As much as I have been excited about leaving this area, I think it's fitting to make a list of the things that I will truly miss. The order is not in terms of priority, it's just the order in which things came to me as I sat and typed.
1) New Friends-I have stated elsewhere that I'm bad at making friends, but that doesn't mean that I've made no friends in ~3.5 years. I have met some very nice people in science, and in the rest of the world.
2) Weather Changes - The actual fluctuation allows the mind to really go into transition and consider things, whether it's growth in spring or death in autumn, etc. The landscape here is amazingly different from season to season. There are many complaints which spring from this good point, but I'll save that for a later post. Seeing the world raining with leaves floating down is magical, as is walking through a forest of mere sticks with rare specks of green buds of new flowers breaking through that soil greeting me as I pass by them.
3) Food - There is a great diversity of food in the area, which is probably reflective of the people who live here. From down home Southern BBQ to Lebanese food, I have grown to try many more types of food. This is partially due to my growth as an individual, and due to the different things that are out there. A corollary of this is that given the nearly absolute lack of good Mexican food here, I have been stretched from my comfort zone to try things like Peruvian food, and am so thankful that I have done so.
4) History - Seeing places that formerly resided only in books, from DC to battlefields to quaint old towns with buildings that are over 200 years old, this is something California lacks. The main exception in my mind are those things built by the Franciscan missionaries, but that has its own architectural style and feel that does not compete in a good or bad sense.
5) Memories - Given the fact that 2 of my children were born here, and that my eldest spent so many formative years here, it will be something I'll miss. This is the place where so many first steps, etc., were taken, and as such I will always have a fond place in my heart for the DC area.
6) The Metro - Public transportation is awesome, and California is lacking in this department.
7) Working at the NIH - I complain all day about being a postdoc (or it would seem at times of despair), but the NIH has been a very good place for me to develop more scientific training.
8) The Culture - Now, if you quantitated all of the things I dislike about the culture here, the scales would violently crash in the opposite direction of disdain, but let me state here what I do like about the culture here. First, there is a greater sense of formality, which translates into people dressing more nicely. In fact, I still haven't adjusted and risen to their level of anti-slovenly appearance, but it's a goal I still hold in my mind. Second, there are so many great bars and restaurants and shops and activities, it reminds me of how snobbish a Chicago friend of mine once seemed. But ultimately, there is a strong sense of society that exists in different neighborhoods out there, for good or for ill.
9) The Christian "Atmosphere" - This is another highly qualified statement, but I will say this about the area. In an environment surrounded by history and tradition, there is a respect for that history and tradition. In some (mind you, SOME) individuals, this has led to a great fervor for being connected to our roots, and I don't merely say this as a Catholic. Our Protestant friends out here have a similar appreciation, but I guess what I'm ultimately thinking about is a very ecumenical atmosphere, where Catholics are willing to dialogue with Protestants (and on both a friendly and a debate level), and vice versa. This dialogue has brought me to challenging places, but where I have ended up is so peace-giving I wouldn't trade the awkward moments for the world.
10) The wildlife - seeing deer, squirrels (grey AND black, mind you), snakes and other interesting creatures on a regular basis has been very enjoyable. Many inverse corollaries arise when we move to the insect kingdom, but again, I'm here to be thankful.
11) The Chesapeake Bay et al. - When oceans go toe to toe, the Pacific destroys the Atlantic, if only for the fact that no hurricanes come to California through my darling Western Sea. But with that being said, there is something special about the Chesapeake Bay (and the major rivers such as the Potomac) for its unique feel as a body of water that is not an ocean. The water is "dirtier" in some senses, but in another sense it feels more living. While I still haven't learned to eat the Maryland Crab with the dexterity needed to really make it enjoyable, I am amazed by the life that teems in those waters. The communities that live along this water (I'm specifically thinking of St. Michaels and Annapolis) have a character that is like a beach town but unique.
12) Living Across the Country from Family and Friends - This sounds contradictory, but there's something very valuable about spending time away from so many people. It has helped me (at least try to) grow in my appreciation for my life. Many times we spend our day in drudgery thinking the grass is always greener on the other side, and there is nothing like going to that other side and missing that first location to realize that this is human folly in action. To be relatively isolated from a large group of friends and family has reminded me that our connections with each other, no matter how strong, should be made stronger when possible. I hope to return to California with this zeal in my mind.
13) I'll leave this blank for now and when more things come to mind, will add them as they come to me.