It took a couple of weeks in San Francisco for me to get fully acclimated, but I was in love the first time I stepped foot in that city. During the first six months there, I experienced some of the happiest moments of my life. I remember talking on the phone while walking up and down the hills with the wind blowing and the buses going by – I had never lived in a big city before, so it was weird getting used to the surrounding noise – and different family members on the other end would mention how happy I sounded. I really did feel a certain joy.
I was starting to get into a rhythm in my graduate program. I was getting good grades and becoming comfortable with my cohort. I was slowly getting adjusted to the city and the surrounding area; I liked it there. A lot. But when the summer rolled around, things changed, and it’s taken me this long to figure out why.
In the winter and spring, everyone was envious of the amazing California weather I was supposedly experiencing. Although SF is much different from the rest of California weather-wise, most people back home didn’t get to play Frisbee on the beach or go for an afternoon hike along the coast. I wasn’t missing out on much because most of my friends were stuck doing boring things indoors and working. Many of them wanted to come visit, as seeing me gave them an excuse to vacation in California. I welcomed and invited them, as everyone else does when they move there.
Over the course of six weeks in the summer, five of my closest friends (three of them girls) and my parents came to visit. It was during this period that I started losing it, and I had little time to stop and decipher my thoughts.
On one occasion, one of my good friends from college had come to visit. I felt like our friendship had been slowly losing ground because of the distance, so I was glad to have her in my reach once again. She joined my SF friends in going out one Friday night, and we had a blast. I signed up to karaoke Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” at two different bars to no avail, but the people that did get called up to sing provided plenty of entertainment. Toward the end of the night, the bar was clearing out and quieting down, so we got to goof around and enjoy each other’s company. I thought it would be a good idea to bet Nic he couldn’t moonwalk all the way to the grocery store down the street. I remember closely watching him the entire time to make sure the moonwalk was official, and sure enough, he made it. So much laughing. So much happiness. With my friend from home now here for the moment along with my other friends, I was missing out on effectively nothing. I didn’t want to be anywhere else.
When my friend left, something felt amiss. I began taking antidepressants for the first time since I moved, and I started to lose interest in school.
I had little time to think about what this feeling was before another friend came to visit two weeks later. This time, the culprit was a girl I had a little history with. I missed her, and it was fun to act like a couple for the week. Toward the end of her stay, we decided to go out. Nic had just gotten back from Eastern Europe, so it was a “boys are back in town” moment on top of the girl visiting. We had this thing for playing Creed songs on jukeboxes over and over again. Immaturely, we thought it was funny then, but it is still hilarious now. That night was karaoke night, so we thought it would be fun if we each signed up to sing Creed songs. I honestly can’t even remember what song I did – I think it was “One Last Breath,” but the response from our trolling is what I remember more. The DJ was getting a little aggravated after announcing, for the third time in a row, that someone would be singing Creed. Frank and Nic nailed their parts. Long story short, I finally got to karaoke “Lose Yourself,” and the night culminated in Frank singing Juvenile’s “Back That Thang Up.” He knew the song so well that he ignored the censored words on the prompter and sang the uncensored version in a rap voice, while some random girl starting dancing on stage with him. It was one of the most hilarious things I have ever seen. My friend joined in on the fun by singing Meredith Brooks’s “B###h.” Once again, I experienced that feeling of contentedness because I was missing out on nothing; the action was happening right in front of me.
After she left, that unsettling feeling began again. More medicine. More confusion. It is all a blur after that. Two years later, I find myself in a vastly different Bay Area, again far from my original home.
I now understand that the feeling of “missing out” is one of my greatest weaknesses. It is so extreme that it’s hard for me to feel happy for someone if they had fun and I wasn’t there. Thanks to Facebook, text messaging, and my imagination, I was able to see and guess what was happening back home after I had moved. When summer came, I became less important. My friends had less of a reason to stay in touch and more of a reason to enjoy the summer weather and their own friendships back home. I felt like they no longer needed me. I felt like the whole Midwest no longer needed me. When these friends came to visit, I momentarily had control over the situation, and everything was fine. But these friends also brought stories, memories, and feelings along with them. Besides the few good friends I already had in SF, I really hadn’t made many new friends due to the time commitment of my program. The foundations I was beginning to develop were not strong enough to fight against the foundations I had created back home. It wasn’t home in SF yet, and the flood of visitors in such a short time had me confused as to where home really was. Once the seed of “missing out” was planted in my mind, I could no longer be happy in such a distant land.
The things I could not control controlled me.
I love traveling, and as much as I hate moving, I enjoy living in different places. I don’t know how long I will be in my current location, Tampa, and if an opportunity arises in a distant city, country, or planet, I might start off on yet another journey. My point is not about staying in one place, but rather enjoying the moment while I’m here, and not worrying about what I’m missing out on somewhere else.
I do not regret moving from California – I was far from home and confused about life. I do, however, regret letting my insecurity over missing out influence my move so greatly. I wish I could simultaneously be in different places right now, but I will always only be in one place. I’m taking up a tiny portion of a tiny section of a tiny dot on a huge map, and I need to try to be happy where I am for a change. Instead of not missing out on the things distant from me, I need to not miss out on the things right in front of me. There will always be a rest of the world, but I can control nothing more than where my own two feet stand.