I first visited San Francisco when I was 16. I was very unhappy growing up in New York City, and San Francisco seemed so clean, colorful, and magical. I knew I would live here someday.
That "someday" came in 1996, at a time in my life when there was nowhere I needed to be. I drove from South Carolina to California, and after a short detour in Los Angeles, sold the car that kept breaking down and moved to San Francisco. I thought it would be for good, but things in my life never fell into place. When I was laid off from my job in the spring of 2001, I felt it was time to make a change, and moved back to New York. Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, I came down with chronic fatigue and body pain. Thinking that I had a case of the flu that wouldn't go away, and that my immune system was no longer able to tolerate New York winters, I moved back to warm and sunny L.A.
After about two years in L.A. I had had enough, and I missed San Francisco. When I was suddenly laid off from my latest job in L.A., it seemed like I was meant to move back here. It was 2004.
Two years later I was finally diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and eventually Fibromyalgia Syndrome as well. I spend a lot of time in bed due to these conditions. Some people think it must be wonderful to be in bed so much. Actually, it's not. Lying awake, unable to sleep, exhausted and in pain, thinking about all the life, that other people are actively participating in, going on outside my window, is not fun at all. But it has given me a lot of time to think about life and how I had been living it.
I realized that I had been afraid of having the very things I wanted: a relationship, intimacy, a successful career... even a pet. I was afraid of having something, or someone, important, and then losing it. I knew I couldn't change myself and fix everything all at once, but I had to start somewhere. I started volunteering at Pets Unlimited, a wonderful no-kill shelter/veterinary hospital, located on Fillmore and Washington, socializing cats and dogs. It was there that I met Ginny.
Ginny had come to the shelter with her brother Clyde after their owner had passed away. Clyde suddenly got very sick and had to be put to sleep. Everyone at the shelter felt bad for Ginny. Every week during my shift, I would first visit with Ginny for a long while before seeing any of the other animals. After some time I was asked if I wanted to long term foster Ginny. I said yes. I planned to foster her until I was financially stable, and then adopt her. She was about 11 years old, so I figured we would have at least 5 years together. I was going to let this little cat into my life, knowing I would grieve someday when she was gone.
I soon found out that "someday" would be a lot sooner than I had planned on, when I was told Ginny had cancer. It was estimated that she had about 3-12 more months to live. My mother and friends cautioned me not to take her, saying it would be hard on me when it was time for her to go. I decided it would be harder to leave her there in her little room at the shelter, and let her die there feeling unwanted and unloved.
So Ginny came home with me and has been making me love her more and more each day. And when it's time for her to go, I'll know that I made the time she had left happy.
I still go to the shelter every week. I stare out the windows of the # 1 bus, just like a tourist. But I'm not a tourist, I'm a resident. A resident who just can't get over how beautiful this city is, and how lucky I am to be living here. I hope this time I'm here to stay.