- I traveled home to Buffalo, New York, in March 2020 for what was supposed to be a weekend trip.
- I ended up spending 15 months there and decided to postpone my wedding, too.
- Now, it feels like the right time to move forward with life, despite continued uncertainty.
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I really wasn’t planning to leave New York for what turned out to be 15 months.
On March 12, 2020, I went home to visit family in Buffalo, a pre-planned trip that happened to fall right as COVID-19 was descending on New York City. Aware that things weren’t looking good, my fiancé and I packed up our biggest suitcase on the off-chance we needed to stay longer.
Well, one weekend turned into a week, which turned into a month. Four months later, I was still in my hometown, living out of a suitcase. By July of last year, we made it official and moved out of our Brooklyn apartment for the foreseeable future.
Like so many people around the world, this last year for us has been marked by near-constant anxiety and grief. My fiancé and I both lost family members during the pandemic, and we both worried constantly over loved ones who were particularly vulnerable to the insidiousness of COVID.
But we also longed for the year we could have had if the pandemic hadn’t struck. We got engaged in November 2019, so I was expecting the year that followed to be, well, a lot more fun than what ended up happening. I also expected to have a wedding at the end of it.
Instead, we sat around having circular conversations about when we should get married, always coming back to the same conclusion: We just didn’t know. By November 2020, the anniversary of our engagement, things had gotten so bad again that I ended up canceling the COVID-safe weekend getaway I’d had planned to celebrate. What was the point? There was no end to the pandemic in sight.
Ultimately, it meant spending 15 months in a holding pattern, unable to return to the life we unintentionally left behind and unable to move forward with a wedding.
We weren’t alone in deciding to hold off on celebrating. According to a survey of 7,600 couples conducted by wedding services company The Knot, roughly half of couples moved part or all of their wedding celebrations to 2021 (5% of couples moved their wedding to 2022, like me).
A mostly virtual wedding ceremony (not mine) in June 2020.
Theo Wargo/Getty Images
But by April 2021, we could finally see a faint glimmer of hope. We got the first dose of our vaccines and watched New York City start to emerge from hibernation. We heard how our friends in Brooklyn had survived and adapted amid the worst possible conditions, and watched over video calls as our coworkers gradually returned to the office. It felt like it was finally time to return.
Plus, we’d been keeping an eye on New York City real estate and it seemed like listings were disappearing fast. As it turns out, they were: According to a report from real estate firm Douglas Elliman, New York City saw 9,642 new lease signings in June 2021 alone, the highest on record since 2008. At the same time, the number of listings dipped over 54% from January to June of this year.
Somehow, we ended up finding an apartment we loved and moved back at the end of June.
Moving back somehow flipped a switch for me. Instead of just trying to subsist under pretty dire conditions, I could start making plans again.
I can return to the office if I want to
We’ve been back in the city for a month now, and my fiancé has been to his office at least once a week. I haven’t returned to mine yet, but it’s there, open if I want to go. I’ve never liked working from home, even before the pandemic, and I’ve been missing the separation between my work and home life. Whenever I’m ready to make the commute, I can return to my desk, my coworkers, and a feeling of normalcy.
I can also keep working from home — by choice, not by necessity
Now that we’re back in the city, I’m starting to see the upsides of working from home. I can walk down the block to run a quick errand on my lunch break, or grab a late-afternoon coffee. At the end of the workday, I don’t have to spend 30 or 40 minutes commuting, I can walk over and Rollerblade in the park while it’s still light out.
For the first time in my professional life, I’m actually enjoying working from home, which is really saying something.
Brownstones in Brooklyn, New York.
I feel ready to plan a wedding, despite the continued uncertainty
There’s absolutely no way to predict how the world will look next year and setting a date might still be risky. But if the flexible and creative couples of 2020 taught us anything, it’s that weddings are always possible, even if they take place on your front stoop.
I’ll be planning mine amid a competitive wedding landscape. According to The Knot’s survey, 73% of the couples who got engaged in 2020 are planning to get married this year, and The Knot’s CEO, Timothy Chi, recently told CNBC that he’s expecting a 20% to 25% surge in couples tying the knot in 2021 and 2022, compared with pre-pandemic levels.
It may take longer to get my dress, or may be harder for my caterer to find staff, but I know things will come together somehow. If 2020 brides could do it, so can I.
I can reconnect with people in person and try to start moving forward with my life
For me, moving back to New York broke me out of the pandemic haze. We’re no longer living in a family member’s home — we were happy to be there, but felt displaced during some of the worst months of the pandemic. We’re not in our Buffalo apartment, which we spent way too much time inside of throughout the last year. We’re somewhere that feels totally new, that doesn’t contain any of the memories from darker times.
Moving back has also felt like a license to reconnect with people I’ve lost touch with over the last 16 months, to try to forge new professional connections and personal ones, and to try things or go places in the city I may have been too busy for pre-COVID.
Not everyone has the ability — or the desire — to pick up and move right now. And the rise of the Delta variant and the possibility of masking again or going back into some form of lockdown is, frankly, infuriating to me after all we just endured.
But despite the claims that “New York is dead”, coming back was exactly what I needed, regardless of what the future brings.