Realistic Expectations & Expected Realities
Why'd you leave San Francisco? Why the hell Helena?
It's these two questions I've received the most since moving to The Big Sky State, especially since I've now been living in Montana for as long as I did California. Not questions that probe for insights into my new job, my girlfriend, or even why it's so cold out here. No, most of the time it's people trying to figure out why I left a city of 850k for 29.5k; why I moved from a city filled with Mexican, Chinese, and Indian spots, to one with a Chinese buffet, solitary Thai restaurant, and an absence of Indian.
In the end, though, it came down to realizing where my expectations really were. What did I want to get out of the city that I lived in? Was I fulfilled in where I was, what I did?
I'll start by saying that I hold no grudges against The City, much as I came to disagree with that name (The City is New York City, not SF). It's a truly unique, fun metropolis, populated by various cultures (some of whom are sadly being pushed out of the city that they make unique, but that's a debate for another time), amazing cuisine, and any sort of activity you could dream of. Oh, and did I mention the weather? 70's during the day, 50's at night. And the beer scene isn't one to be overlooked either, with Cellarmaker, Fort Point, Southern Pacifics, a few others, and this little know brewery called Anchor Steam. SF draws you in with its history, neighborhoods, parks, and people, which can all be a bit overwhelming.
Because that's what happened to me. I had been visiting SF a lot for work back when I lived in DC, meeting with donors and exploring in-between. I came to love the city and its intricacies and couldn't wait to line up more donors for my next visit four months down the line. I began to put this city by the bay on an Ivory Tower, a Coit Tower if you'd so choose. I saw the parts I wanted to see, viewing the city through rose-tinted beer goggles, and as most people who know me well can attest to, I developed a single-minded mission to move there if I got the chance. I started to tire of DC and once I was let go from my job, it was a done deal.
So I made the move. I got the job, and as I eventually found out, the job got me in a very bad way. I won't bore you again with the details of that one.
Living in a city and visiting a city are two very different experiences, though. I don't know what it was that wouldn't allow me to mesh with the idea of San Francisco. Maybe it was the fact that I lived out in the Presidio and, as amazing as it was to live on a National Park, maybe I was missing out on living in the character of the city. Maybe it was the fact that I still couldn't deal with leaving my friends in DC. Maybe it was the price tag. Maybe it was the flurry of activity, the habit I get myself into of overcommitting to activities for weeks straight, then burning myself out, followed by a week of rest. Maybe it was the fact that I was always rubbed the wrong way by how much people there worship at the altar of tech; I traded The Hill for Tech and it wasn't any better. Maybe it was the fact that if you have a hobby, an interest, you'll find a group there that will take it to the next illogical level and may well turn you off from said activity. Maybe it was the job.
It was probably the job.
The thing that sucks about all of this, and I hope that you, reader, understand, is that I met some great people in SF and came away, surprisingly, with some very close friends in the short six months I was there. I met some amazing groups of people, many of whom were always willing to hang out or invite me, the new guy, to various activities around the city. It really did mean a lot to me and has stayed with me since; I still keep in touch with a good amount of them and am currently helping them plan their trips out to Montana.
It wasn't until I moved out here to Helena that I realized what I'd been missing: nature. Don't get me wrong, California is a stunningly beautiful state. Plus, who else can say that they lived in a National Park? But for all of that, I should have taken more advantage of getting outside of the city more. Some of my favorite moments were spent hiking Mount Tam, camping in the Sierra Nevadas, and running the Batteries to Bluffs trail. I needed to get out more and I can only blame myself for not taking as many chances to get out into the woods as I should have.
So now I'm here in Helena. I'm in a state that was always on my radar but pretty far out, and what changed in me during my aim to move here was that I didn't set expectations. I'd done that with previous jobs, previous cities, and look at how it turned out. I finally learned to turn off that excited voice, to damper the pure adrenaline that surged through my mind. Sure, I did give my fellow bloggers quite the anxiety when I announced I was moving, again, this time to a state where I knew only two people. Both of them don't quite agree with my shoot from the hip process of making choices, and they've both been quick to tell me that. I like to argue that I do have plans, they're just very quickly made.
I love it out here and in all honesty want to put some roots down for the first time in two years. I have an amazing job, an even better girlfriend, a pretty rad Wrangler, and a trailhead at the end of my street.
But please, don't take this as me bragging, though it will probably come off as such. In fact, I'll most likely dedicate some future blogs to bragging about this wonderful state. I guess I just want to say that with six months under my belt I'm happy here.
It took me long enough to realize that expectations aren't always right, that taking a dose of realism and tampering one's excitement goes a long way.
But sometimes shooting from the hip helps because you will hit something.
Beer I drank: Voodoo Ranger IPA by New Belgium Brewing
Song I heard: The Start of Something by Voxtrot