I moved to New York City in 2000, during the height of Sex and the City mania. Like most urban gay men, I lived my life as if I was Carrie Bradshaw. My early 20’s were a haze of Cosmopolitans, booty calls, dysfunctional relationships, Hamptons weekends and consistently showing up late for work. It was the perfect New York existence.
By 2006, I hit my stride as a journalist, I traded in the Cosmos for seltzers and as a result of growing up, I met the man that I eventually married in 2014. By 2008 that relationship turned long distance when he moved to Canada for work. I was unwilling to leave New York, so we existed as a long distance couple for eight years. He finally moved back to New York in 2014, we got married, moved into a new apartment in the West Village and I was set to resume my perfect New York life with my perfect New York husband.
Then he got a job offer in Minnesota. I would do anything for this man—but not that. Love between a husband and husband, in theory, should be unconditional. I realized the conditional was Minnesota. When he told me about this job offer, I felt like I was being hosed down with those fire hoses that police use to control unruly crowds. My anxiety grew when I started to think of New York as a hot trendy club with a bouncer behind velvet ropes, “Sorry Doug, you’re not a New Yorker anymore, you’re not on the list.”
The more I thought about the prospect of leaving New York, deeper shades of anger came out of me, ones I had not seen before. I was fearful and resentful, I started fights with my husband, I played victim and to be honest, I was a total brat. But my life was in New York. I never saw myself living anywhere but New York. My career was in New York, my friends, my family, my favorite bodega, my dog sitter.
On a Sunday night, my husband left to go to Minnesota for the week. I made dinner plans with a friend, who had to cancel. I walked around the West Village, thinking of who else I could hit up to hang out with me. All my fun single friends were now in relationships and they weren’t even in the city because we are of that age where people start buying weekend homes. I went to some hole-in-the-wall pizza by the slice spot, ate my pizza, and was browsing Twitter. I felt lonely, alone and I missed my husband. In the weeks that followed, I started to really become a careful observer of my New York life. And realized all that I thought it was, wasn’t all that.
When you’re in your 30’s and live in New York, when you really think about it, you’re not seeing your friends as much. They either get married and have kids and move, or sometimes they become so bitter as a result of living in New York, that you stop hanging out all together. My large circle of friends I couldn’t leave wasn’t as large as I was telling myself it was. The city was hot, sticky, cramped and I was getting tired of prying chicken bones out of my dog’s mouth during our nightly walks. (Because people in New York just throw chicken bones on the sidewalk.)
A month later I flew out to Minnesota with my husband to look for apartments. I had not committed to moving, but more than anything, I was intrigued. I walked around downtown Minneapolis and in my mind, over and over, I said, “I can’t do this.” It was such a sad excuse for a city. In fact, if we’re looking at it compared to New York, this really wasn’t a city.
We drove to uptown Minneapolis, which is still considered “the city,” but it’s so much more. There were lakes, trees, grass, wide-open spaces and beautiful real estate. Part of it felt like Utopia. It was mid April and the temperature was above 50 degrees. All these perfectly in shape Minnesotans were running, biking, rollerblading, kayaking, paddle boarding and smiling. Everyone was thin. And beautiful. And nice. I was like, “I want to live here.”
We started searching for apartments, and the savvy New Yorker in me found the perfect one. When the leasing agent gave us a tour, my husband and I did so much ohhhhing and ahhhhhing that it was almost embarrassing. Within an hour we signed the lease on a 1,000 square foot apartment in a landmarked building, overlooking a lake, with a dishwasher, double vanity bathroom sink, in home laundry, crown moldings, central air and walk in closets. We would get a free gym membership and access to the outdoor pool with bar service, tennis courts and massages that cost $50 an hour. The cost of living in a place like this was exactly one-third of what we were paying in New York. I was so excited that I was blinded by the fact that I had to leave New York to step into this life of luxury.
The minute I got back to New York it felt dirty, crowded, loud and ugly. My loyalty to New York began to wane. I quickly made the decision to dive in head first, to Minneapolis. I decided I was going to participate in my marriage as a loving and supportive husband, and leave New York, so that we could build a life together. It was the end of April, and I was moving in July. I went from friend to friend telling them I was moving “Because my husband got a job.” That’s how I personally marketed this big change. Ironically, no one tried to stop me or talk me out of it. A few friends were like, “You’re lucky, I want to leave New York, I just don’t know where I’d go.” New Yorkers, they’re all secretly miserable.
A week before I moved I was in the shower and this kind of white light feeling came over me. Maybe I wasn’t moving to Minneapolis to support my husband, maybe there was a life waiting for me there, that I never knew could be possible. I had this reassuring feeling that perhaps, this was meant to be.
I am here to tell you, as a current Minnesotan, a year into living here, that it was meant to be. I’ve learned that the minute you leave New York to move somewhere else, you begin to see that there is life beyond New York. You just have to leave New York to see that.
I embraced Minnesota very fast—it's an easy place to love. Anyone who has asked me how I felt about moving from New York has been greeted with a wave of enthusiasm about how happy I am here. I’ve had an easy time settling in—it’s true what they say, if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere. Also, being from New York is currency; people automatically think you’re interesting, so it’s been easy to meet people.
I’ve defied the urban legend that die-hard New Yorkers die outside of New York. I’ve been happy to post all over social media fun pictures of my fairytale Minnesota life—my dog in Minnesota, me and my husband in looking cute and domestic, all my really nice new furniture purchases, a few of my new friends and all the fun things I do here—I even developed #MinnesotaDoug as a hash tag.
There is life outside of New York—a good life. One worth moving for. I had to break my relationship pattern with a city I tied so much of my superficial existence into. As a result, I have a better and stronger relationship with my husband than ever before and life feels more manageable and less of a struggle. Do I miss New York? Sometimes. Do I wish I still lived there? Never.
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