I have now lived in the Bay Area for over four years. I still periodically stop and take stock of my situation: "Am I living in the best place in the world?" The answer still comes back "Yes." In some respects, the honeymoon of 2005-2006 is over. I've been living here long enough to recognize the warts: the incoherence of state government, massive fiscal imbalances, hipsters in tight jeans, insanely expensive real estate, and more keep this area from being perfect. But despite its flaws, I still have a hard time imagining another place in the country where I would rather live. Every weekend, when I climb a nearby mountain and look down on the valley, I'm reminded of how great it feels to live in a place with definable geography, with character, to say nothing of temperate climate that lets me get out and about year round.
So my affection for the Bay Area has modulated; at the same time, so have I. During my second year here I noticed that I was gradually turning into a wimp. During my first winter I had scoffed at people who talked about how cold it was; during my second winter, I started turning on my heater on certain nights. I used to travel up to San Francisco several weekends a month to attend various plays, concerts, and events; now, even though I work in the city, it just feels like too far a journey for the weekend. ("Waaah... sixty miles to a world-class city is too far!")
However, some of the modulation is positive. One thing I missed during my first winter was... well, winter, and all the nostalgia that comes with it. There were no leaves turning red, no first snowfall, no icicles hanging from the roofs. As a result, it just didn't feel like the holiday season, and it was kind of a jolt to visit family in the Midwest and feel like I had been thrust into the climax of celebration without any of the customary build-up.
But now, my body and my mind are adjusting to the new signals of my environs. The last week has been rather chilly, with stiff winds. (Translator's note: "Rather chilly "means "Below 50 degrees.") To the old me, that wouldn't have meant anything. To the new me, it means winter, which means Thanksgiving, Christmas, food, family, cheer, presents, and all those wonderful things. It's been interesting to see how new signals are getting mapped onto existing experiences, creating a new set of stimulii that I'm gradually learning to respond to.