The Maybe Shelf

I’m moving back to San Francisco.

I decided last week, but on Sunday, I finally told my mom, which makes it more-or-less official. She was so happy.

“This has been sitting on my Maybe Shelf,” she said over the phone.
“You know, way up there where I’ll maybe look at it sometime…
And now it’s like, ‘Oh my god, get out the ladder!’”

The Maybe Shelf is where she put this idea — the one about my moving home — for the seven years I’ve been in New York. (We both love a good metaphor.) She thought it might have been longer. She didn’t know. Maybe.

“Me, either,” I told her, which is true.

If I’m honest, there are more things on my own Maybe Shelf than ever. I have goals, but I’m not sure I’ll achieve them. I have values, but I’m not sure I’ll find others who share them. I have opinions, but I’m not sure I’ll persuade others to believe them. I have plans, but I’m not sure I’ll make them happen.

For the last year or so, I’ve resented my growing collection of maybes. I’m decisive! I have plans! Look at me leaning in! All the questions and open-endedness have felt like a burden or — even worse, in my book — self-indulgence. Maybe they are. But I’m beginning to accept that this is just how things are going to feel for a while and learning not to avoid the insecurity it brings.

Late last year, midway through this change, I ordered a copy of the essay collection Worn Stories. All of the anecdotes are excellent, but one in particular has stuck with me:

“So much about feeling beautiful revolves around transformation.
But I think the real thrill lies in recognition.”

If you’ve talked to me recently about leaving New York, I probably told you that it was important to me to have a reason to go. I didn’t want to leave “just to leave.” I wanted a job, a storyline — something to justify passing up the careening opportunity that a life in this city brings. For my professional self, the last seven years have helped me understand people and companies and the tangled roots of media and technology better than I ever could have hoped. And this I’ll freely admit: It makes me nervous that when you say “media” to people in San Francisco, they think you mean TechCrunch. (Believe it.) But, hey, maybe I can teach them. Or maybe I’ll find something else to learn altogether.

This last New Year’s Eve, curled up on a couch in Los Angeles, I made a resolution to do more things that make me feel like myself. It’s taken me a while to notice, but when I am in the Bay Area, that is how I feel. Even in the overstuffed, overhyped, overpriced Tilt-A-Whirl that is San Francisco in 2015, I am still at home, and I still recognize myself there.

And that is my reason for leaving New York.

“I thought we’d made a New Yorker out of you,” a friend told me in a DM.

For a while there, I did, too. Maybe you have. Maybe not.