HG reader and Hoboken resident Claire Tomasi shared her experience of moving back home to Jersey after living in several cities. She didn’t imagine herself moving back, but she soon realized, it wasn’t as bad as she thought it would be. After a lot of change and trying to find the right fit, it turns out that Claire is happy in her new home, Hoboken. Read on for Claire’s first-hand account of living in different cities in her 20s and coming full circle.
Bright Lights, Big City
I am a serial mover. Ohio, Tokyo, Umbria, Tahoe, San Francisco. These were all places in my life that I have called home. But none so far have held a candle to New York City, the urban backyard to the New Jersey suburb of my childhood.
It was a natural choice. I had a small community of friends from college move to Manhattan. Work was good and abundant and opportunities were as numerous as the cracks in the sidewalk. I was as close to home as I could be without “being home.” I did that young twenties song and dance hustling for art gigs and writing jobs between coffee dates and cocktail hours. I lived fast and uninhibited, perhaps to a fault.
Three years went by and my friends slowly paired off and moved away, and I was accepted to graduate school uptown for my second Master’s degree. This seemed like the proper course that city life should be taking. A new chapter was unfolding, one with new friends, new experiences, and new things to learn at a new school as I approached 26. But I never anticipated starting over.
A Change in Seasons
As my circle of friends left the city, so largely did my social life. My ideas of who I would meet in graduate school changed quickly as many of my classes were online with little opportunity for socializing. I still went to the gym and found friendly company there, but my rigorous academic schedule was always subject to change, and I saw my gym buddies infrequently. Months passed in this pattern and I slowly found myself becoming more and more isolated, not for lack of trying.
And in a storm of perfect inconveniences, December came. Shut in by the dirty street-side slush and in accordance with everyone’s collective agreement to avoid the cold, I barely left my house at all. I grew bored and my dog grew restless in our apartment. School droned on and my eyes grew tired from my laptop’s constant blue light bombardment. In my spare time, I sat and did nothing.
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I went back to my home in New Jersey for the holidays and laughed with my family about how quickly I went from life in the fast lane, to no life at all. I complained about New York’s newfound boringness, how I smiled at people and they looked away, how like the weather, there was a chill in everyone. Including me. And I decided then, it was time to move again.
I visited friends in Brooklyn and we walked with the young and stylish inhabitants of Williamsburg and I imagined what it would be like to live among them, a life of potential oat milk lattes and scratchy records. I applied for jobs in Colorado with dreams of ranching and skiing running through my mind. I flew to Chicago where memories of Midwestern hospitality drew a toothy grin across my face.
In a scramble to be anywhere except New York City, I rented a small house for a month in Denver to see and be seen as Colorado’s newest potential resident. However; for better or worse, the job I had taken for that month moved online, and I was back to job and apartment hunting. Jobs in Chicago fell through, and I grew more and more panicked as I ached to be freed from The City. Brooklyn was a tempting option, but there were no apartments available for immediate rental, and having moved many times before and not wanting to move anymore after my next lease, I was not keen on settling for a place I didn’t love.
The Last, Best Choice
Then my mom suggested I move back home to New Jersey. New Jersey? Funny, Mom. I did not take this suggestion seriously. Why would I move to a place I’d lived forever? I’d be inundated with bad high school memories and be parked on the highway every time I wanted to go somewhere. My wandering soul could not bear the idea of being stuck where I started. The only upside would be I could have my car.
And with that in mind, I took an afternoon and visited Hoboken to appease my parents with zero intention of being interested at all.
I. Was. Wrong.
I posted a sarcastic picture on my social media and was immediately contacted by old childhood friends in the area looking to show me around. My old friend from middle school found me shortly after and took me on a walking tour of the parks, the main shopping street, and the piers which overlooked the entirety of Manhattan Isle. The blue mirrored buildings faded into the sky, as window lights flickered on one by one with the setting of the sun. There were no car horns, only the sound of the Hudson River lapping at the dock. In that moment, I realized the city in all its beauty, was much more beautiful looking into, than out of it.
The following day in what I would consider an impulse decision, I signed the lease for a duplex apartment in Hoboken a five-minute walk from the PATH station, which connects directly to the West Village in downtown New York. Friends I hadn’t heard from in years invited me to their homes in the days following. I took my car in and out of town to my childhood home where my sisters and I would routinely get dinner with our parents. I spent a few days meticulously decorating my new home which smelled of pine, as this apartment had wood finishings instead of plaster or drywall. My house was warm with cooking and company, and both suburb and city folk came for a warm meal, and to play fetch with my dog.
There is something to be said about moving closer to home. Something about the people who have known you, about the familiar streets you walked as a child, now returning to, grown. Making your own life, not in the shadow of what it was years ago, but found new and exciting as an adult coming back with a lifetime of experiences to carve a spot for you, in your own space, in a familiar place.
While Chicago, Denver, and Brooklyn might always wait for me, I keep New York City in my back pocket to reach for when I get a spare moment, like an old friend calling. I look through my city pictures and I smile, as I spot flickers of the halogen street lights in my eyes. And every day I walk my dog to the Hoboken piers, and I wave to the memories across the river. Jersey bagel in hand.