*I wrote this while sitting on a rock next to the crashing waves at Lands End in San Francisco last week. Lands End is a shoreline park accessible by hiking trails on the very outskirts of the city, overlooking the bay / ocean, the hills, and the surrounding headlands. Its coastal cliffs truly loom over the edge of the country. It is my favorite part of the city.
I am in San Francisco to get away from everything for the time being and to visit what I considered home for a year and a half. It has been remarkable at times and sad at others, for various reasons. There is so much I miss about this lovely city. I’ve walked about ten miles alone, capturing the crisp, light, clean air while traversing up and down steep hills lined with rows of colorful houses and trees fresh with life. I have been refreshingly drenched by the cool, drifting rain without the protection of a hood or umbrella. I have traveled the same peaceful routes as I did while trying to decipher my thoughts and the world surrounding me here before. I have spent quality time (which sometimes means doing idiotic things) with my best guy friends, met up with a few old friends / past crushes, and made some new acquaintances.
I am seated on the rocks next to the ocean, gazing at the beautiful scenery. But how can I be part of nature in its finest form? How can I be more integrally involved? I sit here and walk through the heart of magnificence but feel so distant from it; I see beauty but am unable to capture it. I am making a better effort than before to try to accept this nature around me. Not trying to overanalyze it, not letting its otherworldliness overwhelm me, not getting depressed because I feel like I am wasting an awe-inspiring environment. I accept it more for the inexplicable part of the world it is and feel less undeserving of the warmth it has provided to my soul. Still, I can’t help but feel a little confused and frustrated.
It reminds me too much of my isolation while I was here before; the same confusion was prevalent in many facets of my life in this city. I was distant and lost, with no way to discern my jumbled thoughts and suppressed emotions.
It reminds me of a lack of progress. By no means do I consider the SF experiment a failure; I made a tremendous amount of personal growth here. I started to figure out who I was, I made lasting friendships, I had joyful times and hilarious moments, and I enjoyed the city and its surroundings. It’s just, I moved away on the premise of temporary failure, on not being able to live and thrive in this city for the time being, on needing something different and familiar, on quitting grad school, on letting down my colleagues and family, on leaving my friends, on giving up so many things I was just beginning. So in my mind, there are loose ends that I can’t quite grasp or that I don’t want to think about.
On top of these reminders, I feel like I have to do certain things while I am visiting other places just to say I did them. This doesn’t always mean touristy things, but it can be seeing pretty sights, eating at nice restaurants, attending fun events, and doing other city-specific things. Because of this, it’s hard for me to go on my own path while visiting other places. In a perfect world, I would avoid most of the usual destinations and go on my own adventures, finding my own sights and roaming through the most serene parts of the city. This is possible for anyone, but at what cost? I can walk on sidewalks and through parks anywhere. I can sit and read next to a body of water in countless places. I can play games and sports and attend entertainment events with friends in plenty of cities. I can eat at nice restaurants and visit unique museums in thousands of locations. Once I spend a legitimate amount of money to go somewhere, I don’t feel like I can just aimlessly wander. The tranquil, undisturbed scenery is the only thing that is distinguishably different to me, but because of the apprehension I get from 1) being unable to explain and capture a city’s beauty and 2) constantly thinking I need to be doing more productive things in my short time there, it is hard for me to enjoy the moment. It’s too distracting. If I do something trivial and quiet to get lost in my thoughts, I incessantly feel as if I’m missing out on necessary things while I visit, but if I do something touristy, I do it halfheartedly and wish I were somewhere calmer. A similar feeling lingered in me while I lived here; I knew there was so much splendor to the city and surrounding area and rarely enjoyed doing simple things as much as I could have because there were always better sights to see. I feel like this beauty is not for me right now, that it limits my ability to think clearly. Maybe that is why I am in Chicago for the moment, because I would rather be in a place with no distractions.
I need to stop overanalyzing my surroundings. This world has a lot of beauty to offer, much of which I’ve been lucky enough to see, but I’ve gotten away from the frame of mind needed to enjoy it. In the future I need to open my eyes and, without thinking, without worrying, calmly let nature speak to me.
Am I happy that I visited San Francisco? Definitely. I needed time with my friends and those moments of getting away to something spectacular. I just came back confused, my thoughts muddled, my path unknown. I’m eager to see what happens from here.