This article is part of the CelebrEighty series by Judy Katz…I am thinking of leaving New York. Blasphemy, I know. I’m about as “New York” as it gets. When I confided in close friends that I was selling my Upper West Side co-op apartment in which I have been living since 1983 and potentially moving to Arlington, Texas, I was hit with a wave of advice and suggestions. Reactions ranged from: “Are you crazy” and “You will miss the city so badly you will come screaming back” to others who said, “Bravo for your courage and willingness to start this new chapter in your life.” How valuable is the unsolicited advice I have been getting?
Unsolicited advice is free, and someone once said: “You get what you pay for.” I know people’s opinions about what my next big move should or could be from the heart. They wanted me closer, but they also wanted to see me feeling fulfilled and happy. As Manhattanites, most of them could not imagine me in an apartment in Texas—even with family nearby.
But on this one, I’ve got to do some thinking for myself. It is my life, after all. My age is a factor. On August 29, I will be 82. My only sibling, my brother Steve, and his fantastic wife Susan live a great life in a lovely home in an Arlington neighborhood. My nephews Michael and Jon and several of their adult children live not far away in Dallas. Over the years, I have been to the multiplex countless times. Every visit was joyful—albeit they were visits. Vacations are not a permanent change where you are no longer the “visiting fireman.”
When you visit, you are a guest, and family and friends roll out the red carpet. When you live nearby, they more or less go about their usual business. But they have all been urging me to move out there for years. The Universe has conspired to make such an extreme change seem sensible.
But wait: I would have to make a new set of friends. For anyone in their early 80s, even someone outgoing like yours truly, that is not so easy. I do not drive, and Texas is a driving town, unlike Manhattan. Thus getting around would be infinitely more complex. Here, my hair and nail salons are two short blocks away—a walk if I want them—no need to get into a car. Restaurants of every variety are all a short walk away. Supermarkets are everywhere, including Trader Joe’s, Fairway, Zabar’s, and Jubilee, with a 24-hour CVS across the street. There’s a movie theater on W. 68th Street, across from my TD Bank branch, and my veterinarian is around the corner. My physician is a short walk away. Buses that cover the entire city are at almost every corner. The Broadway train station is three blocks away. I can get a cab or car service in moments in all weather. Speaking of weather—it does get pretty hot in Texas a good part of the year.
I love New York. I’ve lived, loved, worked, and played here my entire adult life. I’ve benefited from having my daughter nearby and my son not too far away. Until now, with a thriving business and multiple projects that kept me busy—and financially comfortable—Manhattan is also a costly city when no longer working, or working as much, and still trying to maintain a particular lifestyle. Living in a spacious condo in Texas with an infinitely lower overhead would give me the freedom to continue ghostwriting books at a more leisurely pace, without the same overhead and pressures.
Also, on the plus side, there is family. I would no longer be away from them for every special occasion. I do desperately miss my baby brother—who is turning 79 on September 20 this year!
There are options, of course—such as a hybrid life, renting both here and there, which several people suggested. But that is an expensive option, not something I can readily afford. One home base is costly enough. I know many people that have two homes and were able to make it work for them. For me, this may or may not be a possible choice. It is an attractive possibility to be in a warm climate in the winter and a cool climate in the summer. If I can pull this off, I have one request: please don’t call me a “snowbird.”
A significant complication to that hybrid life concept is the fact that I have two small dogs and one cat: splitting time between two apartments means traveling with them or leaving them in someone else’s care for extended periods (if I could even find such a person and can afford them). I would also miss my pets too much.
I don’t fault people for offering their suggestions. I’m just as eager to help those I care about make intelligent decisions. I’ve learned to start by asking questions and listening before offering a suggestion that might not fit into that person’s life. For example, I might ask, “Will you keep working or retire?” Or “What do you think you might miss the most if you move from your current location?”
At this point, you can tell that I’m still debating my next and likely final big move. It may be a rental apartment in Arlington or Dallas. Or it might be a small rental in my current Upper West Side area. Factors that will impact my final decision: how well I do on the sale of my apartment, how much the stock market recovers, what book projects I have to work on, and my state of health, mentally and physically. All these and more will factor into my final choice of where to go next.
Returning to my original question about unsolicited advice: take it with a grain of salt. I don’t feel bad when people voluntarily tell me what they would do in my place. It gives me clues about them. I also know they genuinely want to help me consider every possibility and believe what they’re suggesting might not have occurred to me—and perhaps it has not! So I will listen to everyone and finally make up my mind.