Sometime over this past summer I made the decision, both calculated and reflective, that my work had ceased to inspire me and gave me little to aspire to. However excellent the Parks Conservancy’s services were for the community, I wasn’t personally satisfied with my responsibilities and was unable to picture any opportunities past the fairly bottom level work I did there. I quit as of August 1 and meditated on my next move, which I determined would be to travel across America to visit a place that might have the power to provide me with a vision of my future. My rationale was that it would benefit my growth to familiarize myself with a city beyond my own and figure out whether I could make the transition there to settle down into adulthood. I still have a profoundly strong connection to New York and am not discontent there. Rather, my sense is that to drive myself to the next stage of life, I have to leave what I know and learn how to manage through other experiences.
In my existential malaise, I determined it was necessary to go out West and spend a couple of days in San Francisco. I concentrated on the necessities of developing an itinerary and initiated the more pragmatic search for career opportunities as a school teacher or extra-curricular educator in non-profit organizations. Ultimately, my plan is to teach in settings outside of the conventional classroom. For example, creating and leading programs for cultural institutions, like museums and youth centers. Supported by my family and cheered on by my friends, I felt positive about the visit.
My multi-stop flight on Southwest brought me, without enough time to leave the terminal, through Nashville and L.A. on the way to my eventual destination. On the plane, my mind drifted and fluttered over the ground below and changes ahead. The trip was only partially a classic vacation. My priorities were oriented more toward introducing myself to and getting acquainted with principals, apartment landlords and naturally, the local food. If my mission was to breach the theoretical, I should do more than casually explore the place and get actually immersed in the practical things I’d have to go through to achieve such a life shift. I’d been there once before with my parents four years ago, which was an interesting but unfulfilling experience. My goal now would be the attainment of my own, individual perspective.
What I found there were people happy to help me out. From my friend Ben — at whose apartment I crashed — to complete strangers, wherever I went there was always somebody who related to me and my purpose there. Many had stories of their own move to share, about how they discovered the city and uncovered its possibilities — a spark which continues to light my flame of excitement to this very moment. What was especially great was the inspiration to take action. This was a notion already implanted in my head about the state of California in general, where opportunities are made, not offered or proposed. Berkeley in particular is a case-study in entrepreneurial preservation, where chains are basically prohibited and small businesses survive as the thread which weave generations together.
While pedaling through the neighborhoods, I wondered about how the design of a city factors into the motions, decisions and behaviors of the crowds who navigate its streets, patronize its shops and play in its parks. New York was built for mass transport, with multiple methods, numerous tracks and convenient crosscurrents for transfers between them all. Natives and tourists learn the system, master their routes and stick with regular, synchronized, patterns for traversing the streets. The result is predictable behavior which I believe has a negative psychological impact on how we perceive variations and possibilities. The public motions of San Francisco are crazy, comprised of chaotic traffic frequencies and bizarre scenes of contrasting cultures. It’s an ambiguous and strange social composition — people proud to be themselves, respect that attitude in others and charge forward without a sense of the city being master to their presence. Why did I come to embrace it? Because it forced me to chart many different courses and consequently, encounter the unexpected, with more consideration to where my search had brought me.
In front of me, I imagined the opportunity to structure my own course and capitalize I did. With multiple part time jobs available in the Jewish community and potential for more, a room and couch in the Sunset District for when I move this month, a plan in mind for how to build and expand on this initial progress and my finances in order, I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.
After returning, it was time for me to take a long hard look at my life in terms of where I am professionally and whether I’m capable of creating a better situation for myself. These are the questions that all people think about occasionally, but never too seriously because it scares us that our lives aren’t actually all that we project them to be. What I honestly do is take pause and make a figurative assessment of just how this existence benefits me. I’ve done a lot here, but has any of it mattered? I’ve reached an age where I need to make the crucial distinction between distraction and happiness.
My conclusion of New York is that co-existence happens naturally. Those who migrate there have a generally collective expectation of what city life will be like and a consciousness of city identity and dynamic. Contrastingly, in San Francisco, a person moves to reinvent and recreate themselves. It is a blank canvas for us to project our visions. It is the perfect place for me to create my own pattern and version of reality. I am a product of my environment and therefore must leave in order to make my future. New York I want you, but San Francisco I need you.