Chapter 33

rex pham

“Are you moving back?”

I returned to New York last week to celebrate my 33rd birthday, catch up with close friends, settle some business, and most importantly, refresh my cognitive motor. The City is my adoptive home, a place that raised me to new levels across personal and professional spectrums, and for that, NYC will always hold a significant place with me.

Leaving was difficult and adjusting to a new environment in Los Angeles was almost just as challenging. It was hard decelerating my motor to more relaxed speeds, which caused me to feel annoyed and bored. From a social standpoint, meeting like-minded Angelenos who shared similar interests was also tough, as well as dating women I found intriguing on deeper levels (plus I couldn’t find a good slice of pizza for a long time). Overall, LA felt underwhelming and at times, I questioned if I had made the right decision. So when I was visiting last week, a number of my friends realistically thought I was on the verge of moving back.

Reflecting on Chapter 32 of my existence, it was a saga split into two contrasting narratives. The first focused on feeling like a shark out of the water, influenced by the factors previously mentioned. The easy choice would’ve been to run back to the familiar clutches of the Big Apple, but, this would merely be a cop-out move that didn’t represent any personal growth. I believe that we learn the most about ourselves in times when we’re tested, uncomfortable, or unsuccessful in our pursuits because we’re vulnerable in these moments. How we react and move on reveal if we actually learned something or not. At a certain point, Chapter 32’s narrative shifted when I realized I was actually the one creating most of my stress.

After an enlightening trip to Colombia last September, I dedicated effort to improving my daily regimen, which helped me feel more at ease. I exercised more often, stayed in and cooked versus eating out, meditated every morning, limited my alcohol consumption, and read more. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson was super influential in helping me redefine my priorities.

“Maturity is what happens when one learns to only give a f*ck about what’s truly f*ckworthy.”

Eventually, the second theme of Chapter 32 came to focus on me reaching a new level of maturation. After getting my mind right, my true priorities became clearer and life in LA didn’t seem that bad. I enjoyed having personal space and not living in a shoebox or constantly surrounded by crowds. I enjoyed not having FOMO and constantly needing to be out drinking, eating, and recklessly dating. I enjoyed not having to live through sub 60-degree winters.

Ultimately, being removed from my core social network made me appreciate relationships a lot more. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve grown to value meaningful relationships much more than experiences (there’s a reason why skipping Coachella for NYC for my birthday week was easy). My good friends are those who fascinate me the most. It’s hard to replace strong personal connections, so I’ve been committing a lot more to maintaining those I genuinely care about while removing those that contribute no value. At this point, I don’t need anything from anyone.

The opportunity to move back to New York was realistically on the table, but I don’t think it’ll bring my life any incremental value or help me grow that much more. I made some satisfying personal progress in the last 6 months and some new challenges lay ahead. Now at 33, I feel really at ease.

Long story short. I’m not moving back to NYC… the moment.