Friday, May 29, 2009

I Don't Want to Go Home

Sadly it is Friday already, and the 21st Century Teenager and I have to head back to England today. I’ve really gotten a taste for life in Silicon Valley. I know better than anyone that places are always different when you holiday there rather than actually live there, but from what I have seen and the people I have spoken to, I think I could get used to this. Of course, a lot of my melancholy is because my husband is not returning home until Thursday lunchtime, and I find any separation from him very hard. I’m so grateful we were able to come out with him so that we could all be together as much as possible. He says he has enjoyed it as well, which makes me very happy.

I like Cupertino, with its mix of parks, shops, residences and businesses. You can see the hills in the distance and you are only about an hour from San Francisco - a place I love - and three from Los Angeles. I also really like Los Gatos, a picture postcard town not far from here, in the commuter belt but somehow apart from it. And then there is Santana Row, the amazing residential, shopping and restaurant complex about twenty minutes from here. They all offer a lifestyle that is undreamed of in the UK - and yet ironically is in many cases is much less costly than it is there!

I also have not seen one single drop of rain since I arrived, and yet the flowers and plants - including some incredible roses - are flourishing. The sun shines nearly every day, and the only thing that seems to hamper the good weather is the fogs that periodically roll in off the sea, bringing the temperature down a few degrees and hiding the sun - they are few and far between though.

I have to confess though that the only time I have ever felt this way about a place was when I wanted to immigrate to England - every time it came time to I leave I ached to stay - and that is the feeling I get every time we come to California.

There seems to be an optimism in the air that is so sadly lacking in the UK at the moment. Life has a quieter pace here - folks are up and at work very early, home in the early evening and by nine o’clock, most restaurants and bars are nearly empty. It’s definitely an early to bed, early to rise lifestyle, but it seems to work really well. Business is as frenetic as it is in the UK, if not more so, with everyone extremely motivated and driven, but in a more positive way. It doesn’t seem to be so much about working every hour God sends here. People actually take lunch breaks.

We’ve had a lovely time, just relaxing, sightseeing and shopping (unlike my poor husband who has been working like crazy, with meetings as early as 6am!). Ironically my son says he has managed to study more than if he had been at home. I have been incredibly disciplined about getting back to the hotel for 3 pm at the latest, and he has had a good solid three to four hours to just work uninterrupted, without any of the distractions of home. I feel sorry for him going back into the fray so quickly, with six exams next week starting at 10am Monday. I remember what that was like, although I do think the GCSE exams are so much harder than anything I did. I find it so upsetting hearing and reading all the things in the press about “too many A+ marks” and “the exams are way too easy”. And then there is the (in my opinion) incredibly unfair practice of Bell Curving the results if there are too many high marks to bring the marks down. It’s like we want our kids to struggle.

This is a controversial thing to say, but I believe that in the UK, the media, the government and even we ourselves are unconsciously setting the next generation up to fail. It’s all dooms glooms wherever you look and the future is anything but bright if you ask most people, particularly many of those who work with young people. Admittedly the UK seems to be imploding at the moment, with huge problems in the government, a high crime rate and terrible economic problems, but we really don’t even try to focus on the positive anymore.

For example, we have a friend here in California who lived in England when her daughter started school. From Kindergarten her British teachers shook their heads and tutted. She was told that her daughter might be dyslexic, she really was not academic and that it was all going to be a struggle. Needless to say her daughter did not feel very good about herself and hated school. Now they live in California and her daughter is thriving. She is a very clever girl, well spoken and mature for her age. It has been proven that she very definitely is not dyslexic and she is doing incredibly well academically. It is food for thought. If we tell our children they don’t measure up and it is all going to be a struggle, it is very likely it will be a long hard slog. If we tell them they are wonderful and they can accomplish anything, they have a much better chance of success.

However, whenever I mention that in England most people just dismiss it as “American” rather disdainfully. That really irritates me. No nation is perfect, but what is wrong with a little positivity? I think a dose of positive thinking and encouragement could go a long way towards motivating and inspiring the next generation in the UK. The UK has a lot of potential, and our young people do too. I have always stressed positive thinking and focussed on the good qualities of the young people in my life. It’s amazing how often folks will contradict me when I do it though, saying things like “we don’t want them to get big heads” or “life is not easy, and you can’t expect miracles”. Rubbish! I’ve seen miracles and I know they can happen. And I know for a fact that a child encouraged is a child motivated. If we don’t start to encourage and motivate our children in the UK, it isn’t going to be a very nice place to live very soon - for them or for us. The UK is a wonderful place and UK citizens are great people. We just don’t seem to believe in ourselves anymore.

I don’t think complaining accomplishes anything if it is not accompanied by action though, so I intend to work even harder on focussing on the positive. With that in mind, I will stop moaning about having to go home, and start to focus on how nice it will be when my husband gets home on Thursday (he has some time off for my birthday weekend immediately after he gets home.) I’m also going to be grateful that I will be traveling in comfort and that I have a nice home to go home to! I plan to try to incorporate some of the really cool things I have seen and learned this week in California into my home and my life. I got some great decorating tips and saw some wonderful things on my travels, which I will blog about in the coming days. I’m also going to try to work on incorporating the California lifestyle into mine, getting outside in the good weather, actually remembering to take a lunch break and being a lot more relaxed and laid back in my day to day life. Watch this space!

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