Ten years ago, I moved to San Francisco.
I was a newly minted college grad with, naturally, no clue what I wanted to do with my life, and after a few months living back home with my parents in the suburbs, I found an apartment with three other girls [and one bathroom – still not sure how we pulled that off] and moved up to the city.
SF ten years ago was a very different place than it is today – for starters, my portion of rent in our lovely Pacific Heights 4-bedroom apartment was $700. If you’re unfamiliar with the insanity that is the current Bay Area real estate market, paying $700 in rent is the “good ole days” pricing equivalent of when your parents tell stories of buying a Coca-Cola for a nickel at the corner store – a different time, indeed.
My roommates and I made batch after batch of chocolate chip cookies, had clean-the-apartment dance parties and watched this crazy new show called The Bachelor [though I was eventually banned from group viewings because I kept rolling my eyes and making sarcastic comments despite my roommate’s assertion “Mary, they’re just trying to find love!!”]
I worked at an Italian restaurant on Fillmore street that had been there for thirty years, where I learned how to slice prosciutto and ate my weight in homemade pasta with red-wine bolognese [clearly this was in my pre-vegetarian days]. There was no Uber or Lyft, and after one traumatic car-towing incident that involved me running after the tow truck crying at 7am in my PJs and rain boots, I left my car in the ‘burbs and stuck to walking or riding the 45 Muni bus down Sutter Street.
While I was living in SF I was applying to grad school, and I’ll never forget the day one of my roommates Mandy [who had just started working at this crazy company called Google] showed up at the restaurant with my acceptance letter to The New School. She had gotten home from work, spied it in the mailbox, and without even taking off her jacket turned right around to bring it to me because she saw it was “the big envelope” and we all knew what that meant.
After less than a year in San Francisco, I moved to New York City, and spent five years building a life there that included incredible friendships with some seriously kick-ass women, including my roommate Stephanie, whom I’d met through our mutual friend while studying abroad in college. My roommate adventures with Steph in NYC looked slightly different than SF, most notably by swapping out the apt-cleaning dance parties for mouse-catching dance parties – the “don’t let the mouse run over your feet while you try to shoo it into the closet” shimmy was all the rage in 2010.
After five years in New York, I had built I life I loved – but my best friend was about to have her first baby back in California, and I knew no amount of shiny NYC glitz could replace being here to watch him grow up.
The last four years living on the Peninsula have been a gift – proximity to my friends and family topping that list. But at a certain point I couldn’t keep denying what I’ve always known in my bones is true – I belong in the city. I come alive and feel most at home in when I’m in a place that’s humming with energy, diversity and a little grit. The city is my home.
So, fast forward ten years, and this weekend I’m moving to San Francisco. I’m living with a roommate I met through this crazy company called Google, where I now work thanks to my original SF roommate, Mandy. Through some beautiful, crazy, #fullcircle twist of life’s trajectories, Stephanie, that mouse-catching NYC roommate I lived with 3,000 miles from here, five years ago? She moved to SF last summer with her husband and impossibly adorable baby son, and my new apartment is just two blocks away from her front door.
As I’m packing up moving boxes this week, which I’ve done so many times in the last 10 years I’m afraid to count, I’m reflecting on the last decade of my post-college adulthood. I have started jobs and left them, dated and broken up, made fabulous memories that I treasure and painful ones that still sting, been in shape and out of shape, attempted a dozen different ways of getting my hair to behave itself, and generally made and re-made my life in a million different ways, but the thread running through the patchwork, holding it all together, are the people I have been privileged to do life with.
The last ten years have not been free of pain or loss, they have not been easy or carefree, and certainly not linear or simple. What they have been, though, is full of deep friendships forged out of shared experiences, precious memories and some serious amounts of cookie baking. The past ten years have been full of love, and for that I am stunningly, wholeheartedly, brought to tears grateful.
As I’m packing moving boxes, I’m shaking my head at how funny life is, and realizing that geography is no match for love.
So look out, SF – I’m coming for you. I don’t know how long this season will last, but I do know I’m already so grateful for it.