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

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.