I moved to San Francisco in September of 2011.
That is a statement I can only make in retrospect. In September of 2011, I didn’t know I was moving to San Francisco. I knew only that I had driven my new-to-me twenty-year-old Camry from my hometown in Minnesota across the country to “visit” my West Coast cousins, that I was still very much torn up over a relationship that had died in Israel, that I had no plans and no prospects but something just had to change.
But this isn’t a story about that trip. Or even my first months in San Francisco that turned into now six-and-a-half years here.
This is a story about what that six-and-a-half-year-old me would have given to know what present me is up to.
Past-me barely scraping by on editing projects and the remnants of a post-doc salary, hitting dead ends and rejections in her job search, would have loved to know that present-me has a job she loves (most of the time), that pays the rent with enough left over to travel, that doesn’t look anything like those jobs she was applying for back then.
Past-me with a broken heart would want to meet J, see our life together, the home we’re creating, the support he gives me.
Past-me with no place that truly felt like home living in a sublet and wondering if she was crazy not to return to her friends in New York City would want to meet my circle, would want to know that every day I find a way this city takes my breath away, would want to know that the next six-and-a-half years would be full of pain and healing and growth and challenge, and that I would be okay.
My point is, how often do we stop and look around at the life we have, in the moments when it’s actually good, and give ourselves permission to say, “Life is good?”
It’s hard to do this in hard times, in painful times, in depressing times. Even then, there can by tiny glimmers of gratitude.
It’s hard to do this if you’re like me, with a mind that always seems to be processing and analyzing, making sure there isn’t an adjustment to be made, a goal to reach, a new problem to solve. My mind doesn’t easily settle down into this general appreciation for where I am now.
That’s why it’s so foreign to me to look back, to allow myself to be proud of the past six-and-a-half years. To recognize the work I did, the help I got, the luck I had. It’s good for me, though. It makes me think about the balance between looking back and looking forward. Between appreciating the day-to-day and appreciating the trajectory that brought me here. Between being content with where things are now and also wanting to always improve—not to keep doing something just because past-me would be impressed, but to give myself a little bit of credit that I am in a place where I can even make that decision.
It puts me in a place where, instead of chasing goals and little threads of potential improvement, I’m opening myself to them. Being open to them means they’re on my mind, means I can have the mindset and lifestyle to make them happen, but I’m not forcing them. I’m not chasing them like a dog chases seagulls on the beach: full of intensity and determination that scares away the very thing it’s chasing.
My mind will always be in this forward-looking space, there’s no denying it. I will never not be analyzing. I don’t want to live so much in the future that I forget to look around me in the present. If I can balance this analytical side with an appreciative side, it will help me celebrate the moments of day-to-day contentment instead of letting them pass by.