They were full of questions, and we talked intensely for well over an hour as my time lapse clicked away. During that conversation I began to realize how powerful “place” is. I’ve rarely given much thought to how physical place impacts the way we live and who and what we become. But I’ve come to realize the impact is profound. This young man, a member of a minority class, [/twocol_one][twocol_one_last]would benefit so much from being here, in this place. This time, this place, would open doors of possibility for his future that would change the course of his life. An amazing thought.
Then I began thinking about how this place, the west coast in general and the north Bay Area specifically, has impacted my own life in the brief time I’ve been here. Now, don’t get me wrong, I loved living in Atlanta. I enjoyed the 2 years I lived in the Midwest. But I feel as though I thrive, not just enjoy, while living here in California.[/twocol_one_last][hr]
So here are some noticeable differences:
- I drive much, much slower. I rarely speed at all. In Atlanta, I drove like a madman–as fast as I felt I could safely drive. (My car routinely was flying down the interstate at 80mph.)I suspect the difference is that I spend vastly less time in a car now.
During the week, in Atlanta, I spent at least 2.5 hours a day in the car. (That seems just insane to me now!)
In California, there are days I don’t get in a car at all, and rarely for more than 15 minutes the entire day. Well over half of the people who live in San Francisco don’t even own a car!
- I see the unspoiled mountains, the rolling hills, the drama of the ocean’s coastline and/or the bay every single day, many times a day. These large expanses of water and open space bring me a huge sense of balance and tranquility. This has really become significant to me.I grew up on the gulf coast, near the Pensacola Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. I didn’t realize how much I missed the water, the open space, how much expanse impacts my sense of being, my sense of equilibrium.
- Atlanta was more about busily rushing around–getting from place to place. California is more about being in a place, absorbing place and time, letting it permeate my sense of being alive. This place results in a remarkably different state of mind.
- In the north Bay Area, I’m surrounded by very bright (some intense degrees and lots of them), highly actuated, creative, very liberal people. I find this intensely refreshing, liberating, and enlightening! The south, generally speaking, seems to distrust education.
Overhearing and engaging in conversation about Stanford, Berkeley, Yale, Harvard, about research, the arts, clinical trials, entrepreneurship, design, start ups, the “next big idea,” etc. is commonplace–the norm, here. Even as an educator in Atlanta, overhearing or engaging in that type of conversation was rare. This place is about exploration of possibility not the conservation of a status quo.
- In the north Bay Area, people seem to value standing out, and some stand out a lot. There are many interesting, colorful “looks”—people comfortably wearing a defined, stylized sense of self and individualism. People here choose to define themselves rather than letting others define them. This makes for interesting conversations and experiences.
In Atlanta, many, if not most, people seem to value conforming to an accepted social norm that is conservative, often projecting some sense of material gain and religion.For example, yesterday, at lunch, I overheard this conversation fragment from the 4 young people sitting behind me: “This is San Francisco [even though we were eating in Mill Valley in Marin County, not in San Francisco]. Men hold hands in San Francisco. She just needs to get over it.”
- People in California are generally extremely physically fit (far more so than I am!) and spend a good bit of time outdoors: hiking, jogging, biking, being on the water: kayaking, surfing, wind surfing, kite surfing, boating, sailing. This has motivated me to enjoy a lot more time outside.
- Probably because of the ocean, the weather here has a narrower but more delightful range. It is much cooler, massively windier, intensely foggier, and incomparably less humid. If the temperature goes over 64° and I have to take off my jacket, vest, or coat, I feel as though I’m roasting!
Living near the ocean, the windows to the house are frequently open, and I’ve grown absolutely addicted to the fresh air. Again, in this place the line between indoors and outdoors is blurred.
- We now only drive with electricity, no fossil fuel, driving only on sunshine from solar panels. It’s about fresh air, fresh water* and minimizing noise pollution. At city hall this past week, I was involved in an interesting extended conversation about noise and air pollution as it relates to Sausalito traffic, a thick stew of cars, busses, bikes, and pedestrians. I’m delighted to see that Atlanta seems to be exploring solar more and more, with a surprising number of electric and hybrid cars on the roads!
- The notion of being conservative has a completely different meaning here–conservation. Conservation, in general, has become very important to me. I make our own carbonated colas to significantly reduce plastic waste (and oil consumption). I use re-usable shopping bags at the grocery store. Conserve water. Refill. Re-use. Recycle.
We have significantly more recycling and composting than we have trash. I gave very little thought to minimizing my footprint when I lived in the south. Now, I’m all but obsessed with reducing waste, and minimizing the use of water and fossil fuels.
*I’ve forgotten the exact statistic, but the manufacture of a single gallon of gasoline pollutes a significant amount of water.