Leaving well enough alone

Lisa and I let out a collective sigh on Wednesday evening as we landed in LAX. After six weeks of packing up six years of Brooklyn-living, this next chapter had finally arrived. (Well, sort of – we’re still living out of suitcases as we sort out longer term living arrangements.)

At our going away party, my friend Bernard lovingly quipped “Couldn’t leave leave well enough alone, huh?” He meant it as a joke, but man did that hit hard. In New York we lived less than an hour from two sets of doting grand parents, had friends dating back to childhood, and a thriving RAD community. Not to mention that after living off savings for two years, the green shoots of income were finally beginning to materialize. So why move? Why now? And why LA?

Lisa and I met over a decade ago (at Pacha NYC ?). And as we got more serious, the question of whether we’d ever move out of NYC quickly became one of our recurring marital tiffs.

Here’s how it would play out: There would be a frustrating New York moment (ranging from the August humidity to the private school courtship process). We’d then agree that you could “opt-out” of many of these inconveniences. And then I’d pull out the ace in my back pocket: “But I’ve got a great job in Finance. It’s hyper-specialized, so I can only do it in NYC. (Or London, Hong Kong, and possibly Chicago.)”

The “I’m the breadwinner” retort was a bit of a cheap shot. But I was simply afraid. Afraid that we couldn’t recreate our lives anywhere outside of New York. Afraid that we’d miss a window with our kids to go on an adventure. Afraid of moving further away from loved ones. And afraid of the consequences of not leaving well enough alone.

A pull not a push

What makes this move so bittersweet is that we felt pulled to go somewhere else. And the pulling sensation inspires confidence – as if you’re playing from a place of strength. The push, on the other hand, feels like running away from something that is broken. Or even worse, running away as a means of escapism – without confronting the underlying fear behind the desire.

What’s the downside?

As we mulled over the move, one realization hit us pretty hard: regardless of how much money one has, you’ll only have a 4 year old and a 1 year old once. I typically avoid scarcity-based thinking, but this gave us a very safe window to uproot our kids from the only home they’ve ever known. Any parent’s main concern is perturbing their kids’ lives and we were mindful about our four year old’s friends. So we decided on an initial two year window, coinciding with her finishing kindergarten.

Tomorrow’s not given

I love surfing, but I’m really bad at it. I always dreamt of living by the ocean and seeing the sun rise while sitting on a surfboard. I also always thought that I’d have to wait until I retired to make this a reality. Writing this paragraph even feels indulgent and selfish. Delayed gratification has always been my thang – but with this move, we’re thinking more about the present.

I’ll never forget palliative care specialist Frank Ostaseski’s advice on managing the tension between delayed gratification and living in the present: “Have a plan, hold it lightly.”

We’re better when we’re (slightly) out of our comfort zones

In the book Tribes, Sebastian Junger describes how societies come together when there’s a collective struggle, like a natural calamity or a war. No, moving to a quaint beach suburb is nothing like a massive earthquake. But uprooting your family, leaving your community and adding uncertainty into your routine definitely takes you out of your comfort zone. And after many long trips around the world with our kids, Lisa and I have noticed that our relationship is strongest when we’re slightly off-center. It forces us to leave our traditional roles (me as “financial provider” her as caretaker”) and really rely on one another for emotional support – something we never felt compelled to do when we’re deep in our NYC lives.

So why LA?

Once the map “opened up” to us, we looked at a bunch of criteria:


  • Where was there a thriving RadReads community that could be further activated?
  • Did we have friends?
  • Are there good public schools?
  • In close proximity to a diverse cultural hub?
  • How’s the weather?
  • And of course, surfing…


So here we are, on day three of the adventure. Nervous. Melancholic. Curious. And excited about what this next chapter holds for us. Thanks to all of you who for your kind support and encouragement.


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