34-year-old Molly Fedick lived in NYC for six years, where she was the creative director at Hinge.
During the pandemic, she moved across the country and started a non-alcoholic wine company.
She said moving to Southern California has improved her mental health.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with 34-year-old Molly Fedick, the founder of Buzzkill Wines. Her words have been edited for length and clarity.
I lived in New York City for six years. For four of those years, I worked at Hinge as the creative director.
I had dreamed of living in New York my whole childhood, but the longer I was there, my life just became more and more chaotic.
I feel like everything in New York is difficult — from something little like going to the grocery store to something big like renting an apartment. At one point, I even had a fire in my apartment after the laundromat I lived above caught on fire. There was just so much chaos at every single turn.
Beyond that, I was working in tech at a very fast-growing startup. It was constantly working a million hours a week and de-stressing by going out all the time. My life was very unbalanced there — there was no off button. It was always get up, work out, go to work, and get drinks after. It was just constant.
I left New York City at the first chance I got
When I first moved to New York, I wasn’t that big of a drinker. I very rarely would drink to excess. But everywhere I turned, there seemed to be alcohol present. Whether it was a happy hour at the office, a birthday brunch, going out to dinner with friends, a networking event, or just going out on the weekend — there was alcohol everywhere. It got to a point where I was going out and drinking almost every single day.
Then the pandemic happened, and I left the city right away. They told us they were closing our office and I went home that night, packed my suitcase, and got the hell out of there. I don’t have family close to New York, everyone was on the West Coast, so I had nowhere to go if things got scary. I got on a plane and left.
I was still working remotely at that point and spent six months in Key West and then another six months in Lake Tahoe. That was when I realized I needed to stop drinking for a while. I didn’t know if it was going to be forever or just for a limited time. I ended up taking about nine months off from alcohol completely.
After I was laid off, I started a non-alcoholic wine company
In December of 2020, I was laid off from Hinge along with a few other people on the marketing team. It wasn’t my choice, but when it was all said and done, it was honestly almost a relief because I knew that I wouldn’t have to go back to New York.
It was during that time that I came up with the idea for my business Buzzkill Wines, which is a non-alcoholic wine company. I had equity in Hinge so I ended up getting a payout and I got a severance package, which helped give me a little bit of a financial cushion to start the business.
I raised $117,000 from friends and family and then I put in about $70,000 of my own money. That’s basically all the money that’s gone into business so far.
I’m a super social person — I love going out. I love being around people. And I actually really liked being in bars. I like to talk to people and socialize. From my knowledge, there were no non-alcoholic options available at almost at any bar in New York at the time. And if there was, it was non-alcoholic beer, and I’m not really a beer drinker.
So when I stopped drinking, I Googled non-alcoholic wine. I wanted to see if there was anything online that I could buy, and there were a few things so I ordered all of them and none of them tasted good. I also thought their branding was kind of weak, so I just kind of thought, “ok, I can do this myself” and started looking into what it takes to start a wine company.
I reached out to a friend of mine from college who grew up in Napa and knows the wine industry in and out and she helped me start the business, which we ended up launching in June of this year.
I love how inclusive the “sober-curious” movement is
I think the word sober freaks people out. The way I like to think of it is more like moderated drinking, at least for me, since I’ve reintroduced alcohol into my life.
I’m not completely sober, but I don’t drink even a fraction as much as I used to in New York. And I think the sober-curious movement is really interesting and really healthy. It’s giving people more options. Like, you can still go out and still have fun and still enjoy a fun drink, whether you’re out at a restaurant or bar or even in your house — you just do it in a more moderated way.
Whether that means not drinking for a while or mixing in non-alcoholic drinks, everybody does it in their own way, which is cool. Some people are just taking time off from alcohol. For me, I try not to drink during the week. There’s so many different ways you can be a part of that movement.
Now I live in Manhattan Beach, a laid-back coastal community near LA
I can’t even tell you how much of a complete 180 my life has taken since I left New York (in the best way possible). The weather is beautiful. It’s sunny every day. I got a dog while I was here, which I could have never done in New York for so many reasons. Now, I take my dog for a walk, grab a coffee, and start my workday. I take walks along the beach when I get stressed out. There’s just so much more here that to me supports a healthier lifestyle.
The social scene is also way more activity-oriented than in New York. This is the beach volleyball capital of the world. There are always people playing pickleball, golf, going surfing, going to the beach, taking walks. Even just sitting outside. If you are having a drink, it doesn’t feel like people are getting wasted all the time.
Spending-wise, it’s pretty comparable to New York. Where I live is not cheap. This was not a move to get a cheaper lifestyle by any means but I do feel like I get more for my money. This new place that I’m moving into, it’s the same amount of rent (around $2,800 a month) that I was paying in New York, but I have a washer and dryer in-unit, there are three pools in the complex, there’s an area for my dog to run around. I have a car and parking.
There are all of these things that, in my opinion, make life a little bit easier. In New York, I lived in a fifth-floor walk-up that barely had a closet. I couldn’t even shut my door in my bedroom because the bed was sticking out into the door frame. And there were mice everywhere. So for me, the quality of life has just increased tenfold.
There are certain things I miss about New York
There are certain things I really miss about New York, like coffee shops that are open all the time and the convenience of being able to get any type of food.
Obviously, there’s an energy in the city that is amazing. But at least for me, the lifestyle that I’m living right now is so much better for my mental health. The idea of going back and living in New York is honestly terrifying to me.
I think that in your twenties, a lot of people can handle it — you can be on that treadmill and push, push, push. But when you get a little bit older, I think your priorities change. Maybe not for everybody, but for me, they did. I realized that I didn’t want to be on that treadmill in the way that I think New York requires you to be.
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