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Takeaways From One Year in San Francisco

As someone who’ll forever consider the term "New York Bitch" a compliment, I expected labyrinthine acclimation challenges when I moved to San Francisco, a city so polite that even the Target says "hi."

Target on Bush Street

While I like to call SF another world–one in which hiking is recreational, composting is sexy, and the speed of my inherent walking pace is wildly unrivaled–it’s not actually as different from NY as I anticipated. 

I have, however, learned and experienced things since moving here one year ago that I would not have expected. Below are some highlights.

Earplugs 

Living in Haight-Ashbury–perhaps the only place on earth you’ll see a leashed cat wearing a tie-dye t-shirt–has afforded me the opportunity to quality-test many earplug brands. As I type this at 11am on a Monday, someone is generously treating all of SF to an endless stream of dubstep by projecting it at approximately 1 million decibels from outside my window. I, however, am spared the cacophony thanks to these earplugs. They are excellent, and until Bitcoin moons, I will say they are the best investment I’ve ever made. 

Now

After spending my formative years fantasizing about becoming a publicist, I achieved this dream immediately after college and lived it for a few years, up until recently when I decided it wasn’t enough.

Not that reality fell short of my expectations, because it didn’t. I experienced red carpets alongside clients. I spearheaded a firm’s new fintech division and heard my client, a former advisor to President Obama, say “I trust whatever Larissa tells me to do” (without me coercing him). I consumed my body weight in overpriced champagne and gourmet horderves. I loved every second of it. 

At the same time, PR felt safe. Agency experience felt like a mandatory prerequisite for the magnitude of my ambitions, a sentiment that vastly contradicted my favorite heuristic: “the future is no place to place your better days” (h/t Dave Matthews). I hesitated in pursuing certain aspirations before others based on the conventional order of checked boxes, and I focused on what “now” was the “right time” for. World domination is a progression, after all.

Then, a few months ago, I serendipitously learned of a successful SF-based investor whose fund supports crypto startups AND who cofounded an impactful prison program. I won’t digress on my interest in crypto or prison reform, but I will say I’ve spent many hours pontificating about these topics to many people at many bars.

I reached out immediately. Had I stopped to consider whether it was the right time, I might’ve hesitated considering I didn’t have much to say beyond “your accomplishments = my aspirations.” 

I’m now the Marketing Manager at The Last Mile, a role that I am over the moon to have, but didn’t even know I was starving for until I emailed the cofounder on a whim, without considering if “now” was the right time. Technically, the job opening didn’t even exist when I emailed him. 

As it turns out, now is always the right time. (Except for when it’s not, obviously.)

Pizza

Generally, I support any NY-favoring adage and as such, I grew up believing that NY pizza is the best. I’ve since learned this is untrue. SF-based Slice House makes the most delicious pizza I’ve ever had. It’s so good that I even buy it soberly. I will die on this hill.

The Beach 

I love the beach, but it gives me performance anxiety because you’re supposed to “relax” there. Trying to force inner peace at the beach is no more effective than it is anywhere else. I know this because I’ve tried excessively.

I’ve spent my whole life looking for a happiness-inducing elixir, or at least something I can use to seamlessly cattle prod negativity out of my head. Upon moving near the beach in SF, I hoped (feebly) that in dark moments, I could find instant clarity by visiting the ocean, sort of like Marissa Cooper did on The OC. Obviously, this failed and I learned for the five millionth time that neither thoughts nor feelings can be abracadabra-ed away. They need to be “processed.”

However, I also learned that if you’re going to succumb to life’s inevitable unpleasantries–also known as dealing with your problems, if you’re a normal person who doesn’t resist this with extravagant effort–the beach is a very nice place to do it. There is an infinite healing in witnessing the waves crash and then go back for more, and an attuned reassurance in the way their energy continues to transform after hitting the ocean’s bottom. 

TL;DR I guess this is a verbose way of saying the beach won’t fix your problems. Journaling won’t either, but it’s helpful for working through things. Journaling at the beach is even more helpful. But it’s absolutely by no means easy.

Hiking

Since moving to SF, I don’t think I’ve met anyone who hasn’t told me how much they love hiking. Statistically, I suspect some people must be lying — unless I really am living in the most densely concentrated population of hiking enthusiasts in the world. 

People here are so obsessed with hiking that at one point I thought it was me who was wrong for not loving it… Until a childhood friend visited me from NY and was like what the fuck do you mean people here hike for fun. 

To be fair, she and I were both conditioned to believe hiking is torture; after years of field trips to a waterpark, our budget-oriented sleepaway camp (located in an Upstate NY microcosm of Ukraine) decided a six-mile uphill hike would be just as fun of a field trip. It was not.    

However, I’ve since learned that hiking by choice in SF is very different from crying your way up a thorny trail while forcedly singing Ukrainian folk songs in the 80° heat of midsummer Upstate.

“Fun” still isn’t the first word I’d use to describe it, but the activity has grown on me. I’m still skeptical of the zealots and still consider hiking while hungover to be masochism. But San Francisco has a certain environmental aesthetic that can astonish you after walking 2.5 miles at a ~60° incline. It can make your heart well up to the point you feel you might explode with gratitude for the world’s beauty that you never knew existed, and moreover, that you never even thought you’d care to know.

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