Nothing but roots.
I’ve been going through a lot of my old writing recently, something I’m apt to do when faced with a big life transition. I tend to return to previous periods of evolution, searching for guidance on how to feel, how to react. It’s been an odd experience, to pour through years of writing and suddenly notice how the dreams I had once crafted with striking detail now seem so absent from my life.
Growing up I always thought that I would live with a pen tucked behind my ear, a life on the run. I thought I would live in a perpetual state of travel and transition, a life of total impermanence, traversing languages and time zones and existing without an address. I imagined that love would come in waves, break with the current, and get washed out to shore. I never thought or expected that love would be my sun, a star around which my entire life revolved.
I used to write about so many things, about the cities I would conquer with my words and the bodies I would break beneath me. I had so much passion, I thought it would scorch everything and everyone around me, destroy all of my relationships.
Yet here I am. I look back and notice how the practicality of reality has weighed on my decisions. Boxes packed around me, on the cusp of a brand new life.
Since moving out of my family’s house, I haven’t decorated anywhere that I’ve lived or anywhere that I’ve worked. My reasoning was always that this apartment, this desk, this space was transient - I would exist here for a certain period of time, and then I would move on. This was also the case in some of the flings I had while in an open relationship: I always saw the expiration date. What was the point in investing my money, my time, my energy, my love in anything that I knew would inevitably end?
This next move is different, though; there is no end date. And it’s strange, because I’ve spent my entire life thinking about my next move, about the future that existed right around the corner, and I feel very removed from that line of thinking now. While I’ve had to bury a few dreams to get to this point, I now have nothing but roots to dig into the ground.
San Francisco, I love you, but I’m leaving you.
San Francisco, I have loved you long and I have loved you well, but the time has finally come for us to part ways. In 2.5 weeks, I’ll have a new city to call home.
It’s bittersweet to think of all the things I need to pack away in preparation for this move. Beyond my clothes, my journals, my furniture, my appliances, there are many other, intangible parts of my life to walk away from, routines and traditions and acquaintances to shelve. Remnants of a previous life.
In the 4 years that I’ve been here, I have seen and tasted so much of what this city has to offer - I’ve explored continents of food within city blocks. I’ve spent cold afternoons holed up in cafes, reading and writing in Japantown, the Mission, the Castro and Lower Pac Heights. I’ve let the sun bend down and kiss my skin in the Marina, in North Beach, and on the rare occasion, even in the Richmond. I’ve let the rays embrace my pigments and depart them a deeper, caramel tone.
I’ll miss the bits of my life that I’ve shared with random strangers - the man in the halfway house across from my bus stop who nicknamed me “Boots.” The impoverished man with three kids who sold incense in front of my office building and who inadvertently taught me humility. The regulars in my yoga classes. Even the lascivious 94-year old WWII vet who hit on me twice while on my way to the gym.
It would be fruitless to try and catalog every notable experience that I’ve had in San Francisco; there are too many. I’ve stomped around this city for years, littering it with memories. Concerts and dinner dates and festivals and happy hours and questionable decisions, one after the other. It’s difficult to walk away from a city that I feel has taught me so much about myself, that taught me generosity, autonomy, strength and spontaneity.
I feel like these words aren’t even enough, they don’t do this city justice. How much more can I convey that I fucking love this city.
San Francisco, I would hate to call this the end, so let’s just call it a new beginning. A new beginning to a different chapter, in a story that will feature you again soon. I can’t wait until we meet again.
A night for a freewrite.
One of the consequences of keeping a journal for 15+ years is that I tend to get headaches when I don’t write for extended periods of time. Memories pile on top of each other until my head feels as if it’s about to burst; often, I’ll write just to quiet the many sentences and paragraphs that rush, almost screaming, through my thoughts.
I haven’t really written anything of substance in months. My journal collects dust; almost all of its most recent entries open with an apology about my extended absences of writing. I’ve just been so busy, so depressed, so anxious, so tired. I have been everywhere and felt everything, enjoying only very few occasions of perfect, refreshing solitude where I can collect myself, my thoughts my feelings my internal and external pressures, and process them all. Since this is one of those rare moments of quiet solitude, I thought I’d take the time to write about some of the shit going on in my life.
Work has been crazy. It weighs on me heavily, all hours of the day, waking or otherwise. I’m not complaining, so much as I am continually bewildered by the state of my “career” (an already odd enough thing for me to say). It’s been almost 4 years since I graduated from college, and I often think about how I could have never predicted the trajectory of my life since graduation. I always envisioned myself starving, writing, barely making ends meet, pursuing the vaguest shapes of dreams. I’m caught off guard by the stability of my life. I question if I deserve it, or worse, if I’ll someday lose it.
And then there’s Chris, who I, for the most part, try to avoid talking about too much in any real or personal terms. But I’m making an exception tonight.
Anyone who knows me or who has followed my writing knows that Chris’ and my relationship tends to go through chapters of evolution. We’ve traversed “breaks” and “break-ups” and being in an open relationship and being in a monogamous relationship; we’ve explored mountains and valleys of emotions together. If my recent posts are any indication, Chris and I have been going through one such chapter of evolution recently.
I sometimes think I give off the impression that my love is effortless, that it flows out of me with ease, that it knows no jealousy. In reality, my love is fucking crazy. It seeks to possess and to control and to manipulate, and it’s a constant effort for me to manage my love, to reign it in, to teach it to be rational.
I once wrote that it’s easy to become defined by a long-term relationship. But I’ve since then discovered that when you’re in an long-distance relationship, it’s surprisingly easy to redefine yourself outside of it. It’s an uncomfortable push and pull, to reflect on the people you were at the beginning of the relationship, to the people you’ve become outside of the relationship, and then to determine how these new versions of yourselves will continue to fit into the other’s life. It’s an odd experience, to have to rediscover a foundation for something that you feel has been growing for so long and shouldn’t need rebuilding.
All in all, I’ve had a challenging past few months, with the next few gearing up to be just as challenging, if not more. Amidst all this, I remain hopeful, bracing myself in anticipation of easier days.
I’m a really unsuccessful online dater.
In my time living in San Francisco, I’ve tried out a handful of online dating sites and apps. I’ve activated and deactivated my OkCupid account at least 3 times, went on a Grouper date, and have played around on Tinder, Hinge, DuoDater, and god knows what else. The only conclusion I can come to based on my brief forays into the world of online dating is that I’m really just too fucking intense to do this shit successfully.
As one who has consistently written in a journal for almost two decades, I spend a lot of time thinking about my interactions with people and the way that I intentionally, or unintentionally, carry myself around others. In the moment, I often default to exchanging sentiments that are sarcastic, crass, or almost chronically apathetic. So I spend a lot of time attempting to define and articulate the manner in which I approach interpersonal relationships; I regularly dissect my conversations and consider how my words might cause me to be perceived in a certain light. I know I’m not a bad person, and those who get to know me on any level of familiarity know that I actually emit more warmth than my typically cold demeanor would initially suggest. It’s just that sometimes I feel as if my entire personality is the product of years of careful calculations. And I feel like it’s this consciousness, this aggressive overdiagnosis of my character, that causes me to be completely useless when it comes to flirting with someone over the internet. I seriously find it fucking impossible.
I mean, fuck. Did you just read all that? Do I sound like a fun, sunshine kind of person who would be a joy to go on a first date with? I’m too skilled at describing myself. I reveal too much. Overconfidence and aggressive self-awareness coats everything I write. While I like to consider myself pretty pro at flirting IRL, I think my general intensity renders me completely incapable of replicating this effect online, because everything I say just kind of sounds bitchy and narcissistic. But when you write about yourself as often as I do, it’s a struggle to not occasionally sound bitchy and narcissistic.
I guess what I’m trying to hint at is that I think I might be too intimidating for online dating. But maybe that’s giving myself too much credit. I guess I could just be ugly.
Tonight, I’m going to allow myself to be swallowed by my sadness.
I find there’s productivity in feeling sadness. For the last couple of weeks, as one event after another unfolded itself around me, I’ve been almost too busy to process the recent changes and losses in my life. I’ve shed tears very sparingly, not allowing myself to sit in the sadness for too long before moving on to the next activity that necessitated my attention.
Isn’t it silly how we tend to associate tears with weakness? Why is distracting ourselves from feeling considered the brave thing to do? Why can’t tears also be an act of bravery? An outward indication that instead of running from our sadness, instead of pretending that it doesn’t exist, we are allowing ourselves to feel vulnerable, and are mustering the courage to share this vulnerability with others?
I’m not a vulnerable person. I’m controlled and calculated almost 100% of the time. I am the rock my friends turn to in times of distress, I am the voice of reason to almost everyone I talk to, even strangers in passing who engage me in brief bouts of conversation. I find the experience of emotional extremes exhausting, which is why I’m largely an apathetic person; whether happiness, sadness, anger, excitement, or otherwise, I don’t venture far and wide across the emotional spectrum.
But now that I’m here, alone in my room, I’ve decided to allow myself this rare opportunity to process the melancholy that has sit quietly yet persistently in the back of my thoughts for weeks. I’m just tired of dreaming every night about conversations that have never happened, only to wake up every morning with the annoying reminder that my situation remains unchanged, that the words we exchanged were only inventions of my subconscious.
So tonight, here, in this empty apartment, I’m just going to lie in bed and write and reflect and think about you, wherever you are, and wonder if you are also lying and reflecting and thinking about me.
I went to the Urgent Care and the ER last night.
I’m writing this in between broken fevers and codeine cough syrup, so you’ll have to excuse any flashes of incoherence.
Two nights ago I had a terrible sleep, punctuated by dry coughing fits and the distinct pain of an oncoming sore throat. I’m prone to throat infections, so it was nothing out of the ordinary at first. I took a sick day from work, bought a humidifier and had it shipped to my apartment within a mere 3 hours using Google Shopping Express (since I assumed the dryness in California air might have had something to do with the dryness accumulating in my throat), ate some soup and self-medicated with a cocktail of Cheratussin, ibuprofen, Mucinex and Advil Cold & Sinus.
Around 3pm yesterday I fell asleep and woke up around 7pm feeling acutely aware of the tightness in my throat and how it was laboring my breathing. I could feel every inhale expand my chest with some difficulty, and I discovered that if any amount of nasal congestion came on, it would be extremely difficult to breathe through my mouth. Maybe it was the fact that I was coming off of several different drugs or the fact that I was about to enter another fevered state, but I started to panic, afraid that my throat would constrict further in my sleep and I would wake up in the middle of the night suffocating and unable to communicate. I didn’t want to end up like that woman in Texas, discovered alone and unconscious and eventually declared brain dead from a lack of oxygen. And I didn’t want to become a cautionary tale of yet another otherwise healthy young person in the Bay Area who succumbed to the flu.
So I called my mom and she told me to go the Urgent Care. With most Urgent Care facilities closed or fully booked for the night, the anxiety that my throat was going to suddenly close up began to intensify. I eventually found an Urgent Care facility that would take me and arrived just 15 minutes before they closed.
Both the nurse who took my vitals and the doctor who eventually saw me seemed alarmed by my racing heart rate. I could see the nervousness in my young doctor’s eyes as he told me that what I had could either be as simple as an infection or as worse as another diagnosis he was reluctant to say just yet. He asked me if I had a medical background, to which I responded no. He finally said that based on my symptoms, I could have a pulmonary embolism, a blood clot in my lungs, which would be rare but not uncommon in females of my age.
I sat there calmly, because I’m a calm mother fucking person. He asked me if I understood what he was saying. He asked me if I was ok. He asked me if I had any questions. He recommended that I go to the Emergency Room, where they would be able to give me a CT scan if they agreed with his prognosis. He said that if I was one of his family members, he would strongly recommend that I go. He said that, legally, he had to recommend that I take an ambulance ride over to the ER. I had to formally turn down a ride in an ambulance over to the ER so he could check some box on his form or some shit.
I met my friend in the lobby and told her she needed to take me to the ER. My doctor came out with directions to the facility, the fear and concern still in his eyes, and I’m pretty sure he said good luck to me as we walked out the door.
I arrived at the ER, where another nurse took my vitals again and again commented on my racing heart rate. He took a swab to test me for strep throat and then had me lie down on a gurney while he gave me an EKG test to check on my heart. He then took me to another room where I had to strip from the waist up and put on a hospital gown that was completely open in the back. I remember sitting there and thinking over and over, “Today is not the day I’m going to die.”
My sister and my friend eventually arrived and waited with me in this room as another nurse and my doctor filed in and out to take my vitals and ask me questions. Eventually, my second doctor explained that my first doctor probably thought I might have a pulmonary embolism because my heart rate was extremely high but I didn’t have as much of a fever at the Urgent Care. Once I arrived at the ER, I had an “impressive” fever, which could have accounted for my heart rate. I don’t have strep throat, I might have some iteration of the flu, she didn’t know, she couldn’t confirm, but she sent me off with the recommendation to drink lots of fluids, continue to take ibuprofen to break my fevers, and to come back if I continue to have difficulty breathing or develop any new symptoms.
I haven’t left my bed at all for the last 12 hours, since I got home from my 3-hour journey to the Urgent Care and the ER. As someone who rarely (if ever) asks for help, it’s a harrowing experience to be told by a medical professional that you could have a medical condition that could be fatal.
I didn’t die yesterday, but for a couple hours there I thought I might.
Something to believe in.
When I was in LA a few weeks ago, I met up with a close friend from college who is now a devout Falun Gong practitioner. In between sharing anecdotes of our lives and marveling at how much we’ve both changed since we first met during a study abroad program in Spain, we talked about our belief systems, which prompted him to ask me what exactly do I believe in.
It’s not an uncommon question for me to receive, as someone who went to Catholic school for 12 years, majored in Religious Studies, and frequently wears crosses (I’m actually getting a cross tattooed on one of my knuckles this week).
Truth be told, I don’t believe in any form of organized religion or doctrine, and I’m not one who needs something to believe in; I don’t need a higher authority to give reason and meaning to the events that transpire in life.
Over the years, however, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about my interactions with others, and the legacy that I’d like to one day leave behind. While I don’t believe I’ll leave this world known as the “friendliest” or “kindest” person, I’d like to think that I’ve shared some level of warmth with everyone I’ve crossed paths with.
I once read somewhere that to live a happy life you should give gifts to people everyday, and not necessarily gifts of the physical variety. These gifts could include the exchange of smiles, greetings, some small form of acknowledgment that you and this other person have shared a slice, a moment of life together, and it was good. Warmth isn’t something that comes naturally to me, but I do believe in showing respect to everyone who walks in and out of my life, and to be generous with my smiles, especially to those who seem to need it most.
I believe in treating others with a sense of dignity and mutual respect, that no one should feel as if the course of his/her life is trivial or meaningless compared with others who may be more affluent or more attractive or more successful. I resent any implication of a “lesser” person or persons.
As trite as it is to admit, I believe in karmic retribution, and the idea that what you put out into the world gets returned back to you. I don’t consider myself a particularly virtuous person, and I’m no big philanthropist. My life philosophy can be summed up simply as, “Don’t be an asshole.”
And honestly, the world has enough assholes. I think not being one of them is something to believe in.