Some things you don’t realize you need until you’re apart from them. When I went to San Francisco, I wished for my laptop, for the sleek, silver keys underneath my fingertips. I didn’t even bring a pen on my trip. I thought I wanted separation from work and words and writing.
I thought I wanted separation from everything – the people I had filled my days with, the furniture in my apartment, the music I’d been listening to. I gravitated toward all of it though, unexpectedly. I called my parents my first morning there while I sat in Union Square, watching the artists set up, so early that only one cafe was open for the work crowd. I laid in bed one night in my hotel and rehashed a conversation I’d had plenty of times before, one that meant nothing and led nowhere, just for the sake of feeling something familiar. I pictured my apartment, the warm blankets on my bed, the railing on my porch that I’d lean on to have a cigarette. I loaded my Spotify with songs I’d never heard before, but as I walked around the city every shop seemed to play the music I’d been listening to for months. I couldn’t escape. I didn’t even want to anymore.
I felt alone on that trip, deeply and unmistakably alone. I didn’t feel lonely, though. Lonely may have been easier – it’s fleeting. Alone was temporarily permanent. I would feel alone for a long time. Because I was alone. And there was nothing to do about it. Even if there had been, I knew I had to settle into it. I had to mold to it. It was the only way.
I would wake up early, still on New York time, and start yawning by 7 p.m. My last day there, I woke up at 5 a.m. and walked down to the water to watch the sun rise over the Bay Bridge. I thought about San Francisco, a city I loved, one I thought I’d wanted to move to, and knew that my love for the city was temporary. Permanently temporary. I would visit again, I would remember the street names and how to get to the bay without a map, what it felt like and looked like to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge, but I would never live there.
I would live in a city, though. My city. I knew in that moment I had to do whatever it took to get there. I needed what I had in San Francisco: to wake up with the sun and walk on the street and see people already moving and running and sitting by the water; to step outside late at night and hear laughter and feel people rushing by and listen to music coming through the windows of packed bars.
I needed everything. Noise and busy-ness and strangers. Nature and hikes and quiet and peace. Sunrises and lapping water and guitar strings. Writing and my family and better friendships and my warm bed. More than anything, I needed a better life, I needed my spirit back and I needed hope.