I am heartbroken leaving New York. Choosing to leave hurt so much, I could barely move my fingers to type.
Someone once told me that the pain of leaving a place is close to the experience of breaking up with someone that you really love. No matter how much I had prepared to leave, since the day I first fell for New York 10 years ago, I am carrying this unbearable grief — the longing for a city that I won’t choose to return to. The city that built me, embraced me, took me in and lifted me, and helped me find who I am.
I remember a decade ago, I left home feeling that I would never find the same type of love and support that I had. And for the longest time, I really didn’t have that. I was forced to be independent and alone in ways that I found too soon. But as I let myself move through relationships and friendships, New York, or rather the community that I had built truly, permanently expanded the definition of love for me. It is boundless and doesn’t discriminate. It is non-judgmental, so free. As someone told me, the energy of love I found here will follow me, no matter where I am.
There is little that I regret after leaving New York. What didn’t I already do? What other emotions haven’t I felt? I am grateful for all that New York has brought to my life, at the right time in my life, so that I could be who I am today — someone who knows that it is time to leave and has the courage to do so. New York has built such a brave Nhi, kind Nhi.
Yet, no matter how much I am sitting with grief, these feelings are painful and seemingly long-lasting. I left New York when the city was just coming back to life (in its reckless post-COVID style). From so faraway, I saw the city I love breathing again. I watched online events I once went to. I held myself back from signing up for an in-person celebration, a concert, a book signing event. I gradually unsubscribed from mailing lists and unliked pages that are no longer relevant to my life. In a strange way, leaving the city when it was just yawning to wake up from the pandemic made the exit easier. More than two years of COVID-19, when I spent much more of my time home, had helped me detach from a city that was once inseparable from my identity.
It wasn’t hard to leave New York, but there was someone who had made it a little more difficult. How I wished my moments with him lasted longer. I could only remember him through moments, in the woods, at a restaurant, on the porch, inside the kitchen, near the bus stop. He who made me feel appreciated and happy.
When I thought about him, there was sunlight. I felt both tender and bright.
When I thought about him, there was grief — these heavy unfinished feelings of love that had no place to go.
When I thought about him, I thought of someone who deserved so much happiness.
I missed him and his presence. I wished it didn’t end.
Leaving New York, though heartbreaking, was necessary for me to practice the art of letting go. Like a plant that needs repotting to survive and grow, I am also changing my environment to face new challenges and learn new things about myself. It is an opportunity.
It is hard, but I know I will have fun in that journey.
Nhi, let’s be free, but be grounded, but be true!