Five Discoveries About SF
Since moving cross country to San Francisco three months ago from my native Maine (more about me here), I've learned a lot about myself, especially through the lens of a newbie in an entirely new environment. As someone said to me while I was visiting here back in August, "San Francisco is like summer camp for adults." As I've quickly discovered, it really is true.
Being in a new environment you notice things, and the longer you're there the more you notice. Each day, it seems, I notice something new on my walk to or home from work: a billboard, a store front, a restaurant, a sign, a smell, a feel. The other day I took a walk and something about the air felt like springtime in New England, and I felt a flutter of excitement in my core, the way that I felt in mid April when warm, breezy days begin to drown out the cold, rainy ones.
Moving somewhere new was something I had been contemplating for a while, but it wasn't until I visited in August that I decided San Francisco was the place I wanted to relocate to. And despite stressors of moving cross-country, starting a new job, starting scratch with friends, and spending my first Christmas away from my family, moving here was the right thing for me on a multitude of levels. Now, after nearly six months of being a San Franciscan (California ID in hand — woo-hoo!), I wanted to share my five discoveries about San Francisco since moving here:
1. California Light
My first week in San Francisco I couldn't help but notice the light. It was so bright, constant, hot. It didn't disappear and return, it just stayed. And as a sun-protection savant, my polarized sunglasses were suddenly not enough. I quickly learned to wear a hat every time I left my apartment. On sunny days there are seldom clouds, the sun is ubiquitous, the sky is beyond blue. San Francisco may have its moods (and its fog, which I love), but it is the California light that I had yet to discover until I moved here.
2. San Francisco Sunrises
Coming from Maine, the most northeastern-most state, the sun rises early, sometimes before you're even ready for it. Whether because of this or in spite of this, I've always been a morning person, waking up ready to face the day, the glow of the morning generally matching my disposition. But in San Francisco, sunrises take their time, often not appearing until at least 7 AM, depending on the time of year. So it is often dark when I climb out of bed, hit my electric kettle, and step into my robe, waiting for the morning light to join me. It's something I didn't expect to miss about Maine, but I'm slowly acclimating to it.
3. The Ocean
Whether it be that I'm a Pisces or the daughter of a ship captain, I don't know, but the ocean is something I yearn for. Moving from one city by the bay to another (Portland, Maine, to San Francisco), I was glad to be replacing one ocean for another. But being in San Francisco where neighborhoods are nestled in a range of topographies all within 7 square miles, you sometimes forget the Pacific Ocean is so close, because you don't see it everyday. I work in SOMA (South of Market) and live in Nob Hill, so during the week I'm in a continual loop up and down Pine over Montgomery and down 2nd Street to my office, and I seldom see the ocean. The other day I was craving the ocean, so I walked to it and was suddenly sated. It had never gone away and yet it had felt like weeks since I had seen it. Now seeing the ocean requires intention on my part (or an awe-inspiring discovery when I spot it from the top of a hill) and it makes me appreciate it even more.
4. Ice Cream
Though I stay away from dairy at home, I am passionate about two dairy-based things: pizza and ice cream. Pizza is not San Francisco's strength (though I have found my three faves), but ice cream on the other hand is everywhere. I'm still working my way to all the local gems — from the soft serve at Gott's Roadside to the classic hard-serve at Mitchell's — one thing's for sure, the servings are a bit smaller here in SF than they are in Maine, but I'm learning to deal.
5. The Homeless
It's widely known the amount of homeless people in San Francisco, and it's true. The first few weeks of living here I'd walk by the same homeless man sleeping in the middle of the sidewalk on 2nd Street in broad daylight. It hurt to see him there in a blanket, bags over his shoes to keep the wet out, a half-eaten bag of Doritos or Snapple left for him. And it's still sad and difficult to see, but there's generally a peacefulness about them that I haven't witnessed in other parts of the country. A couple months ago a Lyft driver explained the San Francisco homeless population in a way that resonated to me: "Just remember that as you're walking by them, be mindful that that's their living room." And he was so right. Not all of us are lucky enough to have a living room that's indoors.