I HATE NJ. On top of hating NJ, I hate my commute. Why do I hate my commute? Because, door to door, I spend almost an hour and a half EACH WAY getting to work - that's 3 hours a day, 15 hours a week. If the weather is bad, or there's a problem somewhere, it's 2 hours each way... a few times, during blizzard season, it peaked at over 3 hours each way. I figure that I've lost at least 2000 hours of my life to commuting time since moving to Hackensack. That's almost 3 MONTHS of time. I haven't had 3 months of vacation cumulatively since I started working almost 9 years ago. That's 2000 hours less time by myself, or with the kids, or with my friends, or whatever. If you add in weekends, since I come into the city most weekends, it only gets worse. Can you imagine that? It'd be like getting an extra week or two of vacation time, just moving a little closer. That, plus rents seem to be going down for a change - the UES is cheaper than it's been for a while (at least, judging by my periodic scans of apartment listings), and Brooklyn ain't looking too bad either. I'm even considering Roosevelt Island - the F stops there, and while it's not super-convenient it's basically only a stop or two worse than living in the UES, and it's cheaper.
So, yeah. No Europe for me, no vacations at all really, but it'll be worth it. If I can snag a nice place in Brooklyn or the UES (any other neighborhood suggestions are welcome) or even the UWS (I was thinking in the Columbia area - I don't really like the area much, but if I can get a place near the 125th Street A I can get downtown in no time, since it's super-express up there. I'd love to live lower down on the UWS, but realistically I just don't think I could afford anything lower. Oh well.
The kids get out of school in mid-June, so my current plans are to be in the new place July 1st (or hopefully, June 1st, and then we'll do a gradual move, moving some stuff in each weekend and then doing the big final move towards the end of the month, so we're well and truly moved in by the time we need to move out here).
It'd be a lot easier if I didn't have such strict requirements, but I need at least a 3 bedroom (me, the kids, my dad), and it has to be in a relatively safe neighborhood with passable schools (or access to them!). It won't be easy finding a place I can afford, but I can deal with a smaller space, and the kids don't need fantastic schools, just decent ones - the extra 2 hours I'll be home every night right there will help, as I can spend time with them reading and helping with their homework, and on weekends it'll be so easy to take them to museums, libraries, etc... it'll more than make up for any imperfections in the school, I think. That's what I keep telling myself. Hell, my brother went to public school in one of the nicest, high-budget school districts in NJ (which itself is one of the better-rated states for schools) and my parents pulled him out and put him in private school because he had such a horrible experience. The point is, even the best school districts aren't perfect, and I think even a low-rent school district can still turn out a good education esp. if the parent takes an active role in their kid's education. I plan on being that active parent, so I'm not too worried any more. And hey, having a daddy that's less miserable, less exhausted, and home more often will help too.
So! That's that. I'll be out of here in less than 6 months.
(And as a side note: I hate NJ but I'm not entirely opposed to it. If there's a nice part in NJ that has regular, fast transportation into NYC - say Hoboken or the nicest part of Jersey City, along the PATH train, I'd consider it. But I'd rather live somewhere in NY.)