January 3, 2014
A vision of time passing—of a woman looking at her 694th paycheck. Once an ingenue among the throngs of men in the loud alleys of technology—now still viable and energetic but eclipsed by the movement of time. Her world is now open pockets in a new jacket.
A few years ago she stood at the curb in a small colorless town, a smile on her face as she observed her life as a slow motion movie scene while brushing blond strands of hair from her aging brow and lifting her eyes to the sun. She texts a message to her daughter waiting for her on the other side of the continent, “Standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona.” Her daughter replies within seconds, “take it easy”.
Decisions to make life changes don’t come quickly. It started in late 2013 sitting feet-up at a cafe near my office. I was tired of hearing my own voice complain about the housing costs, traffic and crowds any time of the day. The mall? Forget it. Santa Cruz beaches? What used to be a 30 minute drive over the hill from Los Gatos had turned into 60 minutes on a good day and 2 hours on a weekend. Did I mention that was just one way? And holidays? Stay home. I am not going to rant here because this site is a happy place for me and hopefully anyone that reads it. I will say this though—I remember California when the streets were clean, where pretty freeways and clean beaches used to be a source of pride, before there was graffiti on every overpass, and tent cities under every bridge. I remember when working in technology was about creating something amazing and everyone was busy but smiling. We were a diverse and devoted group that believed we were part of the making of a better world.
The culture of San Francisco and the greater Bay Area has radically changed and for those of us that loved it once, it’s a heartbreaking end to a passionate relationship. What happened? If you read the news, they blame the housing costs but rising housing costs are a result not the cause. The cause is far deeper and darker—inner money circles and back-room deals, tax breaks and special incentives for Big Money players—and it’s all breaking the back of the average working person. Cash from illegal sources is being laundered in cash-sale home purchases, many of which sit vacant while homeless numbers climb and the average worker is priced out. One good read about the “rising economic inequality and gentrification” is here and another blaming the burrowing owl (seriously) for the housing crisis in the South Bay, here. There are new reports every day.
Okay. I said I wouldn’t rant here but it’s been a breakup of magnitude. Love lost. For me, it was time to make a change—move away from my home of many years; leave my grown son to his own devices. I had done my motherly duty. He was a gifted software developer with no bills and no debt. I raised him as a free-thinker like myself and now all his thinking free made me both proud and freaked-out at the same time. He didn’t need me or my Boomer advice, but the remnants of motherhood guilt and the need to compensate for his inadequate father-experience still lingers after all these years.
It was hard to leave California. I miss the ocean being on one side of me. There is feeling of freedom in that somehow. I am used to the 180 degree expanse of blue California sky. I am used to the sunsets that roll in the damp ocean air only to sweep it back out to sea by morning. I am used to wearing sweaters and scarves in over-air conditioned buildings but stepping out into the tenacious sunshine every afternoon. I am used to not having to think about the weather. It never rains in California and yeah, I know there’s a drought. At some point, maybe this winter, it will rain again for months on end and California will quietly pick up where it left off as if it was just another Tuesday. Crazy optimism? Optimism reigns in California.