Bay Area Reality Check
I think I've always tried to be Mr. Positive about all things in my life. Right now though, being positive and constantly upbeat has been difficult. The last time I was feeling this way, I just posted a bunch of memes. I'll admit I was afraid to really commit to the way I was feeling in the moment. I didn't want to express my feelings about my situation because it didn't fit the narrative I had for myself. When I made that post, I was coming off of an incredible year in Chile, and there was nothing I wanted less than to have it appear as though it was all for naught. I feared an admission that the momentum of "awesomeness" of living abroad was deflating around me. I didn't want to acknowledge, at least publicly, that life is hard and it's not always epic pictures of sunset kayaks.
Even when things were difficult in Chile, we were still in Chile, and I barely wrote about anything negative that was more than superficial. Chilean Spanish is hard to master, selling our car was one of the least fun experiences I've ever managed, and we weren't making a ton of friends. But I didn't mention how un-fun it was sometimes to not have anything planned, when Erin and I needed time away from each other, or when I just wanted to hang out with people in-person who got my inside jokes. I wasn't willing to confront those issues in the blog because I didn't want to tarnish the radical experiences I was having. In effect, I created a persona for blog readers that was half-authentic. Everything that was incredible was covered in its entirety, but I didn't cover the other side of the story.
My last few weeks have been rough. And to be honest, the last six months of my time since moving to the Bay have been lukewarm. I've been sitting on a different post about a road trip I took in July, but I just haven't been able to write it because it was scratching at the lack of authenticity referenced above. I almost took a hiatus from Cities Places Things because of the way I've been feeling, but Erin reminded me of Mike's excellent post about facing depression, and encouraged me to be vulnerable. To let my guard down and talk about what's actually going on in my life rather than sugarcoating it with short-lived, highly positive experiences. So here we are:
I've always been able to make friends easily. Since I was a kid, people would gravitate toward me. It just happened. I'm not trying to brag, it's just how it was. In Oakland, things seem to be different. I'm reminded of something my close friend Lauren said to me when I moved to DC: "making friends is hard in a new city, and you had a solid network right away when you moved here." In essence, I had had it easy. I brushed the comment off years ago, but it's been ringing true for me over the last six months. Working from home is probably the first problem. I currently work 7am to 3pm, which sounds awesome, but effectively kills one of my main social outlets by removing November Project from my schedule. It's one thing having NPSF being across the Bay, but I could easily surmount that obstacle if I didn't have the occasional 7am meeting right in the middle of a workout. There are 6am track workouts close to me, but I've been putting those off. I went to my first one this week, and already am feeling better about the situation.
But working from home has another side effect I didn't even know about: I don't have coworkers to hang out with. Random after-work drinks are gone. Spontaneous hallway conversations are no more. Working from home means that nearly every conversation has an explicit business purpose. I no longer am just hanging by someone's desk to shoot the breeze on the way back from a meeting; instead I'm calling people because I need an answer for something, and even when there is friendly conversation at the front end of a phone call, it doesn't have the same levity of being face to face. For someone as outgoing as I am, this is causing a huge energy drain for me, leaving me depleted after a day of phone calls and staring at my laptop. Cafes and coworking spaces ease this feeling, but they address a symptom and aren't part of a longer term solution.
But work isn't the only thing that's different here. I've changed a lot over the last few years, and so have many of my friends. USC Collin had been out of the country once and had never even considered living on the East Coast, let alone Chile. I think I've been trying to relive past Collin's way of living, especially that of my life in Southern California. Maybe my expectations were too high. That I'd be making a triumphant return to the west coast, and that everyone would just be waiting for me. But everyone else has lives too, and sometimes I feel like I'm intruding on that by being a newcomer to the Bay. I've mentioned this feeling to a few people, and everyone has reminded me how unfounded that feeling of intrusion is. I acknowledge now that it is something exclusively in my head, but I'd be omitting a lot without including that feeling here.
Last but not least, I haven't been putting myself out there. Maybe it's a fear of rejection, or a fear of being vulnerable or looking un-cool, but this one is entirely on me. There's a regular weekly running meetup group on Tuesday evenings. I've gone once. The windsurfing club has mandatory volunteer hours, but I put those off and my membership lapsed. I've been scared of announcing a need for a belay partner at my old climbing gym. These are all things I know rationally that I should be doing to help ease all of my other issues, which essentially boil down to loneliness, but it's hard for me to admit that.
There are rays of hope though. I've made a friend through one of Erin's coworkers who is down to rock climb, and since he's an acupuncturist, has an odd schedule like me. I recently attended an event put on by SPUR, which has renewed my desire to learn more about urban planning and transportation. And last but not least, I'm putting myself out there more, trying to find ways to make friends that live in the East Bay, because as folks have warned me, the Bay Bridge is an obstacle not often crossed.
Putting all of this down into writing and making it public is a step toward fixing it. The last six months here in Oakland have been difficult, and I'm lucky to have someone as empathetic and positive as Erin in my life. It's one thing to be unhappy, but another to live with someone who's not happy and slow to change. In posts in the past, I've made commitments to myself. I think the first one I did was to commit to learning Spanish. Well here's my next commitment: I'm going to make my life great here in the Bay. I'm going to put myself out there more, I'm going to abandon this victim mentality I've recently adopted, and most important, I'm going to change my mindset. And here's a commitment to you, the reader: I'm going to show both sides of the story from now on. The highs and the lows. I hope you'll stick around for both.
Book I read: The Sixth Extinction by Rachel Kolbert
Song I listened to: Worldwide Choppers by Tech N9ne
Beer I drank: Tropical IPA by Fort Point