Who, What, Where or Why.

 Giants Causeway, Ireland 2005

I am off again (at 6am, again, sigh) tomorrow. Traveling to the east coast for an insane back to back of Vermont 50 miler and 6 days later Tussey MtnBack 50 miler. As I try to convince myself to pack (fail), I am instead struck by how much I would just rather be in one place for a while. Ok, maybe struck is the wrong word since I have been feeling this way strongly since returning from Colorado. Or maybe I have been searching for a place to call home for my entire adult life. What I do know is, as much fun as traveling and flexibility are, I need a home base. I need somewhere I can come back to. I need something to ground me. I am ready.

Ben Nevis in Scotland 2005

But I had a realization last night. For a really long time, I believed that I was a person about place. That I needed to find my place, instead of finding myself in a place. I have long discredited my own ability to adapt and thrive no matter where I live. The reality is that wherever I am, there I am. I have love, love, loved so many places in this world. The truth is that I could write a list as long as my arm of places that I would be happy living. I have never lived anywhere that I didn't thrive, didn't learn, didn't grown. It is funny to admit to myself that even places I once swore I hated (Atlanta being key among that), I managed to live successfully for 4 months there. And I wasn't successful there because I knew I would get to leave at some specific time as I was there "temporarily indefinitely", I was successful there because I just committed to making the best of it.

Running up from Independence Pass, Colorado 2009

Since coming back from Colorado, I have longed to return. I even made plans to move to Boulder because I adored it so much. Then after the excitement settled down, I got back to reality, and the doubts crept into my head. As much as I adore Colorado, I didn't feel the sense of relief that I thought I would have after making a decision on where I wanted to move and settle in. In fact, I felt the same disquiet that has lead me to even start this blog and stop spinning my wheels. When I moved away from San Francisco, I knew that I was not being completely honest with myself when I said I wasn't motivated by reasons other than the ones I told people. Deep down, I was seeking out the next challenge of being in a new place, I was seeking out the work and stress (and not in a bad way) that come with digging in and building a new life in a city. You can hide from your own loneliness when you move to a new city by simply telling yourself you haven't had the chance to meet new friends yet. You can mask despair with the exhaustion that comes with uprooting your life. You can sweep the underlying self work that needs to be done under the rug you lay down on the floor of your new apartment.

Living in Cape Town, South Africa 2003

I am definitely prone to being overly introspective yes this I know. I can over-think myself into circles. But for some reason, I have never allowed myself to admit that I could be happy anywhere. But I never stick around long enough to find out. And instead of addressing the things I want to do in life, I simply move on, hoping a new location will finally be motivation to work on those goals. I realize now, no matter where I move if I continue to not do the work to accomplish those goals, then I will continue to feel the same way, period.

Yes, there are places I love more than others. I would prefer a mountain top cabin in Leadville over a suburban mansion in Atlanta, sure but on the most fundamental level of myself the things that are important to me where I live are only vaguely related to the place themself. When I strip it down and down and unabashedly look myself in the mirror, I know that the only things that carry the heaviest weight in my desire to live somewhere are incredibly interpersonal. I am either running towards or away from something when I move. This has been true of every move I have made in my adult life with only one exception: London. London I did not have a choice to leave, my visa expired and my work there failed to do the paperwork to keep me there. I think that is why I have struggled since then particularly in regards to place, as I truly saw myself living there for a long time. Ironically now, it lacks some of the fundamental requirements for me in a place (like trails, nature, mountains) but at the time it was home and I was forced out of it. But other than London, I have been running. Sure, running is what I do, but its not what I do. Again, I am good at the self-work but when self-work meets interpersonal confrontation and impasse (even if it is just in my own head, i.e. I play a role in a situation and lose my ability to tolerate it) I leave the situation instead of facing it head on and with strength. I guess learning these things about yourself are all part of the journey of life.

There are four places I am currently considering living and settling down currently: San Francisco, Boulder, Seattle and Portland. Each city has the following things I "require" of a place in various degrees:
  • Friends and Social Circle and a running community
  • Trails, Nature, Hills, Mountains and a body of water (ocean preferrable, though CO excepted)
  • Great food scene
  • Opportunities to do outdoor sports (even ones I haven't taken up regularly yet like skiing and mtb)
San Francisco and Seattle far and away take the advantage in the first category. Seattle has the largest percentage of my close friends, but I also feel like when I lived there, I was unable to synthesize that into feeling like I had a close friend/social circle. Now that I have left, I definitely feel closer to my friends there, but perhaps that is because the effort to keep in touch when people are far away is more than when people are close at hand. I could be happy in Seattle, but it is where I grew up and even though I have family, friends and it meets the basic requirements, I don't actually have a strong desire to be there. San Francisco, dear, dear San Francisco. I find myself having bad mouthed it plenty, but the love/hate relationship I have with it is much of the same relationship I had with London. And my stints in San Francisco have been influenced by other things besides how I live my life elsewhere.

I have made a list and checked it twice and San Francisco always comes out neck and neck with Seattle. Since coming down here in May, I have been able to culitivate a strong friend and social circle and know with even more effort, would be able to engage even more. I haven't really tried that hard when it comes down to it. And it meets all the requirements for place and is incredibly accessible to all the mountains and ocean I can handle. Sure it's expensive, but everywhere I have on my list is up there. If I had a different job in San Francisco, I would stay here in an instant (even if it were just a part-time job until I am able to move the goals towards something that could financially support me). I was very happy with my life in San Francisco when I first moved here, worked two jobs and lived on Russian Hill with my sister. I definitely would need to be in the City, despite the fact that that makes me further away from the trails. Still, I would never be more than 10 miles from a fantastic trailhead so what I am crying about....

 Angel Island from the house in Sausalito

Portland and Boulder are more of unknowns. I know people in both places, though no close friends. But I know how to readily plug myself into the scene there. They have great outdoor communities, they have respected food scenes. I love them, but I am not sure that is enough weight to carry such a big decision.

I was feeling a bit rushed to make a decision, but my gut tells me to slow my roll. Since Boulder had been my idea, I was thinking I should move before the winter sets in. But if that means I have to decide between now and mid-October (or last weekend according to the weather report of snow!) than I may just hold off. This is a big decision and rushing it is silly, even if the move is just me and what can fit into my car.

Much like a good recipe I find myself with all the ingredients in the pan and the marination and marrying of flavors underway, but the meal (the decision) is far from made. I am proud of myself at least for slamming on the brakes instead of doing the same thing again (running/moving away quickly) and expecting a different result. As Einstein said, that is afterall the definition of insanity.