Almost Paradise: Musings On Leaving California

I wrote this in October 2016 only to leave it unfinished.  During the last week, I received a notification of a post from Facebook a year ago when we were on a house hunt in Virginia. When I re-read the post, it still rang true for me, so I’ve decided to post it.

Those of us who have had the privilege of living in Northern California for a portion of our lives have at one time or another thought that they could not leave “paradise”. After all, we had sublime weather, the greatest sunsets, and the greenest hills. We were fifteen minutes from wine country and 20 minutes from downtown SF.  I can say with conviction that California has some great things, but while its almost paradise, it’s not the end-game for me.

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Now that I’ve moved away, it’s amazing to realize that its the one place I’ve actually spent the most substantial portion of my life outside of NY/NJ.  We had a great run there, learning the city without really knowing anyone. We ate at some of the country’s best restaurants, drank the best wines, saw the greatest landscapes.  Experienced sailing in SF Bay, learned to properly mountain bike in the hills of San Anselmo and discovered the practice of yoga.  We got married, got my first dog, and had two amazing kids. I put my first dog to sleep, lost co-workers to horrible accidents and experienced numerous earthquakes (luckily not the “big one”).

Ultimately, I was ready to go. You know there is something missing when you make a great salary but you’re always feeling like you are scraping by.  We were having annual (if not more frequent) conversations about how many things we missed back east.  Every trip home was a reminder of what we were missing. After all, what good is paradise when you can’t share it with everyone you love.  Paradise is relative.

For a while I thought that if I changed my job, I might be happier. As I started exploring companies, it was clear that there were lots of incredible opportunities abound.

So we moved back east.  It’s been an adventure to say the least.  We’ve had some curveballs thrown at us, but we’ve kept on truckin’.  We see family all of the time, the kids love school, and we’ve become part of a great community.  

Do I miss California? There are definitely some aspects of it that I think about often:

  • Wearing shorts practically year round.  
  • The gardens around my home that I created with my own sweat.  
  • The Plano, the friends we made there, our annual block parties and our large assortment of fruit trees.
  • It’s Its. In and Out. Fish in Sausalito. Central Market in Petaluma. 
  • Living near waterfall hikes.
  • Taking the ferry to work.

Are there things I don’t miss? Absolutely:

  • Horrible public transportation.
  • Bad startup ideas. (I was once approached by a company that failed making a television show recommendation app that they “pivoted” into an email marketing tool.)
  • Endless hoards of hipsters. Ironic beards.  Civilians in cycling gear.
  • The fact that I lived in an upper middle class neighborhood but still would have my car pillaged in the middle of the night.
  • Day care that was three times as expensive as it was in New Jersey where I grew up.
  • Not having seasons. Especially Fall.
  • Being away from family during times of crisis.
  • My kids not getting to grow up near cousins and old family friends.

Was California paradise? Almost, but not quite. 

The bottom line for me is that paradise is a myth.  There are beautiful places all over this country. What’s important is that you have a chance to live in them.  I feel like these days I am enjoying a better life. Next time I go back to the Bay, it will be nice to be a visitor again.


Also published on Medium.