Monday, January 10, 2011

Time to Say Goodbye

The worst thing that can happen to me is going through something I can't talk or write about, can't photograph or document, can't express or exposit.

That is exactly what went on throughout the month of December.

In my regular trips back and forth to LA, criss-crossing the country once again for meetings and hikes and drinks and dinners on the left coast, I stumbled upon a job opportunity. It wasn't planned, per se, but it did directly result from a systematic approach that included months' worth of email follow-ups and invitations to meet for a friendly visit, a friendly visit which concluded with a handshake and the parting words, "I think there may be a place for you here."

A week later, a follow-up phone call.

A week after that, a return trip to LA and five hours' worth of meetings with key staffers, potential coworkers, and possible future bosses.

The following week, a job offer. I burst into tears.

I was relieved. I'd only gotten one other job offer in the two years since leaving my last job, and that one was retracted as quickly as it was proffered. I couldn't keep paying the rent on a credit card. And I'd been laying the groundwork for so long to move to California, could it be that my efforts finally paid off?

I was panicked. After all that hard work, I actually had to come to terms with working in an office again, getting to know 40 new people, and uprooting my precarious New York existence to replant in Los Angeles. I actually had to do what I said I was going to do for two years.

I was overwhelmed. Because I hadn't approached the meeting with the intention on getting a job - only to make connections, swap stories, possibly put myself in the running for a consulting gig - I hadn't sufficiently prepared myself mentally for what that might mean. The story arc between the time I made first contact and the time I got the job offer was so compressed that I hadn't absorbed fully what was happening as I was careening down the road to a new job. My reaction of "Thanks!" quickly turned into "Wait, what just happened?"

I was grateful. I'd finally found a role that I was qualified for, even though none of us were entirely sure exactly what that role would be, or become. I knew I would have to adapt to my new surroundings, and to let them mold around me. We were all very much on the same page: we would figure it out as we went along. And that's just how I like it.

But of course I couldn't talk about the offer, the counteroffer, the negotiations, the emotional rollercoaster, the legal redlines, the career implications. As the last days of the year were falling away around me, until I knew that this offer was really real this time, I couldn't explain my urgency to see certain people, to eat certain things, to visit certain places. Silent and alone, I embarked on my Last Days in New York City, with no words, teary eyes, and slumped shoulders.

Last Wednesday, I signed the agreements, sent the emails and text messages, and made the announcement: I have a new job, and I'm moving to LA.

And now I know what I must do: I must find a way to say goodbye to New York. As much as I have hated this city over the last three or four years, it still breaks my heart to break away from it.

Now that I can start talking about it, my next few blogs are likely to focus on the simultaneous backwards glance at what's been and forward gaze at what's to be. Although I fly to LA this week to find an apartment - the next, necessary step in the process of physically relocating myself - I am a New Yorker until I take that final, one-way flight out of JFK, traversing the flyover states one last time while my belongings take a similar, labored, long trip in a moving truck somewhere down below me. But I don't have much time to cross my items off my New York Bucket List. I have too little time to kiss the faces, drink the drinks, eat the foods, hear the music I love. I have practically no time to change anything or make a difference here.

Everyone keeps telling me, "New York isn't going anywhere," but it will never again be the city it is right now. A few days, a week, months later, it will be a new city. And as much as they also say, "You can always come back," I know that I can't count on that. I have to say goodbye.

And I have to start figuring out how.

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