Approximately one year ago – not even – I moved back to California. For the past two and a half weeks, I went back East.
If you add it all up, I’ve spent about eight years of my life living in areas east of Pennsylvania, and north of D.C. – what I reckon as ‘back East’. The very first time I went out there I was in high school, and I went to my sister’s high school graduation, in Delaware, at the end of my Freshman year. We also saw historic Philadelphia on that trip.
A few years later I was applying for colleges, and a number of them being back East led to my mom and I taking a road trip to see campuses. It was the first time I’d ever seen New York City. We went to New Jersey, Massachusetts, through Connecticut, and up to Vermont. In the end, months later, I decided to go to college in Vermont.
That summer after my Freshman year of college my mom moved to Boston, and I began to explore that area and its surroundings (Cambridge, Salem, etc.). The summer after that I got a job in New Hampshire. My mom and I took trips to Newport, RI to see the mansions and Acadia, Maine, to go camping. By the end of college I’d been to all the states of New England and the Mid-Atlantic. For five years, with the exception of studying in the UK for a few months, and, taken together, a couple of months spent on vacation in California, I’d lived back East. That summer, job-hunting after getting my Masters, I presumed I wouldn’t stay, or really spend much time there again.
And for a while it looked that way.
I got a job in Reno, and my hub shifted back to the Bay Area, with vacations spent in San Francisco, Seattle, and Los Angeles. When that job ended I stayed on the Pacific coast, albeit on the other side, in Singapore. I lived with my dad in the Bay Area for a few months waiting for that new job to start. The back East part of my life was slipping away.
Back from Singapore, I went couch-surfing from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine. I ended up back East, seeing college friends. And then I stuck around and kept job-hunting. Eventually I landed something – in Connecticut. A state I’d only visited twice, once to see Mystic.
So began more than two years re-pivoting to the east coast. Once again I was looking to Boston, and New York. I visited friends in Providence, Maryland, and New Haven. With the exception of a few weeks a year on vacation, mostly in California, it was though I was back in college. My social atmosphere, too, reinforced this. I saw college buddies with due frequency.
As the job dragged on, I went ahead and looked for new things, wanting to return to my original home of the Bay Area. Near the end of August in 2014, something came through, and I moved back, once again. I want this one to be for keeps – I like the Bay Area, it feels like home to me.
But after a year of some isolation on this, the Pacific coast, I wanted to go back East and visit my friends: friends from the job I’d worked, friends from college, some of whom have an annual get-together, and also family – my mom still lives in Boston.
In Providence, visiting a friend from college, I was introduced to another alum, who also lives in the Bay Area. She described my concern nicely: It’s like the apocalypse out here. Everything’s on fire, there’s no water, and rent, in the past two years, has gone totally crazy. It’s true. Previously, wherever I lived, I had money to burn. Now, every month, I’m concerned about the bottom line – making twice as much as I used to. My little economy house doesn’t have air conditioning. Masochistically I have a thermometer, on my door, and during the summer I often get that thing over 100°.
Was it worth it? Did I make the wrong choice? The Bay Area has been, for me, a case of the grass seeming to be greener, but turning out brown. Yet, as much fun as it was to spend two weeks just hanging out with friends – I wouldn’t want to live back East again. Great for a visit, but not where I want to live.
This fall I’m hoping to move from the town I’m in to Berkeley. It’s a little more central, more accessible, and definitely is more cultural. Maybe that’ll do it. Writing this I’m on a train, traveling past Bridgeport, Connecticut, where I was last week, and where I lived a year ago…