I'm moving across the country in 2 months. Driving 3,000 miles from one coast to the other with my aging, incontinent, diaper-wearing dog by my side. (My cats will be flying, like the fancy schmancies they are.) Holy hell aghghg omg help?
It gets crazier: I'm MOVING BACK TO MY HOMETOWN (Washington DC). This might not sound that weird to you if you don't know me and you don't know DC, but for me, it kind-of IS. Weird, I mean. It's something I never once thought, planned, or dreamed I'd do when I left at age 18.
I realize there are far worse places to call home, and far worse places to return to. DC has plenty of things going for it. Sure, it's a little stodgy, a little buttoned-up. But that doesn't mean it's not, like, a roaring hub with lots of stuff to do, and Oh So Important People to envy, and exciting cultural offerings to pretend I'll take advantage of while actually opting to lie on my couch trying to follow "The Blacklist."
I can't lie, though -- like many people, I never really loved my hometown when I was growing up. DC is (obviously) a wonky politi-city through and through, and it feels like literally every person you meet works in government or law or finance or something cerebral and rigid and unapproachable, something I have pretty much absolutely zilch by way of understanding in.
Hence, like so many other disenchanted youths flexing their rebel muscles, I hightailed it out of there as soon as I could. I moved to Amherst, Massachusetts for college; after graduation, I went to NYC. And after 5 years in NYC, I fled to San Francisco, a city I'd always loved and longed for from afar, a city that had haunted me since I first visited it when I was 13.
Now it's 8.5 years later, and though I'm still in San Francisco, in the last few years, something's started feeling ... off. Though I still love SF in many ways -- its crazy natural splendor slays me on a daily basis, and its massive freak contingent makes it hard to feel too alien. But it's SO f*cking far from everything and everyone I know. I thought that would get easier the longer I was away from my coast; I assumed I'd start missing my friends and family less as I filled the voids with new friends, new experiences, new loves.
While I've had plenty of new experiences and made a respectable number of new friends, I feel a bit defeated by what HASN'T happened for me in San Francisco. Like, how I haven't had a serious relationship since 2005 (there was a 6-month semi-serious blip in 2006, but ... meh). WTF, man? There are plenty of guys here, but they're all gay or tech-geek playboy Peter Pans. I'm not into yoga or polyamory, and I don't give a shit about Burning Man. This can make it hard to connect with people here, including straight men (I wish I were kidding; I'm not). I've started longing for the rawness and candor of the East Coast; it's way less beautiful, but it feels more intrinsically ME than California ever has.
I'm also tired of flaky people, and of busting my ass to "make it" in an arrogant city where EVERYONE thinks they're hot shit and everyone's trying to make it. I'm tired of trying to prove I'm cool or smart or stylish or dateable or what the hell ever. I'm tired of struggling to meet people and maintain solid connections. I'm just ... tired. I want to live somewhere comfortable where I don't give a shit what I look like when I walk the dog in the morning. I want a simple, fun, meaningful life with good people in it. And I want seasons again! I miss changing leaves and first snowfalls more than I can explain.
That doesn't mean I'm not freaked out of my gourd. There's a vague stigma attached to moving back to your hometown, even though it's a super-common thing (there's even a name for people who do it: "boomerangs"). As one blogger observed in this Salon article, "People don’t just pick up and move to a place where there’s low taxes. They move somewhere that feels familiar."
But I'm 36, single, and moving x-country to a city I'm not even sure I'll like, largely based on a feeling, a yearning. I only know a handful of people in the DC area at this point (most of my close friends are in NYC or Boston), and most are married with kids. Am I truly prepared to start entirely over? Am I going to uproot everything, spend a bunch of money, move my awesome animals 3,000 miles, and then realize, "Holy hell, WHAT HAVE I DOOOOOONNNNNNNEEEE?!" That's the anxiety that keeps nudging me awake at 4 a.m.
But beneath that anxiety is a sense of openness, a gentle whisper that it's time. My mom isn't getting younger, and she doesn't have other family nearby. SF is crazy expensive and I don't have a full-time job or partner tethering me there. I'm ready for something new (but old!). Ready to try living near my home base again, being closer to my closest friends again. Ready for grey skies and red brick and dead winters and sticky summers. San Francisco will always be here, and I can always come back. Or I can try another East Coast city (Baltimore? Philly? my old stomping ground of NYC?). The possibilities are endless.
Do you ever think about moving back to your hometown? Why/why not? (Also, if you live in DC, will you kindly be my friend? And tell me cool things and places I need to check out?)
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