Life in San Francisco

So, shit happened in New York, and I moved to San Francisco, where I never really wanted to be. The incident that occurred in New York left me feeling troubled over my life decisions and judgment, but I had my best friend in New York with me to help me (mostly) forget that uncomfortable fact.

The day after she left New York, my boyfriend and I packed up all my belongings from my Brooklyn apartment, bound for San Francisco. In a number of months in the US, I had quickly gotten good at writing goodbye notes on pretty paper, and packing up and leaving.

Moving to San Francisco so abruptly after Candy left seemed like a good idea at the time, as I was reeling from the recent incident, and thought it would be good to get away from the city, recharge, and get my bearings right. Instead, the move resulted in a further shock to the system. I was still emotionally processing the events of the last several weeks, and being in a new environment (especially one that I wasn’t fond of), and moving in with my long distance boyfriend, who I’d had a tumultuous relationship with, left me volatile, irritable, and somewhat miserable.

In the first couple of weeks of our cohabitation, we bickered like children. I wondered nearly every day, if I’d made the wrong decision in moving to San Francisco. All the while, I dreamed of going back to New York. My boyfriend promised me we’d be back in no time, but it couldn’t be soon enough. If things weren’t already complicated, my boyfriend stated that we should close our relationship temporarily, and be monogamous during the time that we’d be living together in San Francisco.

It was one thing to be living with someone and to have to get used to all their quirks, but it had been a number of years since I’d been in a live-in monogamous relationship, and it just added to the list of the things I had to quickly get accustomed to.

In the period after Candy left, I daydreamed about returning home more than ever. There was a yearnful longing that she’d awakened in me, a longing to be with my dearest friends and family once again. Where I’d once longed to be away, now, I desired more fervently than ever to be back in the place where I’d once wanted so badly to get away from.

In these lonely moments, I often recalled lyrics to one of my favourite songs: ‘Home is where I want to be/ Pick me up and turn me round/ Numb, born with a weak heart/I guess I must be having fun’. I felt like a fool, chasing a ghost of a shadow I had found three years in Tokyo. I thought the move overseas would change me for the better, but instead, I was just drifting through life again, effectively in limbo. The dream had ended.

Life in New York: The first 2 months

Life in New York wasn’t all it was cracked up to be – those were my thoughts as I wiped down tables during a quiet moment at my job in a soda fountain. After about 4 weeks in New York, I got a casual job waitressing at a vintage ice cream parlor and soda fountain.

I worked only a couple of shifts before abruptly resigning, much to the chagrin of the soda fountain owner who hired me. After 4 weeks of job hunting, it was safe to say I was sufficiently worn out by the New York City/US job hunting process, but I wasn’t ready to give up on my American adventure just yet. I’d pledged to myself to stick it out for the year at least, and I was in no way ready to give up and go home. However, the working environment in the soda fountain, which was at times quiet, and at some times, crazy, with lower wages than I was used to, and shorter breaks, proved to be intolerable for an Australian who’d worked in the services industry in Australia (where a livable income, not dependent on tips, is the norm). I felt spoiled and idle for my choice in resigning, but I didn’t see the sense in working a menial job, when I could be spending more time productively elsewhere.

And with that thought process, I resigned, saying to myself I’d focus my energies on another job where I’d get paid more, and be happier. However, a lot of the time, I felt naive and foolish for not listening to my parents, who’d cautioned me against the uncertainty of quitting my job in Sydney to move to New York.

Aside from shortcomings in my work life, other things were keeping me busy, and content. I was very happy with my dating life in New York, and the opportunities that were available to meet someone new every day of the week. The move to New York facilitated my need for variety and spontaneity in a way that dating in Sydney had nearly never been able to.

The Big Move (or I moved to New York, and all my friends were more excited than me)

In my 20s, after graduating university, I decided to do the most cliche thing any single girl in her 20s could possibly do: I decided to move to New York.

The justification behind the move came from my trip to Japan in 2014. As much as Sydney had always been home, ever since that idyllic trip, I had the unshakeable feeling that I wasn’t meant to live out my days there. A few friends of mine who had previously lived in NYC sold me on living there, and told me how easy it was to move there on a working holiday visa (J-1 cultural exchange visa). NYC had always seemed alluring to me as a young girl, but in later years I had stopped thinking about it. With the ease of the visa that was available to me though, I thought I’d regret it if I missed the opportunity, so with that, I prepared all my necessary documents and readied myself to leave the only place I’d ever called home.

I experienced a vast range of emotions leading up to the move, and the majority of them weren’t positive. There was one week, I cried going home on the train from work 3/5 consecutive days, shielded only by my colossal copy of ‘War and Peace’. Another week closer to the move, I couldn’t get to sleep at night. I knew I was beginning to get cold feet at this point, despite all the justification I’d pointed out for the move. Obviously it was too late to back out though.

And, in spite of all the fear, anxiety, and sadness that I was feeling, I couldn’t face the possibility of living in Sydney for the rest of my life. Nevertheless, I faced criticism from some friends. One of my friends said I chose “the worst possible time to move to the US” (which I couldn’t agree with more). Another voiced concerns about the possibility of me not being able to find a job, and having to come home financially worse off. The comments were disheartening, but I knew after getting off the plane in Sydney after my last trip, that I couldn’t live my life like that anymore, just living for the holidays.

During one of our last meetups in Sydney, one of my friends said she hoped that I would find whatever I was looking for in NYC. However, I didn’t really know what this was myself. All I really knew was, ever since that idyllic trip to Japan in 2014, I never felt the same about living in Sydney. Ever since then, I’d been travelling the world searching for that elusive something, but I couldn’t find it doing the same thing I had always done.

At the same time, I hadn’t prepared myself for the reality of the situation. When I told people about the move, the most common question I got asked was, “are you excited?” I often replied that I wasn’t, or only a little bit. In short, I was thinking of all the doubts that I had surrounding the move, the tediousness of having to start fresh all over again, and the discomfort of it all. It was like after I had gotten the visa, I began to question if I really wanted it after all. I knew how it felt to want something very badly, to look forward to something, and I knew after I got the visa, there was an absence of emotion for almost everything in my life. I was surviving, going through the motions of my daily routine: working, exercising, eating, sleeping, seeing friends, but I failed to feel anything. There was the constant fear and doubt that I had made a huge mistake. I spent the past three years wanting something, dreaming about it, hoping for it every day, and then felt nothing when I finally got it. So I did everything I could do avoid talking about the move, avoided seeing my friends when I could, just to avoid that dreaded question and the emotions it conjured up. I needed to come to terms with the gravity of what I had done, and I wanted to be on my own.

It was a stark contrast to those first few weeks after coming back- I slept, ate, breathed, dreamed New York. It was the only thing I thought about. I knew the odds were stacked against me, but I prepared to leave anyway. A couple of days before the move, it hit me that I was really leaving and I didn’t know if I felt like laughing or crying. I didn’t know if or when I would be back again. I felt an enormous chapter of my life was ending, while another one just as big, was beginning, and I didn’t know how to feel about it.

When I really took a long, hard look at my life, I reasoned that taking action was infinitely better than wishing, wanting, hoping, and never going. And with that, I ended one very important chapter of my life, to begin anew on the other side of the world, alone.