Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Home (A New Leaf)

We have been considering leaving California for so long now. Years. It's just so expensive - not just the real estate, but gas, taxes... it takes a lot of money just to be here.

Now we know why. We get it now.

California is amazing. I have a special place in my heart for Northern California, especially, having come here to go to college (1994), then settling here for good in 2000, after traveling around and "finding myself." But I really feel like I've been taking it for granted all these years. I complain about it all the time - how expensive it is, how I've been here "too long," how I hate Silicon Valley "mom culture." But I realized, after our trip to Rochester, how lucky we are to be here.

Nothing against Rochester, of course. It's a lovely town. But it's not for us. If Mike had loved Mayo Clinic, we could have made the city work for us. But he didn't. If we had loved Rochester, but the job prospect was just so-so, we could have made the job work for us. But we didn't. And it took several thousand miles and hours squeezed on an airplane for us to realize that we are home. We have everything we need right here.

Flying into San Jose airport, from flat, brown Minnesota, the fog was rolling off the ocean and into the valley. The sky was blue-gray tinged with red, and the sun had just set. A few stars twinkled in the sky, and the south bay cities winked at us, all glittery lights and stretched out streets. The grass on the tarmac was electric green, and everything felt so bright and fresh and clean that it brought tears to my eyes.

I realized I have been thinking of California in terms of what it's keeping from me, rather that what it has given me, what it gives me still. I realized that I had been thinking that renting, not owning, our house was a kind of personal failure. I think it goes back to having certain expectations of "adulthood" that were arbitrary and naive, yet somehow still burned into my brain. Get married, have kids, buy house, be happy. All of that has happened, except for the buy house part... but for some reason that's been really stressing me out.

It seems like it's a uniquely American thing to stress out about. Thousands of people are defaulting on the mortgages that they stretched themselves to the limit to take on, filing bankruptcy left and right, and yet housing prices are still astronomical. (For all you out of state readers, to wit: the two bedroom, one bathroom, 900 square foot house two doors down from us is currently on the market for $775K. It will sell for more.) By contrast, looking at houses in Rochester seemed like it was too good to be true. We looked at a 5 bedroom, 3 bathroom house with 2 yards and a finished basement for under $200K. I could almost justify uprooting the girls and high tailing it to Minnesota just for that house. It was gorgeous.

But here's the thing: we'd be giving up everything, and everyone, we love, for that house. The best, and best paying job, Mike has ever had. The best friends in the world. Proximity to family. Year round good weather. Diversity. Access to museums, live music, gorgeous hiking, beaches, and two cool cities (SF & SJ), each within 30 minutes of our front door. The rare and, to us, important culture here, that accepts everyone, not matter what their color, background, or fetish. We are so lucky to be raising our girls here, to be a young and active family in the Bay Area. It is truly one of the most vibrant, diverse, exciting, forward-thinking, and beautiful places in the world.

Long story short: we're staying. After much soul-searching and deliberation, Mike and I both arrived at the same conclusion: for now this is where we belong. We agreed that we need a bigger house to make staying here a little less stressful for me. Two kids, two adults, their cat and their crap, are just too much for this dinky little house we're in now. We're thinking seriously about moving further south, to San Jose, where we can have a little more room to spread out. We're excited about exploring a new city in the Bay Area. We're excited about staying here, where we have amazing and wonderful friends who love and support us, and who we value tremendously. We're looking forward to lots more birthday parties, backyard BBQs, playdates, childcare swaps, nights out, double dates and group outings.

I am looking at Northern California with new eyes. And I'm done lamenting our lack of equity - the housing market is beyond my control. I am done plotting our escape - where could we go to top this place? I am done with expectations of adulthood that are not based in reality - my life is blessed, and I don't need more than what I have to feel complete, and worthy.

I am home. And I am at peace with that. And it feels really, really good.


Blogger happygal said...

Glad to hear you're staying.

Also glad to see your newfound appreciation of SF--- (and to think I was going to have to kick your ass....)


xxx, b

5:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am SO happy.

We went through an nearly identical thing last year. Yeah, you're SO right...........just, yeah.

9:02 AM  
Blogger ECR said...

I'm glad the journey away helped you realize what you were leaving. I think that's often what it takes. Welcome back home!

12:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


3:14 PM  
Anonymous Jill Asher said...

Welcome Back!

Every time we visit the east coast, i always think about leaving. The cost of EVERYTHING in Silicon Valley makes me crazy... from food, to housing, to taxes, to babysitting.... it all makes me wonder what the heck we are doing here.

But then I remember all the wonderful things this area has to offer - and I am so happy that we have stayed and make this area our home.

9:04 PM  

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