After 12 years of living in the UK, I’m going home — back to Southern California, back to Newport Beach. This will be a fairly personal post about the decision my family has made, but my blog was supposed to be for more than writing about gadgets and computers and donuts. Good writing is often deeply personal, and I don’t do nearly enough of that type of writing.
Back in December 1996, I came to Britain with my wife so that we could start a new chapter in our lives, that of raising a family. I didn’t want to leave home. I simply love California. I love Orange County and in particular, I love Newport Beach. I take nothing away from the many other beautiful and wonderful places in the world. It’s just that this is where I grew up. It screams “home” to ever fiber of my being. I literally feel the difference in the air, smoggy as it may be, that I breathe when I get back.
Nevertheless, I agreed to come back. I knew Britain and had spent much time here. Indeed, that’s how I met my wife, who is British. And she wanted to be home for this part of our lives. I figured it would be OK. There was no way to be both places, and I knew she’d be more comfortable near her family as we started having our own. We’d get back to California and perhaps eventually return there.
We did start going back. With my travel schedule, I returned often for work. As a family, we’d get back usually once per year. I often tell a story about the first trip back with my son who had just turned two or so. I took him outside, and he looked up at the trees with a puzzled look. I looked up and realized he was confused at the trees — they were palm trees, and he’d never seen them before. Or maybe it was just gas, but it makes for a nice story.
As the years ticked by, people would often ask me how I liked being in the UK. “It’s OK,” would be my standard answer, and I’d cover the general things about missing the weather at home, the general expense of things in the UK but how we lived in a nice village and universal health care couldn’t be beat. “Will you ever go home,” was a common follow-up question. Sure, I’d reply — when my kids were 18, daddy was going back, and anyone who wanted to join him could.
Over the past year, it became increasingly harder for me to say the “It’s OK” thing. I was traveling back much more, and I was finding I missed home even more. I couldn’t help myself — my responses more and more came out as “I hate it.” To all my UK friends, it’s not that I hate Britain. It’s that I’ve hated being away from my home, the place I’ve felt most comfortable.
Despite really not liking it, I felt I had little choice. The kids, you know. You can’t disrupt the kids. Or the entire family, to make such a move. Just. Can’t. Be. Done.
Or so I thought. Talking is a good thing, and my wife realized how much happier I’d be at home. Many of the things I love — and love to do with the family — are at our doorstep in California. Sure, Big Bear isn’t the greatest place to ski or snowboard, but it makes for a fun day. My youngest who’s into skateboarding — as I’ve been getting into — doesn’t need to be driven an hour away only to find the park is so wet that you can’t use it.
Being back in California also means a lot of good things in terms of work. So much of what I do is helped by personal meetings, but I get little time for these being 6,000 miles away from the heart of the search industry. For all these years, I’ve also worked a schedule where I know my day will stretch late into the UK night, because that when the California day is just getting going. And any trip back, that’s always meant at least three days away from home — one out, one back plus whatever work days in between. Since I got out so rarely, I’d often try to bundle a lot in a trip, which means I could be away for two weeks at a time.
Now I can hardly believe the change that’s about to come. Later this year, if I want to get an update with Google or Microsoft, I can jump on a plane and spend a day to do it, no jet lag, no planning multiple meetings around an already exhausting conference that might be happening.
It’s scary in some ways, mainly because of not knowing how our two boys will react. Talking to them this weekend, the first reaction was of not wanting to go. I’d felt they’d be OK, because each year I semi-joke with them about going back, and after our last trip, they actually seemed kind of eager.
Tonight, my oldest came in very upset, worried about the many things we’d be leaving behind. But my wife and I talked with him more, and he seems OK now. The thought that I’ll switch my Mini here for a Mini convertible there certainly brightened him up.
The treehouse I built, of course, can’t come with us. Believe me, if I could deconstruct it and transport it over, I would. But in the end, it’s only a thing. Things can always be replaced, or you go on without them. Life is more than worrying about things.
We know that kids are resilient, and we think the boys will be OK, and we’ll surround them with love as we embark upon this new journey. And daddy will start taking them to school in the morning, rollerblading alongside them as they bicycle their way, until they’re old enough to tell daddy to go away
The plan is to be back by August. It’s going to be a busy and changeful next few months as we move to that, and I’ll be blogging about how we go through it. But California here I come, right back where I started from. Open up those Golden Gates!