i had an interesting observation shared with me the other day. one of my friends, we will call him "j", mentioned to me that he had read my blog, and that it occurred to him that, by deciding to move to san francisco, i might be "settling". he added that he was able to come to this
conclusion based on a feeling that he had that i seemed to be looking for a place to "retire". huh. now, i am the type of person who finds observations about my life and my thoughts to be extremely interesting, possibly because it seems that they happen so rarely. oh, you know how
it goes. if we take a moment to address the lost art of conversation, we could jump hastily to the idea that conversations, as they appear today, have been reduced oftentimes to mere exchanges of our activity calendars.
"hey, what's up?"
"oh, not much, just going to work."
"oh, me too, but afterwards i am meeting sally for a drink."
"well, tell her i said hello. i saw her last week."
and so on. i am bored even writing that, so i can imagine how terrible it is to read! i understand that there are simple pleasant exchanges that do not require depth, but there needs to be a balance--yes? perhaps i am idealistic (i am!), but i think that a conversation should involve an exchange of ideas, and if it is to be considered successful at all, then all parties involved must leave the conversation changed in just the slightest way. i was tempted to use the word "affected", but i don't think that word is specific enough. "changed" implies that we are not who we were at the beginning of the conversation, in other words, we leave each other thinking differently, if only a little bit. let me give you a new example:
"hey, what's up?"
"oh, not much, just going to work."
"it sounds like you are not very excited about going to work!"
"well, i'm not. my boss is being a real jerk, and i am tired all the time because i have not been sleeping well."
"i am sorry to hear that, truly. i didn't realize that you were having such a hard time right now. i remember going through a similar time a couple years ago, and i realized afterward that i was anxious about what was going on in my relationship."
"wow, you don't know what it is like to hear that. sometimes i feel like i am just complaining, that i should be grateful for all that i have and stop whining. sometimes i think that nobody else is this selfish."
"it is not selfish to recognize that you are unhappy. you know what? i am meeting sally after work for a drink--why don't you join us? she would love to see you, and maybe it would cheer you up a bit to get out and be around friends."
"i love that idea. i think i will! i am glad i ran into you. i don't feel quite so alone in all this now. you are a good friend, and i don't say that enough."
"you think i am a good friend? huh. that is nice to hear. i am glad i ran into you as well. let's meet at six, then. i hope you have a better day at work."
"thanks, i look forward to tonight. thanks again."
see what i mean? can you tell the difference between the two examples?
my conversations with j are truly conversations, in that i feel that he is as interested in what i have to say as i am in what he has to say. so when he told me that he felt i was settling, i did not take offense. rather, i felt flattered that he would take such an interest in my motivations. a true conversation had occurred; i came away changed. i can only hope that he was also changed. actually, i am confident that he was. for myself, i was changed in that i began to think about my motivation for deciding on san francisco. i have shared as much in this very blog, so i will not repeat myself here, but i got to thinking about his perception that i seem to want to "retire" there.
in deciding to move away from los angeles, i have been clear about the fact that i am through with this city. i have been clear about what i am looking for, and why i think i have a better chance of finding it in the bay area. in starting the blog, i initially thought that i might take ten years or so to decide where i wanted to move--sharing, all the while, my travels, experiences, and perceptions of various cities in the united states, until i decided on the perfect place. but...i realized that i don't want to wait ten years. i don't want to move after i have already established a psychotherapy practice, and i also don't want to move around the time that i approach the age of sixty. i don't want to wait that long! i don't want to go somewhere at the age of sixty and try to establish a new social circle. it will be challenging enough to do when i am fifty!
there were a few other factors hastening my decision. i think it best to stay in california, namely because this is where i intend to get my license, and it is also vital that i be in a climate where i can bike all year round. additionally, i don't want to be toofar away from my los angeles friends, and my family in san diego. but the clincher, and the reason that i have concluded that j's observation is valid and appreciated, yet inaccurate, is the fact that i lovethe bay area. i really really do! i love the cooler weather (i love wearing jackets!), the restaurants, the trees, the coffee, the universities, the bart, the gay scene, the castro, the neighborhoods, the bookstores, the sophistication, the men, the bike paths, and the culture. i am a californian, but i think that i am no longer a southern californian. this is what i think. i think this enough to gamble everything that i have here and get up and move.
now, i need to say the following: i am sure that there are a number of cities that may fulfill my needs as well as san francisco, if not more so. but i remember someone saying this about deciding on being in a relationship: at some point, you have to just choose one. i feel that this applies to my search for a city. i could "date" many cities in my search for the perfect one, but i know that there is no perfect city. at some point, i would have to just choose one. is this settling? well, it depends on how the decision was made. and the same goes for deciding on who to be in a relationship with! my decision is based on a true desire to live in the bay area, and the "wish" to eventually go to berkeley to obtain another masters or two. it is based on the need to be close to my absolute best friend dave o., and to also be in a city that he will probably visit often for work. it is based on the need, as mentioned before, to be in a place where i never have to buy a car, and where i can continue to ride my bicycle year round. it is based on the need to be in a place that is politically active and liberal, and culturally diverse, and certainly "gay". it is based on the idea that i could spend ten years exploring places in this country when the best choice has already signaled itself to me in my body's response when i am there. there is a romantic notion that san francisco is the city where all the lost souls of atlantis eventually gather--i first heard this in tale of the city, and though i don't believe in souls, or atlantis, i like the feeling of this idea.
i do not ever plan to "retire". i have chosen a career where all i have to do, in essence, is sit in a chair, listen, and ask questions. i will get paid a lot of money to do this, so i will not have to work a lot of hours. who would want to retire from that? i love doing therapy. it is my way of connecting meaningfully with people--or at least one very powerful way. i think that j was referring to my recent declaration of a "slowdown" in my social/sexual life, and the thought that i may be "done" with dating. of course, i don't really think that, but it sure feels like it right now. the truth is that i am "done" with dating like i have been doing it in the past few years, and let's leave it at that. and truth be told, i have no idea what is coming next in that area of my life, which is unusual for me. perhaps i will retire from dating, perhaps i will do it differently in san francisco. i suspect the latter. time will tell.
so i have this to say to j: i thank you for your observation, but i do not agree with you. settling, for me, would be to stay in los angeles, where i live in a wonderful rent free two bedroom apartment, where i have friends and career potential, where the weather is certainly agreeable most of the time. settling would mean staying here where it is easy for me. moving north presents HUGE challenges, many of which i am a bit anxious about. there is no settling in the task that i have set before me. but thank you, j, for being interested enough to venture an opinion, for you have prompted me to review my intentions. and for this, i am grateful.
i look forward to our next conversation.