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Moving across the country with two young kids wasn't easy—but it was exactly what we needed

We gave up our big city dreams to do what was right for our family, and my heart still aches for the chapter we left behind.

Moving across the country with two young kids wasn't easy—but it was exactly what we needed

Three months ago, my little family and I packed up our whole life in New York City to move to California.

This wasn't just a move, it was the move—a move so many of us young parents excitedly anticipate and also quietly dread: the move out of the city in to the suburbs.

The day before we left I found a picture of me taken by my husband, buried deep in Facebook's archives, from the first month after we moved to New York City nine years ago. We spontaneously decided to take a boat ride in Central Park. We were giddy. It was Spring; music poured through the city and the smell of street food filled the air we breathed.

Both born and raised in Northern and Southern California, we had never lived anywhere else and were immediately smitten with the energy, food, fashion, culture, music and art. We were young, in love, and ecstatic to embark on our next chapter. While we sank into our small boat, we told each other how much we loved Manhattan and he pulled out a canon camera and took a photo of me.

The look in my eyes spoke volumes; I had fallen for the Big Apple.

Even though we were newlyweds and had just purchased our first home together in Hermosa Beach, California, we shared a dream of living in New York. We also shared a restless spirit and spent hours envisioning ourselves fulfilling this dream together. With everyone in our immediate environment settling down with new families, it didn't feel like our time yet to have children of our own. Instead, we sought this adventure.

Once we finally settled into our West Village apartment, the lust we had with the city became a full blown love affair. We took advantage of every day and every night. We went to concerts, museums, plays, parks, tried every new restaurant, drank at every great bar, made new friends and then more new friends. We would walk down the street in absolute awe of where we lived, and whisper to each other every night that we couldn't believe how happy we were and how much we loved this magical city.

The plan was to move for a year and get New York out of our system, of course, we got sucked in and didn't want to leave. My creativity flourished there, I had never been so inspired. The city became a backdrop for our lives; a central character in our real life story. It wasn't always fun and easy. We went through a mortgage crisis, job changes, and fertility struggles. We experienced some of the most challenging times in our lives in that small West Village apartment. But NYC had the heart and soul to help us through it all. There was still nowhere we would rather have been.

Eventually, another dream became a reality when I got pregnant with our first born. After having him, we moved from the West Village to Tribeca and immediately made incredible friends who had babies the same age. My husband would laugh that we were “Tribeca, ride or die." He walked two blocks to his new office, our son's school ultimately was three blocks from our apartment building: we had a park downstairs, a Whole Foods on the corner, a dry cleaner in our building, and of course everything in the world NYC had to offer. Walking around the neighborhood felt like being back in college, we couldn't make it 10 steps without running into someone we knew. We lived in a small town big city, with an amazing community. We were never leaving this city, never.

Then along came our second child, our warrior preemie, our lovable fighter and miracle baby. In a flash, we had two rambunctious toddlers screaming and running around our two bedroom apartment. Over the course of the next two years, we tried to convince ourselves we could make this work forever.

But every time we went to California for a visit, everything felt easier.

Our boys would run and play outside for hours; the climate was better for their asthma. They were like two little wild animals who had finally been set free, and we were joyful watching them thrive.

Our families were in California, and we always knew it was our home. I would perpetually dream of driving near the water, sun shining through the window of my car and I would wake up feeling oddly melancholy like when you have a dream about an ex lover. I missed that sunshine, our family, the smell of the California air. We wanted the quality of life that so many of us yearn for when we have children. It was equally heartbreaking and exciting: we knew it was time to go.

We've had a home in California for three months now. It's been wonderful being back; all of the things I ached for have come to fruition. We have a house, a yard for our kids to play in, sunshine, mountains, the beach. More importantly I have old friends and family nearby. The lifestyle is different here, and it's easier: lovely and beautiful in its simplicity.

Of course I miss my city terribly and always will. The energy and magic of New York City is unparalleled. Like an addict, I'm coming off of an extraordinary high and at times it hurts because I miss it so much. My urban soul is still reconciling with the fact that we are living in the suburbs.

Deciding to move out of the city—wherever you are—feels like a milestone in life as a woman and mother. Like so many of these milestones, it's bittersweet. We gave up our big city dreams to do what was right for our family, and my heart still aches for the chapter we left behind.

I question having left, and then look up; my son is outside in the yard, running through the trees with a stick in his hand that acts as a sword in his world of pretend. He is whispering to my other son that there are pirates in the trees, and I close my eyes and smile knowing that dreams evolve, and all is right with the world.

Azizah is a California bred New Yorker, mommy, wife, actress, producer and musician. You can follow Azizah on her Instagram @azizahrowen


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