Monday, August 31, 2009

Happy anniversary.

My college gallery opening had a program of sorts, where all the graduates gave a short bio and quote. The end of mine was "It's been a good run - here's to the rest of it."

This time one year ago, I was zipping up my suitcases. I had to wake up early to catch my 6 a.m. flight out of Dayton, so I'm pretty sure I tried to go to bed early. I didn't take much. I assumed I'd just buy everything again when I got to San Francisco.

I didn't have a job. I didn't have an apartment. Thanks to an overlooked exit counseling session, I didn't even have my real diploma in my hand yet. The $1500 I had received three months earlier as a combination of graduation presents had long run out and I was living my life on a slowly dwindling credit card limit. I owned a house, I had a life, and now I was going across the country on a one way plane ticket in two suitcases. I don't do terrified very well, but I managed to figure it out for that day. It wasn't exciting. It wasn't exhilarating. It was awful.

So I arrived in San Francisco and I settled down to do whatever it is you do when you're 23 and you just gave your life up. I found a one month sublet for $600. It was 10x10 and couldn't hardly fit my bike and didn't have a kitchen. It had a bay window that looked onto 18th street and the sun woke me up every morning. I needed that bay window. I didn't have much to get me up in the mornings and having a natural, warm alarm clock will always be my favorite memory of San Francisco.

I broke my collar bone 18 days after moving here. It pissed me off. I had no money and no future and now I couldn't even put my own shirt on. Ten days later I scored a $700 freelance job that paid my rent for October in the new apartment that Harry and I found. It was the first money I made since graduation. I paid my rent, bought a burrito, and stored the remaining $150 away in the hopes that it would feed me for a month.

Things got better. I got another freelance contract, one that I still hold today with an incredible company that was really the first to take an interest in me out here. I took a job for a few months in Silicon Valley that just wasn't right for me and learned a few huge lessons about how I wanted my professional life to start. I returned to freelancing and have managed to make a pretty strong go at it. I've been overbooked for a month and a half and while it would be inappropriate to say that this might be things turning around, let's just say I'm hopeful.

It has been a heartbreaking year in a lot of ways. Say what you will about personal growth and learning, but none of it comes all that easy. I have not fallen in love with San Francisco the way everyone else seems to, but I'm slowly making my place here. I have a favorite bar. I have a couple of favorite restaurants. I've been car-free for over a year and have managed to do all the traveling I need to on a bicycle, something I wouldn't have ever believed was possible a year and a half ago.

I miss everybody and I miss everything. Being on the west coast when everyone you love is at least two time zones away is awful. I've become a much more internal person since moving here, and perhaps that's okay. I'm a little smarter, a little more calculated, a little more careful. But at the same time, it's the most unrestrained I've ever been. There's nothing glamorous about this life - it's a whole lot of Tecate on our roof deck, and a whole lot of $5 burritos because they can last me for two meals - but it is a life that's completely fluid and unpredictable and it's exactly what I needed to do.

San Francisco, I've been real hard on you this year. You are expensive and a little hard to get around and I'm pretty negative about you sometimes. So here's to all the Tecate on the roof deck. Here's to freezing at night because it's California and I'm too stubborn to wear a jacket somewhere that sounds like it should be warm. Here's to appreciating every single sunny day at Dolores Park, to burritos the size of my face, to street food regardless of whether it's made by 30 year residents selling bacon-wrapped hot dogs or new residents with push carts. Here's to your ridiculously beautiful neighborhoods, your ocean, your bay, your wine country.

Harry's quote was "This is it, kids, we're going to live forever. We're part of the story now." Breaking a collarbone 18 days after you throw caution to the wind and move across the country discounts your invincibility a little bit, but I think I'll hold on to it for a little while longer. It's been a good run, San Francisco. Here's to the rest of it.

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