On March 12, 2006, I moved into San Francisco. On March 14, 2009, I will move out. I thought I may have been buying, but it turns out I was only renting, and now my lease on the city is up. Three years and three residences. One large failure and many small triumphs.
The decision to move here happened quickly and because of one person. Opting to leave behind a job, apartment, family, social life, and city that you love within weeks of an ex calling you up one day is crazy, isn't it? Yes, it's crazy -- but if it works out, you're also romantic and brave. If it doesn't work out, what else are you besides crazy?
People who take a harsher, more absolute view of life would say I screwed up. It was a mistake, pure and simple, and now I'm reaping the consequences -- maybe I'm not even reaping enough consequences. It was a very damaging, wasteful move for which I should be apologetic and regretful. Sometimes, I am the person holding this point of view.
Most of the time, though, I do not see it this way, for the simple fact that I cannot imagine my life without the people in it now -- people I met in San Francisco. I cannot imagine never having worked for a small cooking party company with purple and green walls and pop music in the background. I could not, at the time, imagine losing the person who brought me here. I guess it's a character flaw. Like George Bush, I prefer to put a positive spin on ruinous situations of my own making.
After I became single again, the question became not whether to move back East, but when. Many people asked me whether I wouldn't just stay in San Francisco. It has so much to recommend it, and I had built my own life here. Why leave?
My family lives in the D.C. area. It's true that I miss them and do not like spending money and vacation time on going back and forth to see them. But if I didn't have them there, would I still want to move back? Does it matter?
What connects you to a place?
Family is a big part of it, but it's also a "connection to the geography," as my friend Jackson put it. I know someone who grew up in Napa and says that the brown, dry hills of the Bay Area make him feel like he's home. To me, the trees and the air of the East Coast make me feel like I'm home.
I appreciate the rolling fog of San Francisco, the amazing, ever-changing light, the fact that skiing and wine country are both easily accessible, the produce so good you feel as if you never really tasted anything before, and the way the ocean seems massive and imposing on the beaches and cliffs here, as if it might swallow you. I appreciate all of that, but from a distance, as a visitor.
I am at home in trees with deciduous leaves, the hickory smell of fall, wide avenues and low buildings, Great Falls, snow in winter, seeing your breath in the air, cherry blossoms in spring, hay fever, heat waves, rooftop bars in Adams Morgan, sky-cracking thunderstorms, WHUR and the Quiet Storm, the residential streets of Northwest with quaint single-family homes built before the McMansion era, the Potomac River and the C&O canal, Georgetown, and beaches that are less impressive, but hot and familiar.
My social life and job prospects are likely to suffer a downgrade in quality, at least initially, in this transition. Every place, just like every relationship, involves making compromises and determining what you're willing to give up.
I tell people I'm going to come back and visit San Francisco regularly. I actually mean it, too.
Music: I'm trying to post YouTube links where possible because I know imeem forces a registration popup. If anyone knows of other good ways to link to songs, please share. Also please share your song selections in the theme of being home, or anything else you feel like airing, so long as it is not a proselytizing treatise.
"Going Home" (Rolling Stones)
"Coming Home" (SWV)
"Solsbury Hill" (Peter Gabriel)
"Home" (Zero 7)
"Hometown Glory" (Adele)
"Coming Home" (Cinderella)