Caught up in the whirlwind of life, I stepped away from writing. My story became too much for even me to handle… I created a narrative, based on truth, and didn’t know how to end it… because I knew it wasn’t over. I thought that there was more to say about The Fella, but I was uncertain of what it was. I knew that the wounds in my heart were still raw, but I wasn’t sure of how to proceed– how to tell all of you that I didn’t know what to say next. And so I put it to bed; I pretended it was over and I was ready to complete a tale.
I have been in San Francisco for just over 9 full months. That’s it. In ‘program’ speak, I pulled a geographic and uprooted from a place in which I scarcely had roots… I was but a seedling in New York and instead of allowing that tree to germinate and grow, I burned down the entire forest. At the time (and still to this day), when asked why I left New York (and Minneapolis, for that matter), “Why did you come to San Francisco?” My canned response has been… Change. I came for change: of pace; of scenery; of climate.
But I didn’t do it to hurt you; I did it to protect me.
Those answers are not untrue, but they mask something deeper. They conceal the reasons I ran from New York. And it turns out, it’s not about The Fella at all, he was just part of the amorous roadkill along the way. You see, I love New York– its fervor, speed, and people. In New York I wanted to push the limits of my own comfort-zone, and having a core group of loved ones there doesn’t hurt, either. I miss them daily. I ran from New York not to get away from them, but because I was (and still am) afraid of who I could become if I give in to every impulse that arises in the Big Apple. For me, indulgence is a slippery slope– like the dwellers of The Capitol of Panem in The Hunger Games, I would consume anything and everything in excess until I was sick, then do whatever I could to feel better, temporarily, and make room for more decadence.
So much of that impulse is rooted in a broken heart that I never acknowledged… and, truth be told, it didn’t start with The Fella. It started so long ago– my heart broke early in life, and I continued to patch it with temporary bandages that would quickly peel away and reveal the chancre of my bleeding soul. I used to blame people for all of that hurt, but I have given up on blame as it is not a useful tool; it only defers the accountability. Whether I found myself in a situation that was not ideal, or intentionally put myself there, I was the common denominator. I stood there, accepting whatever truth was being laid out for me to consume. I didn’t intervene, at least effectively, when I thought otherwise.
So… why did I come to San Francisco? Because I was scared. Because I ran. Because I didn’t know where to go or what to do in New York anymore. Grad school gave me a purpose, and once I completed that, I felt paralyzed by the unnending options the city offered. So, I fled… to an even more expensive city where there is a clash between technology and human going on, a shift and conflict that is disturbing beyond belief, but fascinating from the inside.
Something unexpected has happened since I arrived in San Francisco; the city has worked its magic on me. Perhaps it’s because I feel like Mary Ann Singleton with my Midwest roots, greeted by my own personal Mrs. Madrigal with open arms out here, but I have begun to feel a sense of peace.
When I assess my personal timeline, from birth to now, I remember laughing and experiencing joy, sure, but I don’t recall many times where I felt genuinely happy– you know, the kind of ‘happy’ that is absent of worry, stress, and what’s next? I spent my lifetime, until recently, thinking that a) I didn’t deserve love because I was flawed, b) I couldn’t be myself because no one would like that person, c) I wasn’t good enough for X, Y, and Z, and d) I had nothing to offer to the world. I have been hung up, for a long time, on the notion that I was forever doomed to repeat my mistakes, to ruminate in the pool of thought that once controlled me, and that I had to abandon my former self in order to find contentedness. Quite the contrary… In my short time here, so far, I have learned that I need to be okay with embracing my 5-year-old-self who learned he had to be someone else in order to protect himself and his feelings; I had to forgive myself for allowing my guard to fall when I was preyed upon by that choir teacher in high school; I don’t need to hold grudges against family members or people with whom I thought I was in conflict. Will there be disagreements in the future? Absolutely. But I am tired of hanging on to old stories that no longer define me. While those stories will forever be mine to write about — and don’t worry, all will be revealed eventually — they don’t have to impact me with the weight of the world. There are new, much more pressing battles to fight, new changes to make, new roles to play, and new discoveries to make.
I have met, and continue to meet, really remarkable people in San Francisco– people who have invited me to dinner, offered me jobs, trusted me, wanted to spend time doing nothing… with me. While I used climate, pace, and scenery as excuses to move to San Francisco, they have become real reasons to be here. Most notably, however, I feel at home here. I have longed for a place where it felt good to allow myself the space to plant my roots… and this is the first time in my adult life that I have wanted to actually stay-put for a moment.
That said, I hear Los Angeles is lovely. Just a thought…