San Francisco is a palette for the creative soul. As a writer, I revel in this tolerant characteristic. You can be whomever—or whatever—you choose, and no one will judge you for it. Rather, differences, imagination, innovative thinking, are celebrated. And no one is as he (or she) seems. A buttoned-up businessman in FiDi, for example, plays drums in a band by night and rides his motorcycle through the Mojave Desert on weekends; a pharmaceuticals rep practices fire-spinning after work, moonlights as a yogi and helms a Burning Man group in her “free time.” It’s eclectic personalities like these that convince me I’ve found my home.
I landed here by pure coincidence. My parents bopped around the Bay Area throughout the 70’s (free love, man) then moved back to Tennessee shortly before I was born. I’d visited San Francisco a handful of times as a child and loved it, but never really thought about relocating here. It was so far from the life I knew, both physically and metaphorically. (Plus, I dig the heat. The summer fog and July chill were enough to send me running in the opposite direction.)
I grew up a Southern belle from a Republican, Baptist family in the heart of the Bible Belt, where distinctions are not only frowned upon, but also not tolerated. Luckily, my parents were more freethinking and habitually liberal than the majority of the local townfolk and supported any rational decision I made. This familial openness and encouragement helped me create my own sense of individualism amid the sea of cardboard cutouts that surrounded me. While I claim no political or religious affiliation, I never really felt I fit in. I was too much of a nomad, a free spirit. Many of my classmates went on to become accountants or lawyers, still reside within a 30-mile radius of where we grew up and continue to hang out with the same circles since diapers; I, on the other hand, pursued my passion, travel writing, even though so many told me it couldn’t be done, that I should opt for a more “practical” career, one that promised steady work and—most importantly—a secure income. I left all familiar places and people to live my dream and made new friends along the way.
While living across the pond in the Netherlands in 2005, I met a guy, a Bay Area native. (Isn’t that how it always starts?) Our relationship was a series of complications, logistics being just the beginning, but in the end we both succumbed to love and, long, convoluted story short, I moved out here for him a couple years later. In May, we’ll be married on Muir Beach. Taking a chance on him—and a new, West Coast identity—was the best decision I’ve ever made.
More than anything, I’m glad the hunt is over. Not just for a mate, but for a sense of place and permanence. I’ve lived all over the map in the past seven years—the South, Arizona, Scotland, New York City, Holland and Denmark—and it’s nice to no longer be looking ahead to the next move, wondering where my transient life will take me, but rather knowing I’ve found a home.
I went from feeling like a minnow in a vast ocean in Manhattan to a shark in a puddle here. This is no testament to me, but to San Francisco’s intimate feel and welcoming nature. I like knowing that no matter where I go in this 49-square-mile city, I’ll inevitably run into a familiar face. It makes what some perceive as a sprawling metropolis seem more like one big, friendly neighborhood. Living here has opened a number of doors, both in my personal and professional life. I’ve already enjoyed the experiences it has afforded me, and I can’t wait to see what else it has in store. Bring it on, San Francisco; I’m ready and willing.