SAN FRANCISCO, A HISTORY.
There was this time I lived in San Francisco.
Before moving there, I broke up with my high school boyfriend, went to Paris for two weeks, came home to Southern California for a bit, and then moved to SF. I was one of the first of my friends to leave for uni because I was going to the University of San Francisco and it started pretty early compared to state schools. I was 18, had long dark blonde hair, and a huge longing to be away from home. I wasn't scared, I was ready to be in San Francisco. I was also ready to have sex.
What happened in San Francisco is something I think about all the time. This is largely due to social media, because I can see everyone I was friends with when I was there posting pictures of their lives, and I see how they have evolved and grown. And the women I was friends with then are so powerful and strong, and I admire them. And I miss them. I wonder what my life would be like if I was in that group, if by now I had been at the same uni for four years, building strong ass bonds, having life long friends. I mentally photoshop myself into their current pictures. Wondering if maybe I would look different if I had stayed. Shorter hair, maybe darker.
My experience became the polar opposite. And San Fran is really dug deep in my heart. It's probably partly because I haven't returned since I left, and when I left it was on shitty terms. It's crazy to think how much I didn't know then. And of course I didn't know, I was young, it was okay to not know. But I really thought I was in love and I really thought I knew myself and I really thought my only option was to drop out.
I think I have a fear of recognising that there really were two options back then. And the other one would have been to stay. That's what I didn't know then. I loved SF. I loved my friends. I was madly in love with everything around me. Even my boyfriend at the time, who later broke my heart. He broke my heart and I moved to Paris. Is that why I moved? Was I scared to go back because I fell in love and it didn't work out? Was I embarrassed? Was it the anti-depressants? Did they change me? Did they make me forget that what I really wanted to do was act, and for that, being in California would have been better?
When I think of SF, I think of lattes. I used to love finding new places to get the best lattes. I think of sleepovers with my friend Ashley, who I would be with every single night that I wasn't with my boyfriend. I think of bus routes and parks and colourful houses and authentic mexican food. I think of confidence. I loved myself then. Felt comfortable without make up, didn't worry about my body. I ate microwave mac and cheese, and pasta from the dining hall. My boyfriend and I ordered pizza all the time and we had sex all over campus. I would always come to his room after my 8 am history class on tuesdays and thursdays. We would have crazy sex, and then I would go to my acting class and I could smell his cum on me. After class I would go get sushi from the dining hall and take it back to my dorm room that I kid you not had a view of all of downtown SF including the bay, and eat the sushi and watch Netflix. If I needed someone there was a hundred other girls on the floor. If I needed my boyfriend he was a building away. If I needed to go home it was a 6 hour drive.
Now if I need a friend I have to take the metro. My French lover is almost 29 and we see each other once to twice a week. If I need to go home, I really cant. I would have to book a flight for maybe two months from when I needed it, because tickets from Paris to California you just can't book last minute.
I think about what I eat now. I think about staying fit. I am not blindly in love. But I am also a woman. I think, I was a girl then. And that is good and that was right for the time. But I have learned so much every single day since then.
I dropped out of uni in SF got dumped and became a camp counsellor. I spent three months in the wilderness with other people my age from all over the world. I took a gap year. I worked at an ice cream, shop and lived by the beach and dated a surfer boy. I went back to that camp knowing when it was done I was moving to Paris; I moved to Paris. Spent a whole year figuring the city out. Going to school, being a nanny, meeting Pierre. I went home for the first summer in three years. Got a job at a restaurant, dated the 19 year old bus boy. I came back to Paris, got a job in le Marais, started a sex blog, and continued to let my heart fall for Pierre even though every moment I get closer with him I think of San Francisco, and how everything kind of fell apart the last time I was in love, and now I sometimes associate love and destruction of self.
But I let myself love him. I don't know how to explain the love, because I don't think it's the kind you're thinking of. But I have been with Pierre for over a year and I am still fascinated and intrigued, and for me, that's huge. I am not depressed (like I was the first time I was in love), I am still me. And I am me so fucking far away from anything that has ever defined me.
Because when you take away your hometown, your family, your country...When you take away the stores you know, the products you buy, the food you're comfortable with...When you take away comfort, security, Trader Joes, Whole Foods, Target...When you strip yourself of those things you have always known, you are left with the striking naked image of who you are, and who you can be.
I am alone in a world of cafes and cigarettes and I am left with my own bare reflection. Of what could have been and of what now is. Maybe I am physically alone but I am so full. I have made a life here from nothing. From knowing no one. I have a job, friends, a French lover, a sex blog.
And I am thankful for every fucking choice, mistake, and jump that I made. And I can only hope that I will continue to fuck up, and grow, and always find good coffee wherever I am.