Monday night, I fell asleep to the sound of blaring car horns, cheering, and the hoots and hollers of San Francisco citizens celebrating the World Series championship in North Beach. Exhilarating, but not the stuff of good sleep, the night before “the big interview”! Just weeks before, I’d been invited to interview for my dream job, however, it would require a move back to the bay area – an unexpected turn of events!
Sunrise in Northbeach, October 2010.
My last memorable bay-area world series took place in Oakland at precisely 5pm, October 17, 1989, when the “big one” hit and took out the bay bridge, the Cyprus highway, and melted the ground under our feet for 15 seconds. I was just leaving work on Stuart Street, as the building swayed around me, and brick facades tumbled into the street. As the facilities manager for the Jewish Federation, I returned to the building where the security guard and I camped out until the electricity came on several days later.
Then there was my first move to San Francisco, back in 1987, on Super Bowl Sunday. Do not move on Super Bowl Sunday. You will do it alone. I’d been living on a sailboat in Sausalito since I’d arrived from Omaha, following college graduation. Sausalito was picturesque, but a bit isolated for this city-loving-lesbian. So I networked (how did we do it back then, before Craigslist and google groups???) and found a lesbian couple with a spare room in the Haight. Twenty-three years later, one of them is like a sister to me, and the other is about to become my roommate again, upon my return to the bay area after a 5-year hiatus on Bainbridge Island, outside of Seattle. Truly a full-circle moment.
If you have followed my blog for any length of time, you know that I’ve become pretty focused on the topic of minimalist living, being-over-doing, and as my friend, Terri coined the term, avoiding the “acquisition lifestyle”. After being offered a lucrative dream job in the bay area, I really struggled with this concept, because the bay area represents anything but minimalism (in my mind). In fact, it pretty much represents sitting in traffic. I worry that moving back to that environment will be too distracting, and I’ll lose the grounding I’ve gained while living a relatively simple, quiet life these past years. But I’ve also felt isolated as a single lesbian on this sleepy little island, and working mostly from home has exacerbated that feeling of loneliness. My son is getting older, and fewer hours are spent parenting these days, and my Aries nature does not care for strict routine!
I’ve had a lot of painful endings during the last year or so. My mother died of cancer, soon followed by my step-father. I had to put my mom’s dog down (after she had so lovingly entrusted her to my care). Then, my beloved dog, Gracie died just last week. My son had a couple of hospitalizations. And I made the very difficult decision to end a not-all-bad, 8-year relationship. It’s been a tough go, and a time of deep reflection and striving to create a beautiful life for myself, despite the pain of these losses.
Mom and Klaus' headstone in Memphis
Despite the excitement I felt about the job opportunity (a fun and perfect next-step in my career), I wondered if I could still fit in with old friends, since I’d stepped off the city-dwelling-rat-race years ago. However, as I thought about my old friends and the lives they had created for themselves living in the heart of big cities, the anxious voices in my head ceased.
Rita, the CEO of an investment banking firm (and my honorary auntie), lives about 1/4 mile away from her financial-district office. She has lived in a 3rd story walk-up flat in North Beach for 19 years, doesn’t own a car, and hikes most weekends with her adult children and friends. She is an artist and writer, with a small group of very close friends.
Cousin Joe lives in a gorgeous Golden Gate Victorian, which he has owned for decades. Retired, he and his partner John enjoy a quiet life when they aren’t traveling the world. Joe’s house looks like it has since I first visited in 1986.
Tamara lives on Alameda Island, just minutes from her job with the Oakland school district. The modest property has two little houses, so she’ll rent one out for income, and live in the other with her 9 year old son. She lives just a five-minute walk from the beach, where she goes to meditate each evening after work.
Terri lives in co-housing with her two children, and life revolves around a bustling, creative, loving community of like-minded individuals. She drives an old Honda she’s had for years, and enjoys traveling whenever she gets the chance.
Stack has been living in the same apartment for years, where she raised her nephew, and is now a yoga instructor.
I could go on, but you get the idea. These are all people I know and love, who don’t necessarily subscribe to typical big-city-acquisition-lifestyle. They have each carved out beautiful, meaningful lives for themselves.
This is all to say that I felt reassured about my decision to take the job in California, despite my initial misgivings. My “slice of life” will include paying off old debt (talk about simplifying), connecting with the local SGI (Buddhist) community, walking around Lake Merritt (where I will live in one of my very favorite neighborhoods), cooking with fresh ingredients from local markets, taking classes at Oakland’s Studio One Arts Center again, and socializing with dear friends.
Beautiful Lake Merritt - my new neighborhood!
I don’t regret moving to Bainbridge Island five years ago. I have forged deep relationships and will remain forever connected to them. I found a loving and supportive Buddhist community, I raised my son in a safe and nurturing environment, and I learned how to entertain myself in ways that didn’t involve recreational shopping. I’ve mellowed and hopefully, matured. I’ve become a great cook. I met sweet Noel, and we will continue our shared and individual journeys.
At the same time, I’m the consummate adventurer, and this will not likely be my last move. So stay tuned!
“When an adventure is offered, you don’t refuse it”. Amelia Earhart
I dedicate this post to my devoted companion of 9 years, sweet Gracie. You are so very missed.