Saturday, March 17, 2018

2 Months in San Francisco

I looked around my apartment tonight and reminisced about when I dragged the first boxes into my new space.

I'll share photos of my apartment decor sometime soon. May or may not have *just* hauled the last of the moving boxes down to the recycling bin...um...today....

Two months in and SF is still taking my breath away on the daily. The charming buildings, the street art, the abruptly alternating fog and sun, that vibe on early weekend mornings when the city is quiet and the streets are kinda empty, the cable cars climbing up and down the insane hills, the calf muscles I hope I'm developing from walking up said hills, the tourists seeing it all for the first time that make me feel all blushy inside that my home is worth tourist-ing and that to these people I am a "city person" who "actually lives here." (I gave someone directions the other day on a street corner!) I used to drive through San Francisco and stare up at the apartment windows and feel very very curious about the seemingly glamorous and sitcom-worthy daily lives of people who lived in the middle of it, and now I'm somehow one of them.

And, you know, there's the random people yelling at all hours of the night and day, and the sirens wailing up and down my street because I live near a hospital (I actually don't mind the ambient noise -- I have a harder time sleeping in absolute silence). Also, learning the hard way that getting packages delivered to a city apartment is a jooooke (anyone seen the Broad City episode where she has to journey to recover a package and meets Garol?) So, I get packages delivered to my office now.

Unexpectedly, being amongst so many people at all times also has a strangely distinct perma-loneliness to it.

The people watching is fabulous, but I'll catch myself envying the groups of friends and lovers out in my same coffee shops and parks and corner markets. It's a unique kind of "we're here together but not together" feeling I never experienced when I always moved around tucked inside a car. I know I have friends and people I make plans with too, and yet that feeling is there and I'm curious if other city people know what I'm talking about.

I crush hard on this city.

Out of all the cities around the world that I've visited, it's still my favorite. I love the light pinks and sandy beiges of the buildings sprawled out over the hills like ornate legos. The colors and proximity to the ocean make me feel like the whole thing used to be under water and just rose up one day all ocean-bleached like a coral reef, and the people simply filtered into its little corally spaces.

I'm still slowly learning my way around city life after a lifetime of suburbs, but it's an admittedly picturesque place to do some learnin'.

Dear SF: Let's not break up soon. xoxo











Friday, March 9, 2018

The Stories People Tell About You

I caught myself the other day in the middle of a chronic nasty habit: pondering imaginary worst endings to some random life scenario.

To be fair, this is a coping mechanism I sometimes use when I am spiraling into anxiety about [insert anything]. If I think things through to the worst-possible-ever ending, the one in which errrything goes terribly wrong, I often find that, in most cases, life would still keep going and the world would still keep turning. If I can picture a bad outcome to a risk, and realize that even if it happened I could survive it, it’s easier to be calm about moving forward.

But that technique aside, I’m talking about the negative edge of this habit of playing make-believe: when you imagine up stories about what people are saying or thinking about you.

e.g. when words come out wrong, or not enough words come out, or way too many words come out, and you fret for the rest of the day about how you could have handled a specific moment more smoothly / suavely / professionally / gracefully / maturely / whatever-ly.

Or something bigger than a stumbly moment — when you’re keenly aware of or paranoid about the things people will think or say about your BIG life choices (who you date, your politics, your religion, your tattoos, your brainwashed liberal California agenda, obviously this is about me, etc.)

It’s the worst feeling to worry about what people are thinking or saying about you. I also think it’s super normal.

How many times, in a given day, do we get caught up in wondering what the people in our lives (or total strangers) think about us? What they say about us? How often do we a) lose sleep / time / energy over these anxieties, or b) hold ourselves back because of it?

For me, a prime example is Facebook: I’ve come to associate a fair amount of dread with posting on Facebook because I immediately start sinking energy into worrying about how people will respond, emotionally prepping to deal with those responses, etc. Truly, social media can be the epitome of “this is why we can’t have nice things.”

To be clear, it’s not all imaginary make-believe baseless worry-warting. (Gross, is “warting” a verb?) Sometimes, these anxieties are rooted in genuinely realistic fear, based on how people have talked to or about us in the past. Other times, people couldn’t actually give a rat’s arse about what we’re doing or saying. Sometimes, they give way too many rat’s arses about it. Somehow, the fear of either scenario can be pretty crippling.

People are going to talk. And they’re going to think. They’re going to form opinions about your life choices and cringeworthiest moments, and they may keep it to themselves or share it with others or even (y tho) share it with you. Ideally they'd focus on writing their own stories instead of contributing to the comment thread of yours, but the world is not always a soft place.

Why do we care?

Honestly, does it matter why we care? If a thing hurts, it hurts. For me, the root of caring what people say / think about my life is based in a need for their approval. It’s generally the people at either end of the good-relationship-with-me spectrum (people I really love, and people I really don’t like), whose opinions end up mattering most.

People I’m attracted to, people I want to be like, people who have voiced opinions about me in the past, people I work with, people I hang out with, people I date or have dated or want to date, people I don’t want to let down, people I want to prove wrong, people I haven’t even met yet who might look me up on the Internet someday………somehow, all these people regularly end up on my list of phantom olympic judges on the sidelines of my life.

So…what’s the advice here?

Maybe I don’t have any strong advice. If I had a tried-and-true remedy for giving up the need for worrying about the things people say and think about me, I’d share it. (I'd also be a mythical unicorn?) Sometimes it helps to simply remind myself that life is short and I can only spend so much time worrying about other people, especially since it's impossible to please everyone. Sometimes it works to ask myself: what would I do if no one else's opinion mattered but my own? And then I try my best to do that thing.

I suppose the overall point of this post, if you can relate to what I’m saying, is that you’re not alone.

Maybe someday I’ll be zen enough to not bother giving a damn about what anyone says or thinks about my life. Maybe you will be too. Or maybe we won't be, but life will still be OK or better-than-OK anyway.

Also, maybe someday I’ll be really good at being gentle with the stories I tell about my own life.

How many authors are bylining the story YOU tell about yourself? More often than not, I hope it’s just you, I hope it’s a good one, and I hope it’s full of forgiveness and grace.


Saturday, February 17, 2018

Arrivals Curb

Sometime last year, San Francisco got under my skin.

Every time I'd visit the city, I'd regret leaving it more and more when it was time to head south to Palo Alto. *cue Moana song: it caaaaallls me*

But moving to the city meant finding a new apartment and that required $$$. And for me, that required a new job. Ideally, one in SF so I wouldn't have to commute.

And let me be very clear: trying to find a new job while you already have a full-time job and are also going to grad school full-time is f***ing insanity. It's hard, and tedious, and it hurts, and you have to slap a cheery smile on the whole time you're going through it because no one's supposed to know you're seeing other companies on the side. And every no is not just a no to a job you maybe really wanted, it's also a no to the new apartment and the other hopes and dreams tied up in landing a new gig. But eventually, thankfully, I pulled it off! So here I am.

And it feels damn good to have arrived at a "here."

5 years ago, I made a bunch of other big changes and arrived in California. And the shine of that new life lasted a good long while, and brought with it investments in other new things, like pursuing a different career field and enrolling in my MBA program.

And then, for a good long while, life got busy and very.much.in.motion. To stick with the metaphor from the title of this post, I was very much in the Departures Curb phase of life: a whirlwind of planning and preparing and hustling followed by long amounts of sitting in transit waiting to land somewhere.

And just like an international flight when you're sitting in coach and your body is folded up all small and the air is stale and perhaps your seat neighbor is irritating you a bit or perhaps a lot, this arena of life can feel......REALLY LONG.

Honestly, the last ~2 years of my life have felt.......REALLY LONG. I knew the finish lines were out there, and I knew I was investing in good things to come, but it often felt like there wasn't much immediate gratification for all the hard work. Lots of "means to an end" but mostly just the "means," ya know? Rewards and desired end goals at my job felt perpetually elusive and out of reach, and every new quarter of grad school rolled around with more and more quarters queued up behind it.

But then....

Things started happening all at once in a jumble around the 2017 to 2018 transition, when suddenly: job offer! new apartment! in the city! what is happening! And if the calendar says 2018, that means all my hustle at school is about pay off with a diploma before said calendar hits 2019.

Objectively, it's exciting. In practice, it's somewhat dizzying, like someone just spun me around really fast whilst blindfolded then tipped me into a stumbling walk forward. It's not bad, it's just all new and a bit disorienting.

Something tells me I'm still holding my breath.

And one of these days, whether soon or in a few weeks or months, I'm certain I'm going to have one of those startling wake-up moments where it all clicks into reality and I think, "Oh wow, this is real and it is my life and I deserve it and it isn't going away anytime soon." For now, I'm still waking up in my apartment (MY apartment! in the city!) a little bit lost in space -- floating pleasantly, but still adjusting to a new, altered state of gravity.

I guess it's like jet lag: when you're drowsily happy with the anticipation of being home, full of calm relief mixed with budding nostalgia for everything you just experienced, and tugging your luggage behind you through the revolving door that ultimately spits you out at the Arrivals Curb.

"Come pick me up; I've landed." Ben Folds




Friday, February 9, 2018

One Year Later

*taps mic awkwardly*

I had absolutely zero intentions of taking a full year hiatus from blogging, but here I am.

Let's catch up a bit....

Where do I live? 

Finally bit the bullet a month ago and moved into the heart of San Francisco after 5 years living an hour south of here in the Palo Alto suburbs. I'm a city person now?? I live on a hill, in a vintage brick building, in my very own studio, with a clawfoot tub, and I have to learn important city things like "how to rescue your packages from the post office when the delivery person can't access your apartment lobby while you're at work," and "how to gracefully vanish into the night when you fall over in front of a bunch of people on the city bus." Whenever anyone is ready to launch a sitcom about my life, let me know. Unless it means I have to form comical / friendly / romantic / etc. relationships with my neighbors -- I don't, how do you say, "neighbor."

Where do I work?

I left the small company I was at in Palo Alto and am now working at Twitter (!!), where I manage a program focused on technical learning and development for engineers. Considering how much I love helping people love their work, it suits me. I'm only 3 weeks in, so not much to report yet except there's free kombucha so I guess I drink living things that are good for my gut at lunch every day now. Stay tuned on all counts.

Did I finish grad school yet?

NO GO AWAY. I mean, soon! Faux graduation coming this June (*insert theatrical teaser trailer*), followed by a summer off from school, then wrapping up a couple credits in the fall, then ALL DONE. Soon.

Do I still own a pet fish?

Did you even know I owned one to begin with? Well, I did and I do. His name is Ron Swimson and he's a full year old. Taking care of him consumed so much of my emotional and physical energy that I quit blogging for an entire year. Ha. *side eyes Ron across the room* *Ron swims away and asks me for the hundredth time to please stop blaming him for my baggage*

Did I travel anywhere new?

I did! Without planning to, I even managed to have a theme to it: The Outskirts of the United States. See: Puerto Rico, Alaska, and Hawaii. It was real good times, with real good pictures, which you'd know if you follow me on Instagram. If you follow me there, there were no year-long or anything-long gaps in posting. The ease of such micro-blogging might be the true reason this space suffered neglect. *mouths "I'm sorry" to Ron across the room*

Have any new tattoos?

You bet your bitcoins I do. I'll tell you about it sometime.

Uh....anything else you feel like sharing?

*abruptly sits up from prone position on therapy couch* Yes, actually. I assembled an entire couch by myself a couple weeks ago. It's lovely, and I'll share pics when I have the rest of the apartment decorated and can share all the photos at once. Yeah you read that foreshadowing right -- this is me vaguely committing to not waiting until 2019 to post again.

k I mean like....anything meaningful or philosophical.

Oh, that. I'm sure I do. So stay tuned, and....happy 31st birthday to me. It's nice to be back.

"Don't they go by in a blink." -Meet Joe Black