Time flies when you’re turning your entire life on its head.
So here I am, 348 days after I first arrived dazed and jetlagged at SFO, about to head back to London for the first time in nearly a year.
I realised, as soon as I was offered a job in Sunnyvale, that I couldn’t possibly turn it down. It’s the kind of opportunity which comes once in a lifetime, and you have to seize those opportunities. I knew that if I took it and didn’t like it I could head back home any time. On the other hand, if I turned the offer down and stayed in London it would be a “what if?” moment for the rest of my life.
I don’t like “what if?” moments.
Now it’s almost a year later, and I can say without a shadow of a doubt that I’ve fallen in love with the Bay Area. It’s a surprise – I thought that I’d probably adjust to living here, but I really didn’t expect to develop a real affection for the place.
In part, it’s due to the weirdly compressed but beautifully exhuberant atmosphere of San Francisco. In part, it’s due to the really fantastic friends I’ve made here this year; people who’ve helped to turn northern California from a ‘place to be’ into a home. And in part it’s due to being slap-bang in the centre of the most exciting place in the technology industry right now (and I mean both the Bay Area and Yahoo! specifically).
None of which is to say that I still don’t miss my favourite old nooks and crannies of London, or the staggeringly wonderful friends who I have there. I do, a lot.
Which, perhaps unfortunately, means that I’m doomed (as anyone who moves serious distances is) to always be a little torn; to always wistfully miss things about whichever much-loved place is thousands of miles away.
Anyone caught up in the current Bay Area Geek Import Frenzy would be wise to consider this; it’s probably the hardest long-term effect of such a move.
And now, about to head back, I can’t wait to see London; particularly my friends and family. But I know I’m gonna miss California while I’m gone, and in knowing that, I know something else: I want to be here for a while yet (sorry, mum).
I also feel a little apprehensive. I remember all too well how many little things seemed strange when I first arrived in America. And I don’t like the thought that, now I’m utterly used to all those little things (the layout of roadsigns, air conditioning, the way ATMs work, the size of the average car), the UK is going to seem conversely strange on my return. I don’t like the thought of being weirded out by the country of my birth.
But we’ll get to that by the by, when I land at Heathrow in a couple of days’ time.
First, there’s something else to come to terms with; a slight helplessness. I no longer have an answer to the question “where will you be five years from now?” Perhaps I’ll be back in London, or perhaps I’ll still be in California. I have no way of knowing what I’ll want or what I’ll do, and ultimately my fate will probably be decided by the unknowable tides of my lovelife, my career, and immigration paperwork.
In the meantime, I’m left here with my transatlantic heart; half London, half California; waiting for the next welcome surprise that life has to spring on me.