. I mean, even if you could afford it, what are you supposed to do in those stores anyway? Actually come out and ask the sales associate for a size above a two? The horror.

— Being a creative person in NYC is HARD. It is very rare that I meet someone in the magazine/publishing industry that is actually from the city. And although the bug-eyed stares I get from my fellow writers/editors/creative folks when I share that yes, my hometown is actually New York City, are among my favorite moments, I wouldn’t be opposed to a little less competition. That’s not to say I haven’t met tons of incredible and talented people in the industry who grew up in other states and countries… But those people would never write a leaving New York essay… I don’t think. — KERRI JAREMA

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