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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
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Monday
Aug072006

Questions, questions.

How can you tell if a place just isn’t right for you?

When do you decide you’ve had enough?

At what point do you tell yourself, I’ve given this a fair shake, and I don’t like it, and at least now I know?

We don’t like it here. We just don’t. It’s not the house. We love the house. It’s everything else.

We’re terrible homeowners. The constant deterioration of one’s home and the resulting need for regular maintenance fills us with panic. We resent the weekends being used up by trips to Home Depot or the nursery.

We’re farther from both our families. Our days of getting free babysitting from the grandparents are over. Henry misses them.

I never realized how much I would hate not being able to walk to something.

There’s so much else. But in the end what it comes down to is: it’s not Brooklyn. Which I knew, moving in! Didn’t I know that? Why am I so surprised? I suppose because I lived in the suburbs growing up, and thought I knew what I was getting myself into.

We’re thinking of returning to Brooklyn and renting. Finding a place we can afford in a good school district may actually be impossible for us, but we’re looking into it.

I feel like a failure. We will undoubtedly take a loss on this place. All I can think is, why did we move? Why did we listen to everyone else telling us we had to leave the city, and not to ourselves?

Or are we being premature? Should we tough it out? When do you really know something isn’t right?

Reader Comments (160)

This same thing happened to friends of mine a few years ago. They'd been renting in downtown San Diego and then bought a house in the rural suburbs because they thought it made sense--good investment, they wanted a yard, were thinking about having a baby, etc. They were so miserable that they sold it within seven months (they didn't make a profit, but I don't think they lost too much) and bought a two-bedroom condo back in San Diego. They were kind of embarrassed about it, but it was the right move for them, and they're so much happier now.

I think you should follow your gut. Some people are simply city people, and that's where they belong.
August 8, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAmy
Since you've invited my opinion as to how your adventure story should unfold, I think you should stick it out a while longer in the suburbs. Seems there are an awful lot of untold stories there. Sure, the characters aren't as quirky and obvious (is everyone too busy mowing their lawn?), but from a writing standpoint, the change of scenery gives plenty of new material. You may make a connection with someone in the most unlikely of places. And to quote my new neighbor, after I complained of my new (old) house and its lead paint malady: "Everything will turn out better than in your wildest dreams."
August 8, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBarbara
Oh Alice! I can imagine how much of a decision it is to say you like/don't like something. I guess you have to look at the long run...in 10 years what kind of impact will this have? 20 years? Etc...

Is it a big loss? Can you recoup it later?
August 8, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterDana
I think you have to give any move a year, at least. unless, of course, you're just going to be miserable that entire year, waiting for it to be over. In that case, move back to Brooklyn.
August 8, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMolly
hi, alice. i'm new-ish around here (but came to understand the wondrousness that is you post-BlogHer), and am just reading your archives now and found this:

"...and next time I'll be listening to my gut."

how 'bout that? :)
August 8, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterk
I'm in the same spot. Suburbs suck and I'm getting fat. I hope you can get back home painlessly!
August 8, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMignon
Well, your town is kind of...it would be difficult for me to move there. I have lived in some places worse, though. How about you try coming to the West Coast of NJ? Come to Lambertville/New Hope just for a Saturday, do some lunch, do some shopping, bring a friend, see how it feels? When I moved to NJ, I spent every weekend driving around the state, and I've found so many hidden treasures! Oh, how about you buy a copy of Weird NJ? Listen, NJ is not NY. Never will be. But give it and yourselves a little time. Then you can decide. I never was able to put down roots, but three weeks in LV and I was hoooome! Anyway, I'm a longtime lurker, but I just wanted to try to help. Best of luck!
August 8, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterbee
I feel your pain and I've been there. I can't remember how long you've been in the house now, doesn't seem THAT long.

Personally, I think it is a little premature to move back, but I understand the feeling of wanting to.

It is HARD to meet new people, to be in a new place. It took us awhile after we moved from TX to NC to meet people and feel like we belonged there. And when we finally did move back (at two years), we missed it.

I say give it a bit more time to really see how things are.
August 8, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSarcastic Journalist
I'm feeling the exact same way moving my family to Atlanta. Things haven't been anywhere near smooth, and now everything seems to be piling up on top of me. I really don't know what I'm going to do.
August 8, 2006 | Unregistered Commenteramber
Hello Alice - I read your blog always but don't usually post.

I agree that it takes longer than a few months to get over the trauma of moving, especially if you did love where you were.

And if you still hate it after a year you can undo it then. And you should.

You'll be okay. There are no mistakes, just stuff that you try and you find out you either like it or you don't. Either way, you found out! Don't beat yourself up.



August 8, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterrobin
Moving = rough

Assvice? Give it a whole year at least.
August 8, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterd
You should give it more of a chance. Several years ago, I moved from brooklyn to a town around the corner from you. I hated it in the beginning. Hated all the time it took to keep the house going; didnt like the neighbors; missed being within walking distance to everything etc. But after a while the house got easier, we met lots of people, and eventually grew to love it. It just takes time. More time than a few months.
August 8, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterN
I remember a post you made a while back about being miserable over lack of money, and it makes me wonder if taking a loss on the house is such a good idea. I know you feel awful now, but will you feel any better if you move back to the city and can't afford to buy groceries?

Also, I have to agree with everyone who says it takes longer than 12 weeks to adjust. I know life is short, but the effects of snap decisions can be long. Give it just a little more time, and if you're still unhappy, then move with a clear conscience.
August 8, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterVanessa
Alice -

Life is too short to be unhappy over where you live. Esp. when the place you love to live is so close. I have to say I was FLABBERGASTED when I heard you had moved to Jersey. So I am completely unsuprised that you hate it and want to go home. Yes, HOME. Brooklyn, New York - it is your home. Go there. Now. Go. Go. Go. Who cares if you take a loss. Cultivate happiness wherever you can.

BTW - Jordan just had a son. He already has a daughter. Isaac and Esther - YIKES. He says hello. He was sad to learn that Singing Alice is non longer singing, but blogging.
August 8, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterColleen
Listening to your gut is important, but moving somewhere--anywhere, even if this was your dream location--is very difficult. My own rule of thumb is to give it a year, and that's because I know that it takes me a long time to get in the groove, so to speak. I used to cry when I got home to the house we had bought and moved to because it wasn't really home. Within a year, I loved it. If I was still as unhappy after a year, I would move back. Also if I had only come to a shaky peace with where I was by year's end, I would move back. As many have said, life's too short.
August 8, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMandy
I think one of the reasons you might be feeling overwhelmed with the change is that you are looking at it like, 'it's the rest of my life' instead of 'it's for however long I want to stay here'. I move every two to three years (military) and like some places more than others, of course, but the thing that gets me through it sometimes is just remembering that it's temporary.Give yourself a date - it'll be arbitrary; make it up - six months from now, or a year from now, just pick. Tell yourself that on that date, you'll start looking for a place in Brooklyn. Then, take a deep breath, and stop thinking about Brooklyn until that date. Postpone the decision entirely. Don't wake up every morning wondering what to do. You get to start the process of moving back on that arbitrary date in the future, but not one minute before. What to do with your time until your 'start moving back to Brooklyn date'? make the most of your house and your time where you are. Tell yourself it's only temporary, but get yourself through the days.You might find that on that arbitrary date, you are fully ready to make the move to Brooklyn. You might find that in relaxing a bit, you have enjoyed the suburbs more and want to pick a new date further out. Either way, you may have been able to stop second-guessing yourself every single day.Whenever I confront a task or a change that seems like too much for me, I do this -I pick a time or date on which I get to quit doing it, or on which I get to do something different, and then it seems manageable. I don't even know if I explained this properly, but there's my two cents.
August 8, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterWineflinger
Just a couple notes:

Moving is EXTREMELY hard on children. Moving twice in an extremely short period of time can be devastating.

Talk to a financial advisor and see how deep the hole will be that you'll need to dig yourself out of with Henry's potential college money.

Damn I sound like a bitch. I want desparately to live somewhere else, but I have to make sure that I don't get in such a hole that I can no longer contribute to my 3 year old's 529. And the dog has to pass, too.
August 8, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterStefanie
Is your unhappiness with home-ownership, or is it with the 'burbs? I can't really comment on the latter, as I've always pretty much liked where I lived, even as I missed my old neighborhood/city/state.

However, the unhappiness with home-ownership is something I can relate to way too well. The constant fight against entropy still gets me down, and we've owned our house for six years. We've made many (many) changes to it that made entropy keep a tad more of a distance, but it's a never-ending battle.

That said, after we figured out how to keep the house from actually deteriorating before our very eyes, we were both able to really enjoy living in it. We were able to relax, finally, without feeling like the city would evict us for being bad homeowners (I hear that they never do this, but some part of me fears that they do, regardless of all logic). So, even for someone as neurotic (and ill-equipped for home-maintenance) as I am, it worked out ok.
August 8, 2006 | Unregistered Commentermarisa
Alice, I'm a lot older than you, so have a somewhat different perspective.

As many other people have said, 3 months is not long enough to really adjust. A year goes by very quickly, really, and it really does take at least a year to settle in, make some friends and feel at home.

I moved to the Bay Area from the DC suburbs several years ago--thought I was going home because I was born there. It turned out to be a very, very difficult move. I was a single parent with two young kids (4 & 6), one of whom turned out to have Tourette's and maybe Asperger's.

I had grossly underestimated how much more expensive it would be to live there, I thought my mother would be more helpful than she was.

I stayed there 3 years and ultimately moved back to DC. But after the first year I did feel at home there, I found a church (Unitarian, I'm not usually a churchgoer) which supported me, made friends and really loved the place.

I moved back to DC because I ended up having to send my older son back to live with his father, the schools there sucked and I wasn't going to stay all the way on the other side of the country from my son.

But if I hadn't had kids, I would have stayed and been very happy there.
August 8, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterKatherine
It's been a year and a half living in Seattle suburb hell. I hate it. But, we've made A LOT of money in equity to buy a crappy house close to the city in that year and a half. I don't know if it was worth it or not. But, I did stick it out. I knew I hated it the very first day I moved, it didn't get any better. But, when I sell my house and move into my crappy, small place in Seattle, I will love it.
August 8, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterKeli
We spent 10 years in the suburbs "for the kids" and finally thought it was better for all of us to live in the city. It was for the better and I can breathe (smog) again.
August 8, 2006 | Unregistered Commentertransplanted
Well, I guess I have to come in on the side of wait a while, and see. I moved many times as a kid... the most dramatic being from Virginia, with trees and seasons and stuff, to Arizona, with heat and sand and dust. I remember loathing the place for a while, but by the time we moved again, I had become a full-fledged desert rat, and I now greatly prefer the big skies and muted colors of the West.Try indulging in those things you can do now, that you maybe couldn't do in an apartment in Brooklyn. Run through the sprinklers, plant a garden, play music really really loud, get a bird feeder.
August 8, 2006 | Unregistered Commentermichelle
My family moved to the 'burbs when I was 10. Despite everyone's predictions to the contrary, I never adjusted, despite the "excellent" schools and grass and trees and shit, and promptly moved back to the city when I became an adult. Sometimes, you just know what you want.

It seems like you primarily left the city for financial reasons. Completely understandable. In the lives of most citydwellers, there comes a point at which you have to decide exactly how much it's worth to you to live in the city.

Is it worth having only one child? Living in a tiny space? Going back to work full-time while your child is young? It's not easy to figure this stuff out, but it's really important. One good question to ask yourself is, If money weren't an issue, would you still have left the city?

You've been given a lot of good advice here. I am in favor of giving it at least a year. It doesn't sound like it's akin to someone shoving bamboo shoots under your nails on a daily basis. You can do almost anything for a year. Other than that, my only real suggestion is to get creative. There are a million ways to live your life. This is America; money is out there for the making.

What about spending the next year really trying to write something and get published? It's not farfetched at all; look at your comments, your loyal readers. Someone PAID for you to go to Amsterdam on the strength of your blogging. You are something of a celebrity.

Other options: what about training to do something lucrative over the next year? You could possibly take part-time classes at a local community college. Could you become a court reporter? Would you want to?

The idea of renting out your house and renting in the city is also interesting. Certainly worth a phone call to your accountant to check for feasibility.

One last thing: how about planning for yourself a "city day" once a week or so (or whatever fits into your schedule)? It'd be a regularly-scheduled time when you'd plan on being in the city. It's also a good way of checking your own progress; if it stops being a fun jaunt and starts to become a pain in the ass, you'll know you're adjusting.

Best of luck with whatever you do.
August 9, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterArabella
I'm late to the party, but three months? Not enough time. My opinion only!!!
August 9, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterPaula
now i wish the part of me that had wanted to scream "DON'T MOVE!" before you did had been less shy about getting in your business. but then i convinced myself that it was only because _i_ was about to move to park slope and wanted to continue to nurture some fantasy of hanging out with you here and becoming your best bud. i kind of agree that three months is early to decide you've made a mistake, if only because a move takes some time to recover from. but i also think you guys should listen to your guts or hearts or whatever organs are speaking to you, and be open to the idea of coming back. and if you do decide to return to bklyn and rent, please post something about it, so i can keep an eye open for places that open up around the neighborhood. good luck thinking it through.
August 9, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterlizpenn

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