Next week, we move away from the Bay Area after nearly 7 years of living here. I am dreading this week…I finish my college course, I say goodbye to my beloved preschoolers, my darling cat flies home alone, we have our leaving picnic and I have my final Sunday at the church I love. I honestly want this week to be over already.
Our Californian days have very definitely been the best years of our lives. They have also been an incredibly formative period and I thought it was worth documenting those changes. This may be slightly self-indulgent and naval-gazing but I’m in a reflective state of mind at the moment. Both reflective and slightly unhinged, let’s be honest. This is going to be a tough week!!
Anyway…this is how the Bay Area has changed me and my family.
I became a runner. I’d been a runner for an 18 month period in the UK but when we moved here, I was very much a cyclist at heart. Within days of moving here, I’d been inspired by the tanned, long-legged, swingy-pony-tailed girls I saw running around San Mateo and I wanted to run again. Since we’ve lived here, running has become my addiction of choice. It’s brought me so much joy, so much self-esteem and so many friends. I’m looking forward to cycling more on the quieter UK roads but I’m super-excited to become a UK runner and to check out the UK running scene for realz.
I became a trail runner. – In all my UK running, it never ever occurred to me to run off-road. Never. Weird. Especially because we were BIG hikers. But we moved here and at the time there were plenty of wonderful running blogs set here in the Bay Area and of course many of them were on trails. I was intrigued. So one fateful day, I persuaded my boys to go to Huddart Park and hike whilst I tried running. It was literally life-changing and the trail obsession began. When we move back to the UK, investigating and joining the UK trail community is something that is getting me really excited.
Being outdoors became part of us. – I feel like we were fairly outdoorsy in the UK. We camped (which in the UK is a sign of being seriously tough). We hiked. We cycled everywhere. But the weather here is so wonderful that it became part of our identity as a family and I really hope we continue this in the UK. We’ll need some new gear (yay), we’ll need to toughen up our backbones and face the delightful British weather but I think that this is who our family is now, and that’s wonderful.
I became a cook – Let’s not lie, I’m still far from a great cook. But when we moved here I was truly awful. But I discovered food blogs, I discovered new ingredients, I discovered a couple of good, simple cookbooks and worked my way quietly through them and bit by bit, I learned to cook. There are still some dishes that I present to my family with apologies and promises not to make them again (we still have to eat them) but those nights are few and far between. Also, our diet has completely changed. Thanks to blogs like 101cookbooks or Minimalist Baker, our style of eating is totally different to how it used to be and I’m determined not to give this up when we move home.
I became a vegetarian – (Actually, an occasional pescatarian). Vegetarianism in the UK is hard. It’s a very meat-and-carbs centred diet and previous to moving here, I had NO desire to give up meat. It wasn’t even an option. The Husband and I used to give thanks that we’d not married vegetarians. But here, so many people ARE veggie and most other people don’t blink if you present them with a vegetable main course so, bit by bit, my perceptions changed. It became attractive to me and one Lent, I gave meat up as a trial and I never looked back. The Husband, a confirmed carnivore, was more than willing to cut back drastically on his meat and he eats the veggie food I serve him willingly. I am DEFINITELY not going back on this!
I became a preschool teacher. – When we moved here, I was on maternity leave from an office job working in marketing for a BIG company. Whilst I enjoyed my role and LOVED my colleagues, I knew that this didn’t make my heart happy, but I was trapped by the great wages and the perks. After five very happy years of mothering, I was ready to go back to work when the Dude started school. Two interviews later, I knew I wasn’t going back into the office. So I finally fulfilled a life-long secret hankering to teach. I went back to college a few days before my 40th birthday and nine months later I started teaching preschool. It has without doubt been the very best change to my life that California has given me. There’s such peace in finally doing the job God made me to do – and I’m grateful that the Husband earns enough for me to be able to do it, as you don’t teach preschool for the money. I won’t be teaching immediately in the UK – I want to settle the Dude into his new life for a few months – but come January 2018, I’m back in the classroom doing the job I love.
I became closer to God. – When we moved here, my life-long faith was a little fragile. I’d wandered away from God in my 20s and was just in the process of building my faith up again. This move has been amazing for my faith. I found the very best church in the world, full of lovely people who don’t judge but just welcome and love. It shaped me and built me up. Being a Christian in the UK is pretty tough – as a country, it’s very anti-faith, anti-God – and it will be a shock after the acceptance I’ve found here, but I’m ready to represent when we get back.
I became a leftie – Politically, I’ve always been pretty central, maybe slightly right of centre. But when you live in America if you believe in free healthcare for all, in a woman’s right to choose and in gun-control you’re pretty much socialist. I’ve been surrounded here by wonderful liberal friends who have made me think hard about what I believe politically. I don’t agree with them on all things but I’m definitely more passionate about political things than I was and I’m definitely a Guardian reader these days. I’ve been reluctant to get too much into the political situation here in the US. I’m a guest here and I have not been comfortable criticizing TOO MUCH the country that has welcomed me. Once we get back, I feel much more empowered to get politically involved, particularly given the delights of Brexit. So, my future MP, get ready for this California Leftie arriving on your doorstep with banana bread and lots to talk about.
I became a blogger. – D’oh. Here we are. This blog has also been one of the best things I did in California because I met you guys. And I’m so grateful.
I became nicer. – In the UK, we’re much more guarded towards people we don’t know. We hunt in packs, outsiders are not welcome until we know them well or unless we’re all drunk together. I think I was always the outlier, I’ve always been friendlier and more welcoming than the average Brit, but within a week of living here, I realized that I wasn’t as welcoming as I liked to think. I’m planning to take that wonderful California attitude of welcome back to the UK.
I became more sober – Talking of alcohol…we drink too much in the UK. We don’t drink anywhere near as much in the US. It was quite a shock when I arrived. Whilst I still love wine, the Husband and I are nervous of returning to the British drinking culture – I know I can be easily swayed so I need to be wary.
We became more American – we’re so Californian now. We give high-fives, we use words like ‘dude’, we stay inside if it’s cloudy, we only camp if it’s sunny, we hate sarcasm and teasing because it offends people…we’re in for a shock.
The Husband became #Ironballz – Triathlon is now a thing in our family. Ironman is now a thing in our family. I’m working on the Husband to do Ironman Austria because it looks wonderful and because we get another cat if he does.
We have a cat – Best. Gift. Ever.
We raised a Californian – We brought a fat British baby with us. We take home a tall, lanky Californian with an impeccable British accent. One thing I’m grateful for is the wonderful childhood the Golden State has given him. Endless sunshine. Swimming on hot days in icy snow-melt rivers. Cycling on warm evenings on pelican-studded trails by the water. Holding injured hummingbirds in his hands. Kissing agapanthus flowers and hiking through redwoods. I’m also grateful that he’s had a childhood with such diversity. In his class of 24, he’s one of 3 caucasian kids. This won’t be the case in rural England. I hope his nonchalant approach to diversity remains.
So there we go…lots of changes.Lots of things to be grateful for and lots of things to be careful don’t get rubbed away by the grey skies, grumpy people and excellent sausages.
One more week. Let’s do this.