This month, after almost a decade living and working in San Francisco, we are quitting our jobs, moving out of our apartment, and boarding a one-way flight to Paris.
The timing is terrible, or maybe it's perfect. It became, somehow, inevitable.
We were both a few years into our respective tech jobs, each generous with freedom, benefits, and like-minded peers who quickly became friends. We were happy — so happy, in fact, that we jumped at the chance to move across town from our one-bedroom apartment in the Haight to a new home almost twice the size, a stone’s throw away from the Golden Gate Bridge. We began to feel like we had accomplished something that was unthinkable just a few short years ago: we established a successful, sustainable life in one of the most competitive, dynamic, exciting cities in the world. Life was good; we were lucky.
We had never exactly planned to stay in the Bay Area for the long haul. I moved to San Francisco straight from college, where John and I met weeks before our graduation. He planned to backpack with friends through South America, and I was on a fast track to New York City with a shiny new journalism degree in hand. (Remember publishing jobs?) But then I landed an internship in San Francisco, and John an entry-level job in Los Angeles, and when he asked if I wanted to keep dating, I said yes. A year and a half later, he moved up, and in 2012 we married.
We talked often about travel over the years, always some flavor of escapist fantasy. We would be ski bums in Colorado for a season, working the lifts and drinking microbrews in hot tubs. We’d take a year off and live in Spain, learning to talk like the locals and dance flamenco and eating jamón ibérico. The conversations ebbed and flowed with the tides of our careers, and there was never a “good time.” When he was tired of his job, mine was revving up. When I yearned for the next step, he needed to be patient where he was. Suddenly, I was 30. All around us our friends were starting families — which we wanted, too.
And then we moved into our bigger, better apartment, and certainties started unraveling. We reluctantly confronted a new truth: that by settling in here, we were settled. We were committing to a certain future, and those idealistic dreamers in the Haight were just kids, and words. We had shared an understanding, a promise that we were a certain type of person, but maybe we never really intended to do it at all.
Over the months, weeks, and days, we eventually intersected one of those critical life moments. There was never going to be a good time to leave. Adulthood has a way of expediting you into the next phase, funneling us into futures that we’ve been steadily and subconsciously mapping throughout the years without considering whether we’re ready for them or not, or whether we ever wanted them to begin with.
Recently, I was talking to a friend who said this: “I feel like, as we get older, we have so many more things to judge each other for.” What she meant was that over the past decade we’ve stratified into the different breeds of adults we knew in our childhoods. We have our families, our careers, our homes, our partners — and all of those slices make up the whole pie chart that is “us.” Maybe for that very reason, I’ve found that making a decision in my thirties is exponentially more difficult than it was in my twenties. Then, no one had a good job or a nice apartment. I knew what I wanted because my framework was narrow and my choices were fewer. Moving forward was easy. Now, before deciding which apartment I want to live in or company I want to work for, I have to decide what kind of person I am. And that’s, frankly, terrifying.
So we decided to go, without making any promises about who we are but maybe getting a little closer to finding out.
Here’s what I do know: money is a renewable resource, and time is not. Yes, it’s scary to leave two financially stable jobs for a hazy future that I can’t even begin to imagine. But, to me, it’s much scarier to take a chance on time — to wait and wait and wait until one day it really is too late to change, either logistically or psychologically. We live in a society and culture that is time poor and, frankly, proud to be. That scares me most of all: regret and, as they say, submission to fear itself.
Thus, our departure. When people ask how long we’re traveling for, we answer about a year, but really we don’t know. We don’t have much of an itinerary beyond six weeks in Paris and a hankering to learn Italian. We’d still like to taste that jamón. But mostly, I hope, there will be uncertainty and spontaneity and figuring out how to live without rushing — from home to work, from the tiny apartment to the big one, from where we are to where we’re going.