When I twelve I made a plan. I was going to be a writer and I was going to live in San Francisco. As far as plans for twelve year old girls who love books go, it was not an especially original sort of plan. I didn’t really know much about San Francisco literary culture or history, but I had a sense and I made the plan and, in theory, this plan has sort of worked out. I live in San Francisco, now, and I study creative writing and when I go home and my best friend reminds me, hey, you’re doing what you always said you were doing! I go with it. It feels good to have that sense of accomplishment, that sense that twelve year old me was really onto something, despite her poofy hair and leggings.
Only, it turns out that living in San Francisco and trying to be a writer is not nearly as romantic as it sounds. First of all, the muse doesn’t automatically show up just because I settle myself into a chair at a coffee shop with my laptop, even though I’m pretty sure that before I came, I secretly believed this would happen. Also, it turns out that even when you are living the life your youthful self imagined, you still have bad hair days, you still miss your family and you don’t great a break on the crazy rent your youthful self conveniently never factored into the equation.
Which is all to say, sometimes I don't feel as though I live in San Francisco. Even in quintessential San Francisco moments I can be caught off guard, wondering suddenly if it is really me there on Muni, if this really is San Francisco or if I will, at some point, wake up and walk out of my apartment and find the city I imagined I knew before I got here.
And the cool thing about all of this? I don't think I'm alone in this experience, or that any two people really know the same San Francisco. In a city of transplants, almost everyone has this story. It becomes a ritual, a familiar moment in every introduction. We trade our San Francisco origin stories along with our names and neighborhoods. We draw out the paths that led us here. Even the ones who have been here all along, the ones born near the bay, can tell a story about leaving and returning, or the moment they knew they couldn't go.