Seeing Thru A New Lens: 5 Months in San Francisco
"We like to know our way. We like to have maps. We like to have guides. But we are more like a breathing puzzle, a living bag of pieces, and each day shows us what a piece or two is for, where it might go, how it might fit." - Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening
Seeing things through a new lens takes time.
My five-month lens into San Francisco has a different view than my one-week, one-month, two-month, and so-on lenses here. Today marks five months that I've been a San Francisco resident, and there's been a shift. The light casts shadows in a different way, the mood is more friendly and less skeptical, the arcs of the streets more familiar.
As a walker, my favorite thing to do is explore on foot. But being new to the city and needing to get to certain places on time (i.e., work) I found myself walking in a single straight line, never deviating unless by accident, dumbfounded by the difference between Montgomery and New Montgomery and why the street signs are so small, and relying on Google Maps as my singular source for direction. Up until recently I was afraid of getting lost, of losing my way, not being able to re-trace my footsteps without the breadcrumbs of familiarity to get me back on track.
Now I wander with a new-found confidence. Actually confidence is not the right word. A bolder curiosity. A dispelled fear that no longer exists. A knowing that I'll get back on track if I need to. (Hence why I always carry a phone charger with me!)
The city is no longer quite so new to me — and because of that I have to remind myself that not everyone gets to see the Golden Gate Bridge whenever they want, or fog rolling in, or a rainbow of Victorian row houses on their morning walk. So I still force myself to stop, to look up, look down, look out. (Of course this beauty is countered a bit by a significant homeless population, human defecation on the streets, and an overabundant amount of hills, but that's life.)
The point here is that in these past couple weeks the city has begun to feel like mine, and it is this ownership over San Francisco that has made it feel like home. The other day the barista at Saint Frank asked me which neighborhood I lived in. (For the first time, apparently, I was no longer a tourist.) When she told me she lived in the Inner Richmond I knew where that was. Five months ago, I would've thought the Inner Richmond was the city of Richmond, California. Now I know it has some of the best dim sum in the city. The things you learn in time.
When you move somewhere new, it takes time to make it yours — to toss away the map and find the routes that work for you, to try enough coffee shops to find your own, to meet enough people to find those who get you, to unpack the real reason for being there. Five months is not a long time, and I still have a lot to learn, but it's comforting to feel like I've made San Francisco my home, even if a lot of that feeling has come from within.