I’m a 22 year-old working in New York City. I have a decent-paying job as a journalist that is (to me) meaningful, challenging, intellectually stimulating, and offers a lot of opportunity for growth, on-the-job-training, and networking with others in my field. I can afford my rent and I have health benefits—money would be tighter if I had student loans, but I don’t.

The negative: I’m from the Midwest, and I really loved my life there. Since moving to NYC to start my career, I’ve been miserable: I left a loving partner and amazing friends behind and am lonely constantly. I don’t feel like I can connect with most people my age because they are still in school or are bumming around in retail jobs or living with their parents. Everyone I work with keeps me at arms length because I’m 5 to 10 years their junior. My job takes up most of my life, making it hard to schedule things in advance or take an evening or weekend class that meets regularly. I have no idea how I should be spending my free time. I am constantly homesick.
I feel like my career is on the right track, but I’m afraid that living in NYC as a sad and lonely 20-something with no ties will become unbearable and I’ll give up. I’m probably a few years ahead of the curve in life but I don’t know how to appreciate it or take advantage of it.
Is this a non-problem? When I write it out I feel like I’m just whining over nothing, but I feel really deeply effected by this.
3 replies
  1. Penelope Trunk
    Penelope Trunk says:

    It’s fine to move back to the Midwest. It’s fine to be homesick. It’s fine to not like NYC. These are all rational feelings that well-adjusted people have.

    The only problem with this is that you need to be really sure that the problem is location. Because it could be that the problem is you don’t like adult life. Almost every person your age does not like adult life. It is a very very difficult transition. Working with people who are not your age is hard, but it’s going to be for the rest of your life. Having to make friends at work is hard, but you have to learn to do it. Working long hours is pretty much the only way people can support themselves, at least for their 20s.

    You might try hiring a career coach for an hour to figure out if the problem is location or something else. If it’s location, just leave your job and move back to the Midwest — there is no harm in that. If it’s not location, you need to start pinpointing specific ways to make adult life better — and realize that this is simply what 99% of other people your age are feeling as well. It’s nothing to feel bad about.

    Penelope

  2. Jennifer Soodek
    Jennifer Soodek says:

    You might consider looking for activities outside of work with people who have similar interests as you. There are many young people in NYC just like you who would like to meet people. When you have something in common it is easier to bond and connect. Go on-line and do some research. Many philanthropic organizations are always looking for volunteers, you can join a gym, become a member of a chorus, participate in recreational athletic teams, volunteer at an animal shelter, or work with groups that help at risk youths. There are many things to do, and it can be hard and scary to put yourself out there, but go for it! You never know who you will meet.

  3. Stephanie Cordato
    Stephanie Cordato says:

    You’re not whining over nothing, and you’re certainly not alone.

    I moved to New York City at 21 because at the time, I was sure it was the most amazing place I could possibly be. New York is a seriously tough place to live, though, even if you’re in a great neighborhood with a stable job. I don’t know if this is exactly what you’re experiencing, but for me it became cold, lonely and claustrophobic, and in less than a year I was ready to be anywhere else.

    If I’ve learned anything from reading this blog, it’s that the relationships in your life matter more than the work you’re doing, in the end. If you made it in New York City, chances are you have a good shot at making it in the city of your choice. Being with the people who make you happy outside of work will only help your career.

    One thought you might consider is that it doesn’t have to be NYC or nothing. My now-fiance and I did an exercise in cooperation by coming up with a list of cities we’d both be willing to try. When one of us landed a job in one of these cities, we both moved, so that we live somewhere great and both pursue our career interests. We’re so much happier now (and clear on the other side of the country!) because we were willing to make the leap and keeping trying until we found the right place. Best of luck to you.

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