I don't think it's unique to San Francisco, because I think this is (or could be) true for anyone who's found a place that makes them feel like they can and should and have to be themselves. I don't doubt that for some people, that place is where they grew up. Maybe for some people it's college. Or maybe some find it in a foreign country.
I put myself back together in San Francisco.
If you'll indulge my blogging-as-therapy for a few paragraphs...
I was a happy and confident kid. And then life got bumpy in middle school, bumpier in high school, and was a mess by college (for both me and for my family). Maybe, probably, that's how it goes for everyone.
Or maybe not.
But I suspect we all reach a point where we think WAIT A SECOND. THIS IS NOT RIGHT. HOW DID I GET...HERE?
And that's when you begin the process of putting your first 20, 25, maybe 30 years in context. THIS was good. THIS was bad. THIS was me. THIS was not. Stripping out the falsehoods we learned or tried on or insisted we were. BONK! Wrong.
I got to SF with all these pieces of me, many broken, in an undefined mass. I have been rebuilding since. And what I love so much about San Francisco is that I never felt I was supposed to come out any sort of way. I've never felt pressure to have an office job or to get married and have kids. I've never felt pressure not to.
Perhaps it's not unique to San Francisco, and maybe I would have discovered the same things in Detroit or Aruba or San Antonio. I just think SF was the place I most wanted to be...and so it was the place I needed to be.
About the second week I lived here, I saw a woman on her way to work. She was wearing a black suit with a messenger bag/briefcase slung over her shoulder and had striking silver hair. She was on a scooter, gliding down a hill with her suit whipping in the breeze.
You just do your thing. SF is cool with it.
And so yes. I've done my thing. I've done my Broadway Best, singing my heart out at Martuni's piano bar, when I was the only woman and so had to do all the female parts in our Les Miz medley while standing on a stool before closing the place down (afterward, drunk patrons asked if I'd actually been on Broadway, and while I had to tell them, uh, no?, I've honestly never felt so talented in my life). I've seen the fireworks from the top of the Art Institute. I've only been to Coit Tower once, but that was for my a cappella group's photo shoot for Real Simple Magazine. I've been under the Golden Gate bridge in a wooden fishing boat. I've spent an afternoon in the Beat writers' bar, Vesuvio, next to City Lights Bookstore while scribbling in a notebook and drinking whiskey.
I've worn a LOT of costumes.
I am Cindy Lou Who and Tony is a Christmas Elf. Obviously.
I've been to Halloween in the Castro and the Folsom Street Fair and the Gay Pride parade.
I protested the war.
Sometime, probably October of 2003. I protested often.
I attended a semester of classes at SF State. I've had dinner at the city's top-rated restaurant twice (so far), and eaten the Tamale Lady's tamales at Zeitgeist .
One time at Zeitgeist, a group of naked cyclists showed up. Just because it's San Francisco and after a hard morning of cycling and protesting, even naked bike-riders need beer. The crappy quality of the photo is A) because I took it with my old camera phone and B) I wanted to be surreptitious about it. Didn't want to be RUDE or anything.
I've performed stand-up comedy.
I helped invent the "boobie shot."
I learned to knit.
I've had my butt mentioned in a local newspaper.
I've been a regular with my crazy group of trivia fans at the Edinburgh Castle's trivia night.
An overexposed photo from The First Trivia Night
I've made great friends; some who've moved despite themselves, some who've stayed despite themselves (many, not surprisingly, from the East Coast).
Missy & Dan -- May they one day return to the Bay Area.
Lisa (w/Ish) -- So glad she didn't give up on SF.
I've kissed girls (don't knock it till you've tried it).
El_G with S.O., just after the "new" bar Vertigo had opened. Also overexposed, because apparently that's how I roll.
I've had a bunch of crazy, weird, great jobs.
The 'hos. This was at my going-away happy hour. Perhaps it should be noted that I was working at this company when I started blogging. Since this photo, I still chat regularly with Liz (far left), Francis has had two babies, I'm no longer blond, and (Pink)Jaime remains one of my best friends. Mostly I love that this photo does nothing for anyone but me. Muahahahaha.
I've had my heart broken.
And I've found the love of my life.
Taken by Ish with his camera phone. I love it for its impromtu-ness.
Oh, and me. I found me, too.
The list goes on and on, and I'm grateful it does. It is long and it is more varied than I ever, ever dreamed it would be, back when I wasn't sure I'd even last a year in California.
Me and a martini the size of my head. Not entirely sure where. Really, this could be many, many, many, many places.
And so here it is:
I love living in the city and I have loved living in this city, and I feel full now. Whole. I got my shit together (at least, as much as I could; I am well aware that this is an ongoing process) and that's what I wanted to do here.
The Tamale Lady was just a bonus.
I'm ready for the next adventure. The one with a husband I couldn't be crazier about and a child I can't wait to meet.
I still don't know a damn thing about the furnace and maybe I'll learn and maybe I won't. I won't resent or fear its very existence, however. I won't dread the trips to Home Depot or hate non-city living simply because it is. I may even come to appreciate things like having a driveway, or a front door that doesn't require me to step around a homeless person to get to, or wondering if my upstairs neighbor's rave will end before my alarm clock goes off.
I'm not moving to a house in the suburbs instead of having a life in the city; I'm moving to the suburbs with all the experiences of having had a life in the city. Hoo boy. And that has made all the difference. (Maybe I'll be worthy of head-shaking from the domesticated neighbors who feel bad for my house-owning cluelessness, but I don't care in the least. I bet they never sang at the top of their lungs on a barstool at Martuni's.)
It almost doesn't matter where I go next. I feel confident that wherever it is, it'll feel like home. Because, yes, my husband and child will be there. But so will I be, the whole whole of me.
And for now, Napa seems absolutely lovely.
Our new home.
We move Friday. Not sure there will be much blogging in the meantime, but I added some photos to this post for fun. (Can you tell I've been cleaning up old files?) Please note: If you are not featured in these photos, it is not because I don't love you. It is more likely because I haven't unearthed that particular folder yet.