Wednesday, January 20, 2010

no left turn.

Saturday marks my five-month anniversary of living in San Francisco, and five months of what I'd consider a failed attempt to "make it in a new city". I flourished in high school and college with my academics, extracurricular activities and sports making great friends along the way. A recent college graduate, the challenge of moving to a brand new city knowing no one seemed like no big deal. I envisioned myself cooking dinners and laughing with my new friends in the cozy, stereotypical San Francisco apartments and overlooking the city through a large bay window as I tapped away on my lap top.

But there is one major front I overlooked when I was molding these dreams: unlike college, high school, summer camp, etc, a city isn't one big cohort of young adults yearning for the same things and whining about that unfair professor that still bases his grading on the bell curve... A city moves fast. A city is independent. A city keeps going even if you might need an extra recitation on local driving laws...(more on that later...). But wasn't I always independent? Haven't I always been front of class, ready to tackle any challenge and fast paced?

Six lofty traffic tickets, a string of lonely nights spent eating myself into a food coma in front of Scrubs reruns and a dwindling bank account, I decided I had a choice: make a change, or quit and go home to the rollings hills of Pennsylvania. Aside from quitting the school band in 8th grade when I came to terms with my lack of musical abilities (and interest) or when I stopped playing soccer to concentrate on tennis, I don't really remember ever quitting anything. But I think part of it too was because I'd never actually put my mind to something or tried something and not succeeded. I wasn't excelling in my job and I didn't have any good friends. I began to doubt myself.

Recently, I drove downtown to meet some friends after work. After parking my car and walking a few blocks toward Union Square, I passed by some homeless men begging for cash, a meal, a coffee. I have a hard time pulling a few bills from my wallet and placing it in the cup of a complete stranger. I realize that sounds incredibly cynical and harsh, but it's more that I always defer back biblical philosophy, "give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he'll eat for a lifetime." It's not that I haven't bought my fair share of meals for someone on the street or tossed some spare change their way, but I always wonder, beyond patting myself on the back as I walked away feeling like I was some saint for doing a good deed, what happens next? Aren't they still sitting there cold, hungry and alone tomorrow?

Prior to walking down that street, I'd fallen victim to the omnipresent "no left turn" traffic sign that serves as natural foliage en route to my destination. Driving in circles, forced to continue straight or make a right turn, it hit me: even though all I thought I needed was to make a quick left to reach Union Square, I was being redirected, to find a different route to reach my final destination. My job wasn't what I wanted. My life here wasn't what I'd envisioned, but both of these things were forcing me to continue to look for a different outlet. (Ok, it wasn't in that moment, but I allow it per creative license.) Tying the two sentiments together- having to redirect in order to find a way to get to where I want to be and the mystery of the large homeless population- I've devised a plan to either a) simply temper my frustrations under the farce that this blog will develop or b) produce something truly interesting.

My plan in this: Each week I am going to spend a meal, brief or extended, with a homeless person and bog about it. It might end up that I just accrue some more debt, but can pat myself on the back that I did something good for someone else, but maybe I'll learn something about how many of San Francisco's homeless end up on the streets. At the least, this blog may be the key to my sanity.

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