Recently, I took a little break from blogging and packing and New Yorking and made my way to the San Francisco Bay Area. It was a pretty spontaneous decision egged on by my bestie, who always seems to know what I need. I’m no stranger to the area, having lived there twice, once for two years and then again for five. But, it was weird going back this time, bittersweet and yet, a much needed journey of resolution.
I think it’s easy to take for granted the energy of the places we live and the impact it can have on our lives, if we let it. San Francisco was supposed to be my nirvana, my happy place. When I moved there in 1993, I was completely enamored by the hills and the houses, the way the water surrounded the city and the perfect weather day after day. And although I missed my New York bagels and Brooklyn pizza, the local Thai and Mexican food surely made up for it.
But, I quickly learned that my “city by the Bay” would not settle for my superficial love. And just as the ominous fog or sudden earthquake can shatter the idyllic postcard image of San Francisco, so did the city to my life and not just once, but twice. The first time, my life was turned upside down by the broken trust of a colleague. The details are long behind me, but at the tender age of 23, I was burnt out and betrayed. In the face of complete exhaustion, I packed up my bags and sought refuge in my parents’ home, inevitably forced to confront and heal the lifetime of accumulated tensions and offenses between parents and child.
I survived my brief stint with mom and dad and made my way back to the Bay Area in 2005 by way of Brooklyn and Washington D.C. This time, I had a 1 year old in tow and was embarking on a professional path that I thought would settle me there for life. But, the aftershocks came and San Francisco let me know that I had more healing work to do. Five years of heartbreak and unfulfilled expectations sent me back to the East coast in an attempt to escape the craziness that had descended on my life.
Now, eight years later, as my plane started its descent into SFO, I began to feel a little melancholy. Of most of my East coast friends, I had been the trailblazer to this glorious place. As I took in the view, I felt as though I was mourning a vision of a life; a dream deferred. How had so many unexpected twists and turns taken me so far away from this place my heart had been devoted to? With all its peace and love, quaint cable cars and painted ladies, how had this city come to hurt me so?
During my visit, a dear friend treated me to all the Thai food I could eat and reminded me of how far I had come since those dark days in the Bay. And I thought perhaps I had it wrong. Maybe I didn’t see or understand the real energy of the Bay and its capacity to shake me into a healing place. Yes, the San Francisco Bay Area is beautiful, but she’s also fierce as hell and demands activism, both personal and communal. Beyond the earthquakes, she gave us the Black Panthers and Harvey Milk. She gave us Alcatraz which exists as both “the Rock” and the sacred gathering place of Native Americans daring to take their land back. She opened her arms wide to the gay community and led the charge against the AIDS epidemic when the rest of the nation wasn’t listening.
Maybe the Bay hadn’t hurt me at all, but helped to heal and fortify me for the dreams to come. Thank you San Francisco and Oakland and Alameda and Berkeley and Marin. Thank you for the energy of your awe-inspiring hills, chilly fog and rough waves.
I can bid you a proper farewell now.