A few weeks ago, I went back to San Francisco for the first time since leaving last fall. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about it but I assumed it would feel like I hadn’t left. Which was kinda true.
I stayed with a friend off Polk St near Russian Hill after arriving via BART from Oakland. While she was at work, I wandered the area - a place once so familiar to me. It felt like nothing had changed, and really, how could it? It’s only been 3.5 months, not like there’s been much time for change.
Something surprising happened, though. The feelings of sadness and lonliness returned. I was instantly taken back to a time when, not too long ago, I’d wake up and look forward to my next milestone Chicago visit. I didn’t realize until I left but the days in SF passed in a weird, dreamlike way. It never felt real to me. I always felt like I was living in between visits and all other times, on a path of discovery that never felt like ordinary, daily life.
I remember wandering Polk St on the weekend, as I often had two days with nothing to look forward to. Those sad feelings came back pretty hard and it felt like I lived there again, back to a time when I only talked to friends over video or text. A time when I watched a lot of the Kardashians at home by myself. A time when I had to struggle to plan things to do. A time when it was just me, Sweet Pea and Flip. I found myself habitually walking toward Gough St, as if I were returning home after a lonely weekend adventure. I don’t have those feelings in Chicago at all - as a matter of fact, I had forgotten what it was like to feel that way.
I am lucky because now, I’m a hop / skip / jump away from Seth and Kim. Friends I missed deeply while away can pop over for a drink or impromptu walk in the snow. My days vary in productivity, which is good and bad, but I never feel the loneliness because I know that no matter how I feel that day, at the end of it I can see someone I love in person. No more fucking video calls or text messages. Presence is everything.
I did walk by my old place one night. It was bizarre. Normally, when I walk by a place I used to live, I feel pangs of nostalgia, a longing to go inside. I didn’t feel that way as I approached the gate of my old abode. I crossed Gough for a better view of the building and as I looked up, I noticed a dude in my old unit. He walked from living area to the kitchen, right in front of the windows. And I didn’t wonder what it looked like inside or how I’d feel if I had a chance to go upstairs. I didn’t miss it but looking at it, I appreciated it for what it was to me not too long ago - my SF sanctuary and the place that I called home.
Do I miss San Francisco? Yes. It’s a magnificent city that I’ll always cherish and adore. Do I regret leaving? Not at all.
And that’s something I didn’t fully know until two weeks ago during my saunter in Russian Hill. I used to worry endlessly about regretting my decision to leave, as previous posts like I love you, California will prove. Visiting showed me that the city of San Francisco will always be there for me to consume if I need to, but the life I used to live there is left behind. And, I’m okay with that.