Today marks the anniversary of my decision to move to San Francisco just under 18 years ago.
It was my 3rd or 4th trip and I’m walking down the Castro just enjoying the “scenery.” I distinctly remember making the decision after seeing a drag queen, a leather daddy, two gym bunnies, and two mommies with strollers all roaming the streets in the hood. No one cared about their differences, no one was even phased by the diversity from several walks of life. It was just all out there.
It was at that moment I decided it was time to make a move. It was a good decision and I have never once regretted. It wasn’t easy as I loved my job at the time. I was living with one of the besties so home life was good as well. Life was going smoothly but I never felt like I belonged. It wasn’t until I moved here I felt I finally found a place to call home.
Fast forward almost 18 years, a failed job offer, several moves around town, 3 significant others, several wonderful dogs and I’m still loving it. The city has and is changing but that is always true of any city. There are things I miss but bemoaning and being bitter over it solves nothing. I prefer to look eternally forward.
It is hard for me at times to look back on my life and believe the scope and depth of growth and change I’ve been thru. Life can be a funny beast. I’ve got at least 14 more years here (until I retire I’m pretty much tied to the bay area). After that, who knows? SF can be a very hard place to live on a fixed income. I remember all too well struggling for several years when I first got here. I was barely making ends meet. I don’t plan to end up in a similar situation when I do finally retire.
Anyway, I’m feeling nostalgic a bit today. I might go for a ride along the beach on my motorcycle later. SF, you are not perfect, but you are very much my home.
I think this is the first year I haven’t been sad during the anniversary of my mother’s death. It snuck up on me and the grand day arrived before I even knew it.
In year’s past, without even realizing it on a conscious level, I would get sad for anywhere from a few days to a couple weeks. I’d start searching my thoughts and feelings to figure out what was wrong and realize it was her anniversary. And for you long-time readers, I’m sure you know I’m referring to my foster mother, not my step-mother.
I’d like to think I’ve reached a point of happiness and contentedness in my own life that I no longer yearn for her in my life. She was only in my life for a few brief years as a child but all my best memories of childhood revolve around her. Even though I was adopted1, I never felt like she treated me any different. I was her baby boy and the memories I have of her are full of love and good things.
For most of my adult life I always wished she was still around. I felt like I needed her. I felt like if she’d survived that brutal fight with cancer my life would have been vastly different. I can’t know for sure how things might have been different. My soul ached for her in the early (miserable) days of adulthood. I still remember crying myself into exhaustion on her grave one year in my late 20’s. I’d been away for several years and felt like I was disrespecting her memory. I was so lost as a person back then. I felt robbed of her love and potential influence. I remember being embarrassed it took longer than I thought it should to find her plot. The cemetery had grown and changed over the years and many of the familiar markings were gone. I remember how completely adrift, cold, and utterly alone I felt when I left her grave that day. It was probably the second saddest day in my life.
Obviously, I survived and moved forward. And yet, every year around this time a wave of sadness would hit me. Some years I knew in advance and embraced it, other years it just happened and I would scramble to figure out why I was so sad. This year the big day came and I was fine. It was a shock to look down at my phone and realize the day. I felt a small pang of sadness for a moment and then smiled.
I still remember her and wish she had been a bigger part of my life. I still wish she was here in this world with me. None of those things have changed. So what has changed? I haven’t forgotten her. Is it just time and age? It might be a bit of both but I like to think it’s another sign I’ve grown up. Gone is the injured boy locked inside the body of a young adult man. In his place is a man mature and experienced enough to handle the world and his own shortcomings head on. It’s certainly been a struggle but I like to think that. I think she would be proud of the man I’ve become.
The memories of her grows slightly more fuzzy every year now. It used to be so crisp and firm in my mind’s eye. I still remember her face but even it is starting to change. I don’t have many pictures of her but the few I do have help me keep her face alive in my memory. I have zero contact with anyone from her side of the family. I haven’t seen any of them in over 25 years. (Many of them didn’t like that I was adopted, from what I’ve been told) There is only my older brother and myself now to remember her. He is in prison and he never talks about her. We’ve never discussed her once since she died actually. He is many years older than me and we were never overly close, even back then. I certainly wasn’t the little brother he wanted. But, as long as he and I remember her, she still lives.
Well, 2013 turned out to be an amazing here for me. It was a time for personal reflection on past mistakes. It was a time of emotional and financial recovery. It was also a time of joy and happiness.
The year started rather ho-hum. Nothing bad or good, just rather uneventful. I switched shifts at work for a software project. This put me on day shift, which I lamented repeatedly. Ironically, the timing of my assignment was instrumental, even if I didn’t recognize it at the time.
As time went by the year just got better and better.
There is, of course, my beloved Cooper. He always brings me joy. His unconditional love is a constant light in my life. I will never understand how anyone could abandon such a wonderful animal. Being a special needs dog only makes me love him that much more.
Of course, unless you never read my madness, there was my meeting The Pup. Knowing each other online for years, this was our first year to meet in person. I believe that life brought him to me. The coincidences and alignment of occurrences were all too obvious to ignore. My time on the project gave me a lot of flexibility to visit back and forth while he was still living in Phoenix. I truly believe I was meant to be with him. He has taught me the meaning of true love and what it feels like to be loved unconditionally. I eagerly anticipate our future together. I simply cannot imagine my life without him.
My finances came together and are well under control again. I’m still carrying a debt load but knowing I’m on top it takes a huge stress off of me. It will take a couple years to get it down to what I want but getting a consolidation loan most definitely helped. The interest was slightly higher than what I wanted but I can apply for a refinance in a year so I’m pleased.
As always, I struggle to be better than I am. It is not a NY resolution as much as an approach to life in general. The struggle continues. This past year didn’t test me as much as reaffirm my growth in this area.
I won’t miss 2013 as much as look back on it fondly. I am excited to greet 2014.