My very first introduction to San Francisco was at the tender age of six when my mother took me and my two brothers across the country on a 2-week train trip. I don’t remember much of San Francisco, except for this photo missing my two front teeth. That and the crookedest street in the world. It, like many experiences of my early years, faded into the recesses of my memory.
Some 20 years later I would be sitting in my office in Boston, daydreaming about moving to San Francisco with one of my best friends and colleagues. I’m not sure why we had it in our heads that San Francisco should be our destination; perhaps it was the fact that both of our older brothers had already moved there, perhaps it was the adventure of moving west towards a new frontier, perhaps it was the romanticism of a place we couldn’t fully imagine, some place new, different, exciting. Perhaps it was simply the fantasy of leaving everything behind and starting over, a new person in a new life.
Despite our daydreams, life had other plans for both of us. She, my colleague and friend, ended up on her own adventures between New York City, Paris and Washington, DC. My own path led me to Washington, DC and then finally west, but to a different destination… Los Angeles. Though I had spent all of that time dreaming about San Francisco, circumstances had led me elsewhere, and San Francisco just didn’t appear to be in the cards. That is until 2009, when a series of events “inadvertently” led me right to the place of my previous daydreams… I had finally landed in San Francisco.
At first it was a love-hate relationship. My heart was stuck in Los Angeles, and that coupled with my love of the warm weather of Southern California, meant that I was pretty miserable and found every reason to complain about San Francisco. It was not living up to my dreams of all those years before.
But as it always does, time went by and things began to change. My heart-strings began to release their tight grip on Los Angeles and I began opening up more to the idea of San Francisco being home. Little by little I began to acclimate to the weather, I began to find a new community of friends, I began to plant roots. San Francisco was becoming home. As it did so, the beauty around me began to become more and more apparent. Every time I would walk to yoga, I would stand in awe of the spectacular view of the skyline that was simply the backdrop of my walk through Alamo Square. The succulent scent of California’s year-round flowers wafted into my nostrils everywhere I went. The breathtaking view of the Golden Gate Bridge would render me speechless each time I passed over it or caught a glimpse of it from atop a high vista point in the city. The stunning views of the San Francisco Bay, dotted with beautiful sailboats, would come into my eyesight during a routine walk or drive. On almost a daily basis I would find myself amazed by the staggering beauty around me and exclaiming to myself, “My God. How on earth do I live HERE?”
As a writer dedicated to focusing on the positive and seeking out the joy of life, I strive every day to appreciate the beauty that is all around me and to not take it for granted. But like any human, even I have my moments when I lose sight of it. Tonight was one of those moments. As we just changed the clocks and it is suddenly getting dark much earlier than it was previously, I found myself disappointed by the loss of light in the day. As I was preparing to leave for yoga this evening, I posted this update to my Facebook page:
“Really not thrilled about it being DARK for my walk to yoga.”
Looking out the window I could see that it was dark and I was not looking forward to the walk in the cold, especially when I was so used to taking this lovely walk with the warm sun on my back.
I headed out the door and onto my usual route to yoga, which takes me through Alamo Square, home of The Painted Ladies. The minute I set foot into the park, I once again stood in awe. In the crisp fall air, the city was sparkling with absolute brilliance against the night sky, cradled by the glow of the bright moon above. I was immediately humbled and realized the error of my ways with my previous Facebook post. It was ironic that I was on my way to yoga. One of the themes that we frequently explore in yoga is the embracing of not only the light, but also the dark, the shadow side of life. As the seasons change and we move into a darker time, the yoga invites us to explore the darker side of ourselves, our experiences and our emotions. And it invites us to embrace both, to see the beauty in both, the opportunity for growth which comes from each. As I reflected on my dissatisfaction about the days turning into night, I realized that I was missing out on the opportunity to embrace both the light and the dark. And as I walked through Alamo Square and marveled at the beauty of the night scene around me, I felt nothing but wonder and gratitude.
I thought about the 6-year old me sitting in front of the Golden Gate Bridge with my brothers, completely unaware of the fact that this would one-day be my home. I thought about the 20-something me daydreaming with my friend about San Francisco, about how we would get there and what it would be like. And I thought about the current me who had evolved from a place of daydreaming, to ambivalence about a city, to embracing it as my home. And as I looked at the stunning skyline glittering beneath the light of the moon, I was overcome with emotion and I once again thought to myself, “My God. How do I live HERE?”
This post is dedicated to Jules, who has forever been my ally and friend
along this journey.