I sometimes don't want to be a part of it. The "it" here being New York City in Sinatra's classic ode to the Big Apple. For all the hype NYC receives, there is a lot to dislike about it. As someone who was born and raised here, I can rattle off a litany of complaints about New York faster than Miley Cyrus can roll a blunt. It's crowded, overpriced and polluted, for starters.
Yet, as much as we New Yorkers complain about the city's pitfalls and foibles, we're still living here. Call it laziness to move, reluctance to leave our social networks and/or family or the recognition that New York City's economy affords certain career and employment opportunities that are largely unavailable in many other states, we all have our reasons for staying. But there are throngs of young, Millennial urbanites fleeing the Big Apple for other metropolitan hotspots. Their choice destinations encompass a diverse tapestry of southern, western and Midwestern cities like Charleston, Portland, Seattle, Minneapolis and Dallas, among many others.
Even the beckoning of much reviled New Jersey has proven salient, as many young, working professionals opt for the likes of Jersey City, where the rent prices are (somewhat) more affordable. Cities that were once the bastion of deep South conservatism — like Charlotte, for example — are rapidly morphing into trendy neighborhoods with their own unique culture, beckoning us New Yorkers to ask as Bowie once did: Is there life on Mars?
As I stand on the precipice of 30, and having lived in New York my entire life, I am slowly reevaluating my decision to stay. Like many single 20 and 30-somethings in this city, there comes a time when you begin questioning your future, and along with that, your living arrangements (and I am not just referring to the walk-in closet of a bedroom you rented for $2,500 a month in Brooklyn ... what a steal).
You begin wondering: Is staying here worth it? Will I have a better quality of life elsewhere? If I left, would I soon long for the enduring aroma of urine on a subway car, or perhaps mourn the loss of garbage and schizophrenic homeless people peppering the streets of Manhattan? More importantly, what would I do for work? For fun? Is there indeed life outside of New York
Thankfully, I've taken the liberty of compiling the following list so you can focus on the more important NYC activities, like exploring that new artisanal vegan cheese shop in Brooklyn, or eagerly swiping right on Tinder as you pretend to look disinterested in whatever swanky rooftop lounge you're frequenting. Without further ado, here are some positive aspects of leaving New York:
1. Cost Of Living
Many young urbanites see living in NYC as a rite of passage: a milestone etched into our cultural consciousness like graduating from college or buying our first car. It's trendy. It's sexy. Yet, it's overly expensive.
I don't need to reference the plethora of articles that document just how pricey living in New York is, or that it consistently ranks within the top 10 most expensive places to live in the entire country. Factor in the less than stellar employment rates for Millennials, or merely consider those who are working jobs they are way overqualified (and underpaid) for and you can understand why many of us either can't afford the city, or opt to live at home (we aren't called the "Boomerang Generation" for nothing).
But there are metropolitan areas that are affordable, and that are indeed gentrifying at a quick enough pace to arouse the interest of young professionals seeking a sleek, urban area to call home. Increasingly, it seems like many 20-somethings are heading to the Carolinas and other southern cities, where the job markets are promising and the cost of living is reasonable. Many of these cities are known for their cultural attractions, vibrant nightlife and eclectic cuisine, all available at prices that won't force you to choose between making rent or buying an iced coffee. And when your cost of living improves, you can actually focus on saving money, which leads to my next point.
2. The Possibility Of Homeownership
Unless you were born a Trump, come from a long line of European immigrants who bought an entire block in Queens and gifted you a house or plan on moving to the suburbs where the money you save on a home is cancelled out by the astronomical property taxes you'll be paying, odds are not many Millennials can afford to purchase real estate in NYC.
The Big Apple carries some of the country's highest real estate values, but the prospect of doing so is stronger outside of the state, where market prices are lower. Just think: the thousands of dollars you fork over in rent to a unibrow-clad landlord here in NYC can easily become a mortgage for a home you own in another state (and, most likely, for less than what you pay now).
3. Less Pollution And Crowds
A friend recently visited Savannah, and in sharing his experience with me — which entailed dining out at some pretty swanky restaurants, as well as taking in various sights — he was most captivated by the city's pristine appearance. There was no garbage anywhere to be found, and the streets were beautiful.
Moreover, the roads and bridges were actually cared for, as opposed to the dilapidated ones we traverse on a regular basis in NYC. Many of the negative stereotypes about our city revolve around its lack of cleanliness, and the fact that stepping over empty plastic bottles, rotting food and sometimes the occasional piece of human fecal matter is a commonplace occurrence.
And when it comes to crowds, I am wholeheartedly convinced that standing in the middle of Times Square on a busy Saturday afternoon is, in fact, the seventh circle of Hell. But there are vibrant cities full of life and culture that are not as crowded, and that actually extol the virtues of cleanliness.
Moreover, there are people living in those cities who value putting their garbage where it belongs (Staten Island ... I kid. I meant the trash can). This gives way to less overall pollution, perhaps better air quality and may very well motivate you to go outdoors more, which segues to my next point.
4. Favorable Weather
I admit, this may only be applicable if we consider the West Coast and various Southern cities. But in my opinion, this is a huge factor. Allow me to sound like a New York retiree who's about to gallop into the Floridian sunset with my pension and bottle of Tums: NYC winters are too goddamn cold.
What's more, it seems like we don't even reap the seasonal benefits of fall and spring. Rather, New York weather ranges from hot and humid to the kind of cold that, to paraphrase Joey Tribbiani, makes your nipples capable of cutting glass. But in cities with perpetually warmer climates (think San Diego in the '70s), you might just be inspired to leave your house more often, as opposed to wrapping yourself in a blanket, binge watching a Netflix series and praying that God will allow you to regain blood flow in your extremities. And with a more outdoors-oriented lifestyle, comes a host of benefits, including being more physically active and fit.
This is not by any means an exhaustive list, but these are the primary reasons as to why I would leave NYC, if I were so inclined. But just when I think about taking the leap like many others my age, I'm reminded of something Jane Fonda once said. While discussing a film she made in New York, she reflected upon how the years she spent living in the city made her neurotic, but despite this, she always felt compelled to return.
Never mind that I totally just butchered her quote, the point is this: For its shortcomings, there is a raw, gritty quality to NYC you simply won't find elsewhere. Maybe this grit is actually the palpable sense of neuroses inherent to native New Yorkers, and what makes us appear so authentic. I admit, I fear this quality would render me an outcast in other places. I have several friends who were born here, moved elsewhere and later lamented their inability to connect with people from whatever city they lived in because they "weren't real." They weren't New Yorkers.
That may not be enough of a draw to keep you here in the face of the city's downfalls, but it is food for thought. Maybe Ms. Fonda was right; maybe there is something that would inevitably draw us back to the city, should we ever leave. Regardless, the desire to explore and judge this for myself always leaves me asking: Is there life on Mars?