06 September 2007

I left my heart...

in San Francisco
High on a hill, it calls to me
To be where little cable cars
Climb halfway to the stars!
And the morning fog will chill the air

I don't care.

When I come home to you, San Francisco,
Your golden sun will shine for me!
* * * * * *
Exactly one year ago today, I landed in San Francisco about to embark on what I considered "the study abroad that I never went on." You see, I grew up and went to college in the Midwest, the greater Chicagoland area to be exact. As a young adult in the Midwest, I felt that there was more out there that I wanted to see, more that I wanted to do. So I headed to NYC to get my masters. Despite the effects of the on-the-go, in-your-space lifestyle, I still loved that city. I loved the culture. I loved the diversity. I saw myself living in NYC for the greater part of my adult life.

But then, life happens. A great professional opportunity arose for me: a one-year position in San Francisco that would give me freedom to apply to doctoral programs. My entire life, I had *never* considered living on the West Coast. Isn't that for really laid back people who say "dude" a lot? I had just begun to get settled in NYC, finally adjusted to the urban life, established relationships, had professional connections. In SF, I had two friends and zero relatives. But I decided to follow my gut and throw myself into a completely unpredictable year.

I won't lie. The first five months or so, I had a strong disdain for SF. I made constant comparisons to NYC, and SF always came up short. I bemoaned the seeming necessity of a car. MUNI couldn't hold a candle to the MTA. Businesses close so early! The food is so fussy! Bourgie people with their organic produce and cage-free eggs!

As I got over the adjustment hump, I realized that I had been unfair and naive in comparing SF to NYC. It's like comparing Fujis with Navels. So, I stopped complaining and sought to embrace all the wonderful unique things that SF has to offer. This meant pushing myself to take risks and try things I had never considered before. I became active on Yelp, a robust community that could only flourish like it has in a city as open-minded as SF. I met and became friends with people from different walks of life, learning something new from each and every one of them. I reaped the culinary and cultural benefits living in a city with the largest Asian population in the US. I took in the wonders of Nature at Muir Woods, in wine country, and even just walking around Russian Hill. I acquainted myself with the many different neighborhoods, appreciating the character and cultural differences in each one (the Mission and the Richmond being my favorites). I learned that people don't just buy organic to be pretentious but to support the local agricultural industry...and that everything from the Farmer's Market really does look, smell, and taste better! I realized that business close early because people truly value quality of life! And maybe I wanted that too...a life where I am not struck with Seasonal Affective Disorder every year, a life where I actually get out and enjoy myself instead of fighting the crushing of my soul.

Before I knew it, I had fallen in love with San Francisco and the Bay Area. Of course, like any city, it has its pros and cons. But, ironically, for a place I had never seen myself living in, I have never felt more like "myself"- a happier, more open-minded, easy-going, extroverted, nature-loving person that I had never even known possible. As I move on to this next phase of my life, I take a piece of SF with me in my heart. Yes, I am very sad to be away, but I take comfort in knowing that one day I will return to the city that my soul calls Home.

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