All urban areas are pretty much the same, but I still like the SF Bay Area the best

On the 880, passing through Milpitas.
On the 880, passing through Milpitas.

I’m back in the Bay Area for spring break (actually sitting in my old room, in my old apartment). I miss it here. My life in Baltimore feels like a dream.

Environment really does have a huge influence on our consciousness. When people and places aren’t around, I hardly think about them at all. I didn’t really miss the Bay until the plane was starting to land and I was looking out the window at what I was pretty sure was Milpitas and I started to think, “Oh man, I used to pass the exit for Milpitas all the time whenever I was driving to the South Bay.”

Ever since then, the nostalgia (for, like, ten months ago) has been intense.

I don’t regret going to Baltimore. It’s been good for my writing, and it’s also pretty decent professional positioning. And, in terms of my personal and social life, it’s been good to be around an entirely new group of people, in an entirely new city. All in all, a very positive experience. And I am trying not to look at it as a transitional time.

I think that’s the mistake that trips people up a bit too often. You’re somewhere for just two or three years and you think that it’s not worth meeting new people or developing favorite places or allowing yourself to enjoy your environment too much, and then you leave and you go somewhere else. And that’s transitional too. And maybe someday you eventually get to a place where you feel comfortable staying for awhile, but at that point ten or fifteen years have gone by since you last allowed yourself to sink into the life of the world.

But at the same time, I do want to live somewhere for a decade or two. I do want to build a community and get to know a place and feel a bit more secure in my income and scheduling. And I am pretty sure that place is gonna be out here in the Bay Area.

It’s not that I think life is particularly better out here. I mean, the weather is nice, but I do believe the research that says that better weather doesn’t make people happier or more satisfied with their lives. I am sure that within a year of arriving in the Bay Area, I’d be complaining about the rain and wishing that I was in LA.

And all the establishments aren’t a huge draw either. I mean, maybe the Bay Area does have more coffeeshops and restaurants than Baltimore, but that huge variety doesn’t matter much to a person with settled tastes like me. I generally choose one Thai restaurant and one coffee shop and then use them every day, for months. Every other restaurant in the neighborhood could be an empty façade, and I’d probably never know.

People tend to vary more, place to place, than the environment does. I think this is just because people tend to self-select into professions, and then the professions are assorted to different cities pretty unequally. The Bay Area is full of tech people; the DC area has relatively few tech people. Tech people have their own weird sort of way to them (particularly when there is a huge mass of them around). I tend to like the tech people, so that’s pretty good for me.

But, honestly, the draw is that I just know a lot of people in this area. And that’s not something that you can fake. With some legwork, I could probably build a community in some other area, but I feel like there comes a point in your life when you have to stop discarding friends. There’s something you can get from someone who’s known you for five or ten years that you can’t get from someone you met a month ago.

So, yes, I want to come back here. The only question is when I’m gonna make that happen. Honestly, it could be as soon as fourteen months from now. Or I could stay at Hopkins for an additional year. I could apply for fellowships and grants. I could travel. I could…I dunno, it could also be years and years from now before I live here again. I could stretch things out so long that the place changes entirely and I don’t really want to come back anymore. It’s really not a problem at all, since it’s entirely up to me.

*On a sidenote, I really don’t like the term “San Francisco Bay Area,” because the part of the Bay Area that I have the least experience with (and positive associations re:) is the city of San Francisco.

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