My brain is so overloaded with thoughts, I’m afraid my neck will snap with the weight of them. Thus, I am putting things down in print, in order to explore them more carefully and completely. Thoughts and ideas, not plans. Got it?

I’m thinking about moving to New York City.

I know, right? I’ve been saying for months how the city is dirty and gray and claustrophobic and I hate the subway and the pace is so frenetic and and and. And how happy I am to have a townhouse space, with two floors, and windows, and a balcony, and a patio, and a garden, and evergreens, and a meadow for a front yard … that it’s worth the commute, that I love having my parents close, and and and. But there are a bunch of things that are inspiring these thoughts.

1. The work travel is killing me. During May, I spent 38 hours in transit — not counting the daily commutes to my office here — and none of those trips were by plane. I can plan conference calls during driving time, and pack my laptop for the train, and spend every moment on the road thinking about work, but that’s still not the same as actually sitting down to the tasks that are a part of my job and getting them done. 38 hours — that’s a work week. That time wasn’t taken from my regular working hours, but from what is generally considered “personal time.” No matter how I try to spin it, that’s just not acceptable anymore.

For the record, if I were living in NYC, that travel time would have been merely 12 hours. (Separately, it’s a hell of a lot easier to get from NYC to anywhere else in the country than it is to plan travel between Upstate and elsewhere — that wasn’t a factor in this particular month, but will be in July, September, and November.)

2. Several of my colleagues have asked me to consider, although not in their official capacities as my superiors, relocation. As we build the “three to five year plan” that will position us for “what comes after 2015” in cancer care, the bulk of my projects are seemingly centered in the five Burroughs and northern New Jersey. Which means that I’ll be using more distance-tech devices to communicate (which are less effective than face-to-face meetings), as well as spending more time in those areas. Imagine point 1 exponentially increased. (Separately, two of the National staff with whom I’ll be collaborating for half of these projects are based in Manhattan and Brooklyn — I never see them at home now, but might be able to avoid traveling to Atlanta or Chicago or Kansas City a few times a year if I did.)

3. I’ve been considering what I want to do after I succeed within my current role: do I want to stay with the organization? Do I want to shift into a different role/field in healthcare? Do I want to specialize in online revenue and new media in some other capacity, and move beyond this organization? For any of those opportunities, developing external business contacts in Manhattan is about the smartest thing I could do in terms of long-term career development.

4. The whole “buying a house in Saratoga” thing really got me thinking critically about what I’m looking for in where I live.

  • I want to be close to my family.
  • I want to live in a neighborhood and an individual home that is aesthetically beautiful.
  • I want to be in close proximity to a variety of artistic venues that I can afford to partake of (art, via museums and galleries; literature, via libraries, lectures, and readings; music, particularly live performances of classical and folk music; and theatre, particularly musical theatre, with productions that are of interest to me in rotation at least a couple of times per year.)
  • I want to find a community that I can be a part of — not merely be proximal to. That includes people living, working, playing, and serving together; volunteerism that means something to me personally, neighbors with whom I have something in common besides the fact that we all breathe oxygen and drink water. Inclusion and broad-mindedness are a requirement, not merely a plus — despite all evidence to the contrary, I don’t actually *enjoy* arguing all that much. Debating the finer points of an argument with respect is one thing; the mental volley equivalent of meeting a broadsword with a trash can lid? I’ve had enough.
  • Sustainability is really important to me, but I don’t want to have to think about it all the time. Relying on green instead of carbon-produced energy needs to be an option. Finding fresh food from reputable sources is requisite — and a portion should be grown locally (although I’ve definitely been revisiting the international foods specialty shops of late). The ability to rely on human power or mass transit to get “around town” is also requisite — major bonus if I can sell my car and replace it with a bicycle and a bus pass.

Examining my current situation with regard to each of those points:

  • Almost all of my family and close friends are reachable within an hour’s drive of my current home, with the exceptions of the Massachusetts Lee’s, and the tiny enclaves of people I love in Cincinatti, Madison, Chicago, Seattle, Atlanta, and Copenhagen. NYC would put me at the outermost limit of what I consider “close” to my immediate nearest-and-dearest — a 3-hour drive to the hospital where Mom works and Dad sees his doctors (I could make it by train/cab in 2.75) — and not really any closer or farther from those who don’t live here.
  • I’d say my satisfaction with aesthetics is 3 out of 5. Saratoga is beautiful, but I don’t live in town. I have pine trees and meadow in my “front yard,” a garden plot that I can customize for myself, and a living space that I’ve been able to make feel like my own. My immediate neighborhood isn’t all that attractive, externally, but I’ve made my own space pleasing, and I’m a short walk to some streets with lovely homes and landscaping on which I can feast the eyes. NYC … the section of midtown where my office is located is just hideously full of concrete and plate glass and traffic and noise and dirt. But a short walk south along Broadway, through SoHo and the Village, to Union Square, and Madison Park Square — there are pretty major bits of breathtaking beauty. The skyline at night? Yeah, I’m a sucker for that. Walking through Central Park on a drizzly, gray, autumn day, kicking leaves and smelling the green? As awesome as a similar walk through the state park here. The architecture on odd little streets? The flatiron buildings? Yankee Stadium? Yeah, New York is full of beauty. Provided that I could overcome my aversion to trash day, and the graffiti-sprayed areas.
  • In terms of “culture” … things are certainly “adequate and then some” here in terms of what’s offered — but the good stuff is quickly becoming less affordable. All of the venues have raised prices by a good percentage in the last six months, and the small locations (NYSTI and Capital Rep, the Music Hall) have been producing far less edgy stuff. The local museums all have excellent curators, but we only get one or two “big deal” exhibits a year. (I don’t need to say a word about NYC in that regard — considering the number of trips there I’ve made solely to see shows or concerts or museum exhibits.)
  • As for community — boy, do I feel isolated here. I have my friends and family, and colleagues of course, but in terms of life separate … it’s just hard to come by. The Saratoga issue showed that to a “t” — I just don’t want to live with them — the people I’ve met at the Farmer’s Market on a Saturday, or rub elbows with at the Bakery, or jockey for table-space with at the library, who are so full of “Saratoga snobbery” it oozes from their pores when they begin to engage in conversation. For all that I joke about it, I’m not really interested in being a hermit — but the organizations and groups I’d like to join don’t have established subsets here, and I don’t have the energy or the time to be the ringleader on this one. Conversely, Slow convivia and Idealist both have multiple active groups within Manhattan, and I’ve met and liked some of the people involved with both. NYC is also definitely the place for young professionals who aren’t necessarily interested in prams and bibs — one of the refuges in my city workdays are lunches at restaurants where children aren’t welcome. I’m not anti-kid, but I don’t want small ears and eyes and fingers around all — or even the majority — of the time. As for dating … well. That’s a no brainer.
  • In terms of sustainability — I’m doing pretty well here, but it’s taken a full year of trial and error and conscious choices and determinations and experiments. And I do a lot of things in what I consider “the right way,” even if they’re not easy. (Oh, Dumbledore, I hope you’re proud.) There’s something to be said for urban sustainability, though — looking at living in a tiny city showed me that. I could so totally sell the car to live in NYC! At the same time, I love my garden and what I’m able to do with growing things — it wouldn’t be impossible to get involved in a community garden, or reclaimed lot work, or even rooftop plots or windowboxes, but it would be a great deal more work. That work would, of necessity, generate more community contacts, though, rather than limit me to my own isolated efforts now.

A couple of things are clear to me. Until this spring, I’ve moved practically once a year since I graduated from college, between Mom and Dad, Massachusetts for more school, and various places around the capital region. In all of those places I’ve not found what I’ve been (consciously or unconsciously) looking for, and there’s something in that experience that has left me, now, profoundly dissatisfied. At the same time, the things that are good here are amazingly, wonderfully, beautifully good and fulfilling.

It was never my plan to forever live in this place where I grew up — cities around the world (Boston, New York, Chicago, Seattle, London, Paris) were always on my trajectory. I have the skills and the brains to go to any of those places now, even though it’s not by following the “rootless, storytelling, literature professor” plan I had for so long. If I’m not fully happy here … am I staying because it’s safe, because I fear being farther away from the people I love should they need me? Is that an acceptable decision?

This is mainly one long post of unanswered questions. For all that I usually race headlong into major decisions without a lot of thought, I’m not feeling that way right now. I do want to consider this rationally and deliberately, so that I can formally make a decision and share it with my colleagues when the question is formally posed – as I know it will be. (I can practically hear the clock clicking down to a deadline.) If you have thoughts or ideas or concerns or facts that I should consider, please use the comment button so I can add your thoughts into the mix of swirly silver threads in this stand-in for a magic basin.

Knowing that I’ll be able to afford living in NYC in May of 2009, when my current lease has expired, could I move and be happy there?