Lifestyle, Outfits, Style

On adjusting to suburban life after leaving NYC

man and woman on the beach sharing adjusting to suburban life
woman wearing neon bathing suit at the beach and sharing adjusting to suburban life
woman wearing a one piece bathing suit and sharing adjusting to suburban life

I recently had my biggest “I don’t live in NYC anymore” moment, when I was speaking on a panel of an online conference. My fellow panelists and I were waiting in the virtual green room, getting acquainted and exchanging pleasantries. It was an artist, celebrity stylist, fashion editor, style director, clothing designer, and me. Other than the stylist based in Los Angeles, everyone else was in NYC. When I was asked where I was located, I said, “South Florida…but I lived in Brooklyn for the past 14 years.”

On adjusting to suburban life after leaving NYC

Ugh, Keiko.

I cringed the moment after I said it. It sounded a little too desperate of an, “I’M WORLDLY AND CULTURED, I PROMISE” plea in my introduction. I use the qualifier of “South” as if half of the “Florida Man” stories don’t come out of the very county I live in. I say “Florida” apologetically, with a head tilt, knowing nod, and that weird close mouthed smile frown that we use to acknowledge a passerby (which I still do, even with a mask on). Yep, I know. Florida. Cast your judgments now!

But no one cares. Truly. No one cares! Most people are lovely about it or at the very least, don’t care because why would they? No one is going to dismiss me as not cool enough, not qualified enough, because I no longer live in the city. They’re not going to shun me because I live in the suburbs. And yet, here I am, shrinking into my chair because I was asked the simple question of where I’m living.

Florida is fine. South Florida is fine. It’s hot as heck and slower paced. Sometimes, I feel like I stick out like a sore thumb because of how I dress, but it’s a fine place to live. It’s just not the city. And that’s the whole point of moving out of the city, isn’t it? So what’s my hang-up? And why does it only bother me when New Yorkers ask me where I live. And I can’t answer with Brooklyn?

Gosh, I kinda want to slap myself in the face.

Thriving in a big city and adjusting to suburban life

I guess I didn’t fully realize how much of my self-identity was wrapped up in moving away and making it on my own in the big city. I was such a homebody and socially anxious basket case. No one expected me to do it, let alone by myself, so it was a pretty big deal to everyone. The fact that I was able to build such a successful career and happy existence in such a difficult city to thrive in might still be one of my biggest personal achievements. And as much as I realize that:

  1. I didn’t see myself living in Brooklyn forever
  2. I knew I wanted to eventually buy a house near my family
  3. The life I’m missing in NYC — that time in your 20s when your friends are your family and you’re together every day — doesn’t even exist anymore…

…I still can’t help but feel like I’m moving backwards. I hate to think that my peak was facing my fears and moving to a new city on my own, at 22. And the logical part of me knows that even though I should be proud that I did that, it was not my peak. I lived in a gritty neighborhood surrounded by warehouses and dirty diapers in an abandoned lot. It had a mattress on the floor and no closets. I spent a whole lot of time relocating mice who found their way in to my living room. Then, I moved into an apartment with holes in the floor filled with Good Stuff foam. It had a lock stuffed with old coupon clippings to make sure it latched. Also, the tub was backward that wouldn’t drain properly.

woman wearing a one piece bathing suit and laying down at the shore

It was exciting, absolutely.

I was happy with the little I had, and everything felt terrifying and fantastic at the same time. But by all typical measures, even if I have peaked, that wasn’t my peak. It’s just that all the other things that came after: falling in love, building my career, and making real money. Then, moving into a nice apartment. An apartment with closets, central air and outdoor space!

It was a lot more gradual than up and moving to a new city on a bit of a whim. I have been anything but an overnight success. Also, sometimes I really have to look back on things with fresh eyes to see how far I’ve come. But other times, when faced by successful people who are so much cooler than me and still live in the city I’ve loved for so long, I doubt myself and wonder if by removing myself from the center of it all, I’ll just fade into obscurity.

woman wearing neon bathing suit and sitting on a floral mat at the beach

Vintage bathing suit and vintage scarf, HomeGoods blanket, Oui Fresh sunglasses

My fears and adjusting to suburban life

That’s still a bit of a fear. This is since most of my income relies on my visibility. However, I remembered that I was looking at a bunch of people who were in the same city. But apart, joined by a zoom connection and being watched by people all across the nation. And there was the stylist in LA, in a completely different time zone and on the opposite coast. The stylist seemed just as close as the others whose apartments may have been walking distance from one another.

In a moment of clarity I realized that I may have left at the best possible time, because many people are still working remotely — and coffee meetings, in store events, and other networking opportunities went out the window for a full year and have only just now started to trickle back in. In a way, even those of us who stayed in the city during the height of quarantine were just as far removed from the action as everyone who left. So my departure, toward the end of the holiday season, didn’t feel like a grand exit as much as a transition into another state of limbo: into my suburban house, where I ordered groceries and takeout and barely left, just like I did in Brooklyn for the whole of 2020.

I don’t know when I’ll get over the whole “I’m a suburbanite” thing and just embrace it, or when I’ll accept that where I live doesn’t dictate my identity. That’s clearly a personal hurdle and insecurity I need to overcome, because like I said…NO ONE ELSE CARES.

I’m adjusting.

But I do know that as much as I will always love the city that gave me so much of my life, every time I see Kitty Boos and Lacy flop and roll around in our yard, when I see Bobby bask in the sunshine and lean hard into the suburban life he has wanted for so long, and every time I get to see my family all in one place and hear my grandma say, “I am so glad you and Bobby are here,” I know I made the right decision. Also, I’m only a few hours away from Disney…so, that’s pretty great!

Also, I’m trying to make my weird 90s home into something recognizably ours. I’m happy here. I just need to learn how to accept that I’m in a new place, it’s not as cool or exciting as it used to be, and that’s okay. I want stability, a future, and close proximity to my family. Cool and exciting isn’t really what I want or need in my daily life anymore.

Besides, that’s what traveling is for.

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26 comments

  1. Pitu says:

    I can relate so much! I left my job in Manhattan and my tiny apartment in NJ right before the pandemic hit, and I’m in a California suburb. And honestly, I hate it. I tried to make my peace with it but I don’t want to keep fighting it and hopefully at the end of this year I’ll move back to the east coast. I’m just unhappy as a country mouse. But I’m really happy that you have adjusted well! And that you are so close to family.

  2. Lauzza says:

    I feel this! I lived overseas in Australia for nearly 7 years. It was something that made me different from the people back home, and it was a fun adventure! Of course I am sad that it’s all over, but I realize it was not sustainable in the long run (read: at least 14 hour flight back home! with kids! ) Being back in my hometown is kind of a let down, but I am grateful for the experience of getting to live in Oz!

  3. Jill says:

    I relate a lot to this. I moved from Brooklyn to NJ about 4 years ago. I went from “I would never live in NJ” to “hey, houses are kind of affordable in NJ” to fully embracing life here. I think the pandemic helped. Spending so much time in my house made me love it even more. I used to appreciate that I work in NYC so still have a foot in the door there, but now with remote work I realize I don’t miss it at all! Also, now I can finally have a dog, which has made life 1000% better. 🙂

  4. Christine says:

    I think 2020 showed a lot of people the truth, even if we are still fighting against it. In my 20s I had dreams of moving to New York, but never made the jump. Eventually I came to realize that it was perfectly fine to keep it my playground on vacation and the burbs/smaller cities were perfectly fine to make roots in. Am I afraid I’ll never be as “successful” as I could’ve been had I moved? Somewhat. But the definition of success has also changed for me. Being near family, seeing my cousin’s kids grow up, stability… those are successes all their own.

  5. Carolina says:

    Man this is such a good post because I am from Miami Florida and I visit New York so much that I always wish so much to live there…. I always get jealous of all those brick apartments and those cool coffee shops and the fact that you can walk everywhere…. And it was only in 2020 where I realized that living in Miami isn’t so bad… I’m close to my family… And we have weather that everyone wish we had… And well south Florida has a culture so different from the rest of the nation… The grass is greener where you water it..

  6. Laura says:

    I feel EVERY bit of this! Moved to NYC at 35, single, starting completely from scratch. Moved into a successful career in a field I never would have dreamed of, reunited with my high school boyfriend and got married for the first time (at city hall ❤) at 40! Then a year later we decided to move back to our hometown in Louisiana, where neither of us had lived for ages. I almost immediately regretted not just taking a 2 week vacation to visit but have been here 17 years! My best friends are here, little bit of family left, own a home cheaper than we could rent anywhere else and have room for four cats we dont have to try and hide from a landlord! 😂 I find myself telling anyone who will listen that I lived in NYC for 5 years. I miss it soooo much! But now we can afford to visit and stay in a nice hotel when we do. I hope you find peace with your new life! Plan your trips so you always have something to look forward too!! Thank you for sharing your fun style and your stories with all of us long time followers! Big hugs to you and Bobby and your fur babies!😘

  7. Romina Jill aka Miniminamouse says:

    Aww Keiko, you’re doing great hun! It is hard moving and adjusting. And I feel like most people all over the world tend to be proud of where they live and grow up. So when they say they are from a certain area it’s because they are proud of that city! (Like if you’re from France if you say anywhere but Paris people from France cringe. But to us it’s like wow you’re from France that’s amazing).
    But I’m 100% sure once you feel the security, (and turn your house into your dream home from head to toe). You’ll feel right as rain 😉.
    My husband and I would do anything to own our own home right now. But, where we live is very costly ( not as much as NY, but definitely not with what little money we saved). So you are doing great in my book, not to mention that you have the ability to move and do what you love anywhere!
    Home is where your heart is, and I know with your ability to create anything is truly possible.

  8. Reidin says:

    This gives me all the feels. I came home to Ireland after 5 years abroad (3 in England & 2 in New Zealand) and the reverse culture shock is real! That first year was hard-harder than I thought it would be, but 4 years later I’m so happy to be with my family & friends. Although I miss New Zealand, like you I think the time of our lives that we spent there is what I miss most.

  9. Katie says:

    I’m so glad to know I am not alone in these mixed emotions. I moved from the east coast, USA to Paris, France where I met a guy, fell in love, got married. We lived in the city for 10 years but when we started a family we couldn’t afford to buy or even rent a bigger apartment and ended up moving to the suburbs. I knew it was the responsible/adult decision to make, but it also felt like the biggest cliché. Have a family and move to the suburbs. So lame. Growing up in the suburbs, I couldn’t wait to leave when I turned 18, whereas my husband grew up in the city and felt like he wanted to give his kids more like having their own bedrooms etc.
    Four years later I still wish we never left the city mainly because there is nothing cultural (I miss museums, theaters, even cafes), the commuter life is awful (everyone else is commuting too so not much time for making friends out here), nothing happens after 7pm, and you have to drive everywhere.
    I feel like the city will always be my home, I feel alive when I am there. a more positive note about my current situation, the pandemic was the first time I was happy to be in my own house with a garden and not stuck on lockdown in a shoebox apartment.
    All frustrations aside, I know I can’t have it all so I am focusing on appreciating what I do have and what is most important.

  10. Sarah says:

    I’m with you on adjusting and realizing expectations don’t matter! It’s been a real roller coaster of a year and we’re lucky enough to be able to flex with the changes. Some days are hard, but every day I’m grateful.

  11. Nicole Eboni says:

    I can relate. Lived in nyc 6 years. Grew up there, learn real struggle and embraced new cultures, although I didn’t know if I would stay forever I am in another city, dc less busier but almost the same now starting a family and can tell my son about all my adventures in nyc.

  12. Alma says:

    When you listed the reasons why things have changed, I felt them so much in my core. I lived in NYC for a couple of years in my 20s, attending school. As much as I loved the city, and STILL DO, I realized I wouldn’t be where I am now if I had stayed in NYC. I wouldn’t own a home, have space and be close to my family.

    Of course, I feel like a major outsider here – as I’ve always been “too cool for school” – but the benefits outweigh the losses. I still wonder what my life would’ve been in NYC but I don’t think it’d be as good as it is now living in the city I live, which incidentally, is ONE GIANT suburb.

  13. Erin says:

    I wasn’t in BK as long as you were and I haven’t gone as far as to go back home to Florida like you have, but I feel this so much. I am not ready to let go of the “I used to live Brooklyn” tag at the end of introductions. I am ready for some space tho. And I do love seeing you guys thrive in suburban life.

  14. Patty B says:

    It’s a BIG milestone when you decide to seek clarity about what you want in your own life, and build your life around those values and goals! That’s huge!!!!!

  15. Leslie Buzzy says:

    I have been following you for so long. I am as easy going as they come and really never get offended, but, WOW what a slap in the face to Floridians. This really says a lot about you.

    • Keiko Lynn says:

      I’m a Floridian. I was born and raised here! I love many things about Florida, but if you can’t see the humor in how many crazy stories come out of Florida and also understand that I’m talking about adjusting to surburbia after years in a big city, I would hardly call yourself as easy going as they come. Apologies if you took that literally, but as most of my family and close friends live in Florida and I *chose to move back to Florida*, I’d like to think that people could understand that this is a little tongue in cheek analysis of my own ridiculous identity hangups and personal shortcomings.

      If you’ve been following me for so long and think this one post, poking fun at myself for being a stereotypical ex-New Yorker, defines me over anything you’ve ever read — and you don’t like what you see, that’s totally fine! I’m not for everyone. We can part ways here. <3

  16. Katie Williams says:

    I loved reading your experience. I don’t think you have “peaked” I don’t believe in peaking personally I hope to be living my best life well into my 80’s lol. I love your style and the pieces of your home you have shared so far look awesome. Excited to see more home content. I moved back to South Florida to be closer to family and to give my kids more personal space. Living in a two bedroom apartment and not being able to leave in NYC became to much for us. It’s been a hard transition though I did not see us leaving NYC. It effected me significantly but when I was to sad to get out of bed I read a lot of great books so I guess it wasn’t all bad. Thank you again for sharing always love your writing style and perspective.

  17. Cathy Stout says:

    Keiko, it’s like you wrote my exact sentiments from August 2009 when I was forced to move back to Florida after I lost my NYC design job because of the recession. I say “forced”, but the truth is I was longing for some stability, the opportunity to own real estate, and to become financially stable. And that was not going to happen as a 35 year old single woman living paycheck to paycheck in the city. I wasn’t quite “done” with New York when I left, but it felt like the right move at that time in my life. I struggled with losing the “cool nyc girl” part of my identity, and with being seemingly the only woman in my general vicinity who cared about fashion and style. The comments I got on my wardrobe from my new coworkers were both funny and sad, kind of their way of saying “why don’t you just want to blend in and not be noticed like us?” I eventually caved, and lost that piece of myself, and I missed it. I’ve only recently become re-acquainted with it. I lost (read: gave up) a big part of myself when I moved back here. And even though I’ve now reached a point where I’m ready to move back to city life (still single, house made me more money than I ever imagined it would in a few short years), I did love living here for a very long time. My biggest regrets, take it or leave it, was giving up too many parts of my “city identity” to “fit in”. For what it’s worth. 🙂

    • Keiko Lynn says:

      I hear you! I get a lot of quizzical looks when I go out, or comments like “where are you going all dressed up?!” and it makes me laugh because no one would look twice at what I wore in NYC. But I was used to that when I lived here. I never really fit in. I wore whatever I wanted. I’m going to keep doing that because it’s so much more fun that way! But I think it helps that I don’t work in a common setting. I could see it getting tiresome if I had to hear it every day from coworkers.

  18. Georgie says:

    This was so good to read. I lived in New York for 7 years and thought I’d stay there. My now husband preferred to live out of the city and we really came to terms that the life we wanted (financially & to eventually have kids) wasn’t doable in New York. So we moved at the end of 2019 back to Georgia. Unfortunately due to the pandemic, we haven’t really had time to make friends so that hasn’t helped us settle too much.

    But I really enjoyed this post and reading the comments! I’m all “that’s me! I have those feelings and then do that in my intros too!” but still having that conversation that this is inevitably better for me longterm.

    Is anyone else comforted by the comments? It’s like a nice support “you’ve been there! You know this feeling!” group for all of us ex-New Yorkers.

    • Keiko Lynn says:

      I didn’t realize how many people could relate until I wrote my thoughts out for others to read. I have to say, it has been so helpful to hear from other ex-New Yorkers who feel similarly!

  19. Tibby says:

    Cool & exciting is anywhere you are. Welcome back to Florida! 🍊

  20. Keyshae says:

    I’ve been following you for years and wow this post hits home! I know it’s quite old but thought I would leave a comment. I left NYC 2 months before COVID hit. I struggled a lot in the city, and was hellbent on pushing myself to stay but I knew that the stability that I’ve always wanted was impossible to achieve, so I moved back to my hometown in Louisiana. It was *hard* releasing the NYC identity at first. I didn’t realize how much I depended on nyc to make me feel more “cooler” or “successful”. But 2 years later and I’m glad I left. The world is so much different now and being closer to my family has been healing <3 plus I want to make Louisiana cool again, and the artist scene here is more welcoming than Brooklyn ever was haha. Long comment to say that you're not alone! Florida looks good on you!

    • Keiko Lynn says:

      Thank you so much! I will always love NYC, but it was time to go home and be with family. I’m glad we made that decision. I hope you are thriving in Louisiana!