Caroline Moss is an author and host of the podcast "Gee Thanks, Just Bought It," which helps people find the products they need to make life easier, better and more productive. Now with this column, "Asking for a Friend," she's helping people with the advice they need to make life easier, better and more productive. To submit a question, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am thinking about moving from San Francisco to somewhere a little more affordable. Now that my company officially let go of its lease, we have all been told we can work from anywhere (at least for the next two calendar years) and I have a few cities in mind. I desperately want to live somewhere less expensive and a little farther away from where I grew up, but I can tell my family thinks I'm crazy for uprooting during a pandemic. I don't think I'm crazy, but I also don't think my family would try to manipulate me to stay where I am no longer happy or need to be for work. How do I get the courage to just go for it?
Hi! I am writing to you from Los Angeles, which I moved to in February after 32 years in the Northeast, where I was never more than a two-hour drive from my family at any given time. I feel this question so much, and I understand both sides of it. But since you’re the one who sent the question, I am going to spend my time on your side.
My therapist once told me that I needed to start making decisions before I asked other people what they thought of the decision. She said I was too easily swayed by the opinions of my friends and family, and that I had taken the idea of getting input (which can be good and necessary!) and replaced it with needing validation (not good! not necessary!). In 2016 I walked into my boss’s office and quit my job. I called my parents after the decision had been made irreversible. I am glad I did, because I think they would have convinced me to stay had I told them I was thinking about quitting. After I had quit, I was simply sharing a piece of information with them. “By the way, I quit my job today and I am going full-time freelance. I put in my two weeks, and I am really excited.”
If you want to move for the reasons you stated, you should definitely move. San Francisco is extremely expensive. Everyone I know in SF either lives there because it’s where their office is or it’s where they grew up. If you don’t have an office and if your company is essentially saying, “you can move and still keep your job," then I can’t imagine staying put unless you really wanted to stay put. You said you’re not happy there anymore, so I don’t think you want to stay put.
Living through a pandemic is, hopefully, a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing. The events of this year will no doubt shape the rest of our lives — emotionally, financially, mentally, physically — in ways we have not even begun to grapple with yet. Even though the housing crisis of 2008 felt dire and world-changing at the time, it feels like a mild scrape compared to the flesh wounds that COVID-19 has opened. You are going through it, I am going through it and your family is going through it. It makes sense that they want you to stay. I am sure it makes sense to you. It doesn’t really matter, though, if you don’t want to stay.
We are going to spend a big chunk of the next chapter of our lives picking up the pieces that came tumbling down in 2020. We can choose to rebuild (or attempt to rebuild) the same life that we had in 2019 or we can create something new. You are being given an opportunity for a new experience right now, and it is unclear how many of those opportunities will present themselves in the next decade. While everything feels like it's on pause, the world is still turning beneath us. It might seem crazy to to upend your life and move in a pandemic, but consider that your life has already been upended because of the pandemic. All of our lives have. Where do you want to go? What do you want to do? Who do you want to be?
My guess is that in your gut you know what you want to do. If your gut says stay, you should stay. The threat of COVID-19 will exist wherever you move (unless you leave the country, in which case, please take me with you). If you are moving to run away from the pandemic, you will only run into it when you get to where you’re going.
You can respect your family and understand that to them, moving right now seems like a reckless choice. If you’re asking me (and, hey, you are!), I look at your circumstances and your rent and think it would be reckless to stay. In the end it really doesn’t matter what I think or what they think, it matters what you think. But you’re not giving up on your life or your city or yourself by picking up, packing up and heading out on a new adventure. You are lucky to have the chance to do it. Your family will deal, and you can always come back.