I've written before, specifically here and here, about what it's like to come back to San Francisco now after being gone for a year and a half.
At Christmas, as the four of us visited with my family and lots of friends we've known for years, it was the place where we became parents. We revisited favorite places with the boys and spent lots of time with their old friends, walking down the streets of our history as a family.
This particular trip has brought back the San Francisco in which I began my career. I am an independent agent here for four days, tooling around in my little rental car from lunch with a colleague to a client's house and then to my favorite hairdresser. I go out with colleagues (always some of my favorite people to hang out with) and laugh and talk for over three hours without noticing the time. I go out for a great dinner with my cousin, who's letting me crash in her beautiful apartment.
As I looked around the smallish room where I sat for the first day of my SCERTS training today, I felt like I was having an out-of-body experience, seeing people I hadn't seen in ages even when I did live here. One woman looked at me like I was a ghost, and said she'd heard I'd moved somewhere and so couldn't quite believe it was me. I wanted to say, "Neither can I." I had lunch with a woman I worked very closely with my first year out of grad school but haven't seen since I left the job 10 years ago.
I am acutely aware of my great good fortune. Grateful to have the life in which I am happier than I'd ever imagined I could be, back in my new city of Chicago. But on occasion, I stop myself while I'm here, living a life that feels an awful lot like my old life here - and where I am quite comfortable and have so many connections - and dare to ask myself cautiously, "Would you rather still be living here?", a little bit afraid to hear my own answer. But somehow the answer is always, "No," even when I'm surrounded by people I love.
I feel a little like I'm neither here nor there tonight, confused about where my real life is after a few days of this cognitive dissonance.
I think, though, that perhaps the truth is I'm always going to have these opportunities to be a little bit here and there; and in that, I have it all.