What’s Up | 09/09/14 | Reflections After One Year in San Francisco

The room in front of me was empty. I rolled out my sleeping bag, plugged in a small desk lamp, and powered on my laptop. And then I realized that it would be a few more days before the cable guy could drop by to set up the cable Internet. And a couple of weeks before I’d get the bed frame and mattress shipped to me. But no matter, I’d officially moved into San Francisco, and I let that fact sink in slowly as I looked over the room. Despite how small and bare it was, at that moment it felt like a king’s palace – it was my room, and the possibilities were endless. That’s probably also the best way to describe my mentality as a new resident of the City by the Bay. Everything to me was new, and the sights and sounds both overwhelmed and excited me.

Stockton Tunnel in San Francisco

Stockton Tunnel in San Francisco

Over the months, I bought furniture, started work, and settled into life as a post-grad working professional. Working professional. I still find that term, applied to myself and my peers, terribly hard to grasp. I had no idea what I was doing when I first started work, and even today I still experience that feeling, but thankfully less frequently (I think). And then sometime over the year, I realized that everyone, regardless of age or experience, probably felt the same way at one point or another. Life’s about constantly improving, so I think experiencing that once in a while is a good sign rather than something to be ashamed of.

Living in the City

I’ve lived in San Francisco a little over a year now, and it is by far one of the best post-grad decisions I’d made. Around graduation time, I had many conversations with friends, peers, and older folks, and the overwhelming sentiment that I got was to not live in the city. It was too expensive, too crowded, too hyped. But living here just felt right to me. I knew that there would always be a way to make it work. And so I overcame my own doubts and committed.

Is the city a perfect place? Definitely not. But I think it’s the perfect place for me to learn and to grow as a twenty-something-year-old person still trying to figure out life. I absolutely love my neighborhood, Lower Nob Hill. The location couldn’t be more perfect, an easy walking distance to Union Square, Chinatown, downtown SF, and most importantly work. There are a ton of restaurants to explore, plenty of people always out and about, and surprisingly a lot of quiet corners, only if you look hard enough.

My area’s not the nicest nor is it the most unique, but its imperfection and roughness around the edges makes me like it even more. Everyday I experience the wonderful Stockton Stairway Skip (to dodge certain liquids on the floor), hear the Screaming Souls through the Stockton Tunnel (double-decker tour buses with tourists screaming all through the tunnel), and climb hills so steep there are grooves etched into them to prevent slipping. Yet it’s the times when I stumble upon a free painting taped to a random wall, watch the holiday crowds ice skating under a brightly-lit Christmas tree at Union Square, or stare out at the gigantic office buildings at night from Yerba Buena Park that I’m reminded how lucky I am to be truly living in the city-city.

My Past Year

This past year was simultaneously one of the most wonderful and one of the toughest years I’ve experienced. As much as I’ve had so many amazing opportunities to explore, have fun, and learn, I’ve also experienced the deepest sadness over many things beyond my control. One realization that came into view after reflecting on this past year is that oftentimes I’m too proud to ask for help, guidance, or console when I’m going through tough times. I always want to tackle it by myself, and even though this has worked well for many past trials, the older I get the more I can see the absolute importance of having a support network and being vulnerable to those you truly trust. This is something that’s a work in progress but I’m glad to have some really great friends and family.

Looking back I can see that this past year had its ups and downs, and it seems like this is something that will remain true for each passing year, no matter how successful or well-off I may be. It reminds me of a story I came across about a great king who charged his wise men to create a ring that would make him happy when he was sad, and sad when he was happy. They came back with a simple ring, engraved with the words “This too shall pass.” I think this is an amazing reminder that all material conditions, good or bad, are temporary. This too shall pass.

Realizations from Traveling

One of the biggest reasons why I love traveling, whether it’s a huge multi-day affair or just a one-day getaway, is that it takes me outside of my usual surroundings and removes me from my social, work, and environment bubble. When I’m on a trip, my mind isn’t preoccupied by emails, meetings, or thoughts on where to go for dinner – it’s just a blank slate that’s free to wander, reflect, and synthesize.

A huge realization I made on several of my trips was that I can go my own way in terms of career. Living in the tech capital of the world, I can easily get caught up in the wave of start-ups, IPOs, and the next shiny thing. But then I meet people on my trips who aren’t remotely close to the tech scene, and I see that they’re still successful and happy. It always gets me thinking – what should I look for in a career? Can I do something I love and make it into a business? Does it have to relate to tech? Do I need to go a certain route?

At this point I have no idea, but the one trait I’m good at is that I’m always on the lookout for opportunities. If it’s a good one, I’ll know, and in the meantime I’ll continue to challenge myself and learn as much as I can.

Health and the Art of Car Maintenance

I’m currently on the market for another car. Of course it’s not settled yet and I haven’t finalized or decided whether I’ll end up getting one, but from car shopping I did notice an eerie similarity between cars and human health. I’m looking at a particular make and model, about ten years old, and the amazing thing is that I’ve test driven seven of these cars, and none of them felt the same. Just from driving a car I can get a sense of how well the owner took care of the car and kept up with maintaining it – some of the steering wheels had more travel while others had sharp steering, some transmissions took longer to shift while others shifted smoothly, and some cars had scratches and dull paint while others just looked more shiny.

It’s mind-boggling to me that at some point, when these cars were new, they all looked and drove exactly the same. But through the years, the differences began to show, to the point where one of the cars felt dangerously out of alignment while another one drove like it did when it rolled off the factory floor. I can see the same happening to all of us. Being healthy – exercising and eating well – is intentional, and while the differences don’t show overnight (and might not be apparent for years), they eventually will reflect how well the owner took care of the body. It’s something that I’m keeping in mind more and more.

It’s About the Whys

It’s getting late and I’ve been writing for a while now, so I think it’s good to close with one more topic I’ve been thinking about lately. In every situation, there’s the who, what, when, where, and how – but don’t forget about the why. For me personally, there has to be a reason why I’m doing something, why something happened, or why someone acts a certain way. I believe that considering the whys for different situations leads to a happier life, because doing so breaks huge undertakings down into its components and helps isolate the goal – the reason you’re doing that thing in the first place. For anything, if it’s hard to find the why, then maybe it’s not something worth pursuing.

That’s it! I hope you enjoyed my random reflections and ramblings. If you skipped the post, here’s a one-sentence recap: I’m loving San Francisco, and this past year’s highs and lows have allowed me to reflect on how wonderful life is and how lucky we are to be on this Earth experiencing it to the fullest.

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