12 Things About My First 12 Months in San Francisco

view of the City from LombardWell, well, well, look who survived her first year in San Francisco! That’s right. She of the woeful posts New City, No New Friends, San Francisco: Not a Treat (Yet) and Making Friends: Paying Dues. It’s been a tremendous year with intense ups and downs and quite a bit of change and growth. Here are 12 ways in which my life has changed in the 12 months I’ve lived in San Francisco, from the mundane to the exciting.

1. I Spent 90% Less in Gas

I drove an average of twice a month in this first year as compared to daily in the Los Angeles version of my life. My main mode of transportation is Muni, the bus line, with some help from BART, taxis, Lyft and Uber. When I drive now, I feel like a brittle, nervous octogenarian, with nodding head and pursed lips, my small frame almost hidden behind the wheel of a giant Cadillac, making exclamations like, “Oh golly, I just, oh my, so many cars, oh no, one-way street, oh jeez, too much! Too much! Abort! I want to get out of this mechanical beast!”

Driving is intense and stressful. I don’t like it anymore. I blame Los Angeles and that hellion of a freeway, the 405. I have post traumatic traffic stress disorder or PTTSD. I told myself I wouldn’t make a decision on what to do with my car for at least a year. It’s been at least a year and have no decision…yet. The Angeleno in me is having a hard time imagining a life without the freedom of my own car.

It’s not always easy on the bus, but it sure beats developing an unhealthy hatred for BMW drivers and contemplating all the fucked up things you’d rather be doing than sitting in traffic.

Guess where the money saved on gas ends up…

2. Rent, Rent, Rent, Rent, Reeeeent

My rent here is nearly double what I paid in Los Angeles. Yet, my square footage decreased by almost 30%. This sucks. I don’t think I need to elaborate further.

3. More Oysters Please

In Los Angeles, some of my friends and I had an unofficial burger club. We’d take turns picking burger spots to check out. L.A. has become a beef-opolis of sorts, with competing burger joints popping up on the regular. I used to eat some form of beef at least once a week. [Obvious joke not intended.]

Me Hog Island
One of my favorite days this year was spent with my sister N at Hog Island Oyster Farm

Burger joints don’t abound here the way they do in L.A. There are, however, plenty of oysters-a-gogo. I’ve grown quite fond of the little suckers. They’re now on rotation in my cravings repository. Burger cravings, however, are rotating around with less frequency these days.

My sister and I went to Hog Island Oyster Farm one weekend – about an hour north of the City – and that day was the perfect culmination of joy from hanging out with my little sister, tasty oysters, refreshing Arrogant Bastard beer, mild weather, bright sunshine and outdoor NorCal beauty. To top it off, one group of picnickers’ weird-ass folk music played loudly enough for us all to hear. Oddly, the bizarre music fit the scene perfectly. A soundtrack to go with the perfect picnic scene.

This cutie chow in a penguin suit won best dog in costume at my job.
This cutie chow in a penguin suit won best dog in costume at my job.

4. Started From the (Corporate) Bottom  The job I have now isn’t the job I had when I moved here. That first job stank like some of the funky people I ride the bus with. I went from the job of my nightmares – which sold itself as a “startup-like environment”, but in reality operated more like a corporate fledgling – to an up-and-coming actual startup.

The start-up world is unique and peculiar. At times, I feel like I’m in a pretty NBC office sitcom. Like when a group of trendily-dressed, attractive, young women walk by my desk laughing with bright white smiles, or a thin Michael Cera-looking engineer breezes by on a scooter, or when I pass by the kegerator in the lounge, or when there’s a costume contest for employees and employee dogs on Halloween. I can’t tell how old anyone is at my job. Everyone looks some vague age between 22 and 45. The person that looks 25 could be a director. There’s talk of venture capitalists, competition and IPOs. It can feel surreal. As I share tales of the workplace with my sister N, she often asks incredulously, “Do you actually do any work there?” Heh. Absolutely, they just reward us very well for our hard work. I feel lucky to be there.

5. Try Walking in My Shoes 

Thanks to my trusty FitBit (which, devastatingly, I recently lost on a Muni bus, RIP Bitty), I know that I walk an average of 1 to 1.25 miles more per day compared to an average day in Los “Your car is your BFF” Angeles. Let’s hear it for walking!

6. Shake-Up in the Shoe Game

Last year while shopping with my friend Z at Loehmann’s, I picked up a great pair of rose-colored Franco Sarto wedge sandals with ivory embroidered trim.

“Don’t you already have a pair of wedges that look like that?” she asked me with a teasing smile.

“Yeah, kind of, I mean… not really. At least not in this color!”

I purchased the sandals and we’ve been very happy together. We’ve shared many adventures on foot and receive many compliments. A girl can never have too many pairs of wedges (or boots, scarves, hats, jeans or dollar bills). I like to wear wedges because they give me and my itty-bitty legs height without the feeling that I’m going to break my neck if my ankle rolls that I get with a skinny heel.

Since I’m walking more and in cooler weather, I need comfortable, cute (a must, obviously), non-toe-freezing shoes versatile enough for dashing over puddles of water to dashing away from the man with weird facial tics angrily muttering to himself about “the enemy.” I don’t wear sneakers (or tennis shoes for those of you down South) out unless there is a workout involved. So, those were a no-go from the get-go. I am not a fan of the ubiquitous, shuffling ballet flats and I couldn’t get away with wearing boots year round, so I needed options.

Sperry Top-Sider Audrey . Very comfortable, versatile, do not recommend for walking long distance due to limited ankle support.
Sperry Top-Sider Audrey: Very comfortable & versatile, do not recommend for walking long distances due to limited ankle support.

Like a hypocrite and a sheep, I turned to the boat shoes I once scoffed at: Sperry’s. At some point, they became cute to me. It could be that everyone seems to have a pair here, men and women alike. Isn’t that cute? A shoe that both women and men can wear! I’ve seen couples out in boat shoes together and it’s a sickeningly adorable.

I also am thankful for the moto boot trend, as I now have a legitimate fashion excuse to wear boots year-round. I just vary the height of the boot depending on the time of year and day. And the wedge bootie? Best shoething ever! Anyway, I could go on, but I don’t think you’re here for the shoes.

7. My Cats are Even Bougier

It's good to be a cat in San Francisco
It’s good to be a cat in San Francisco

My cats already ate well, but the pet stores here sell San Francisco-type goods and food. You know, all trying to be responsible, earth-friendly, healthy, free roaming geese and pigs and all that. So the cats now poop on corn-based litter instead of clay. I mean, who poops on clay these days? What is this? 2012? Am I right? Their new brand of can food has kitschy dish names such as “Two Tu Tango,” and “Kitty Gone Wild.” Ain’t no Friskies touching the tongues of these cats.

8. I Have One of These

The yellow squiggly is the Timbuk2 logo. Photo cr: timbuk2.com
The yellow squiggly is the Timbuk2 logo. Photo cr: timbuk2.com

Being the little observer that I am, while riding on the bus early on, with all the other worker bees, I noticed many people seemed to have cute or rugged messenger bags and totes. Makes sense if you don’t have a car to use a storage unit. I’d been looking for the perfect bag that could double as a gym bag and hold my work laptop. I kept seeing the brands Timbuk2 & Rickshaw, two bag companies native to SF. The Timbuk2 bags had heaps of positive reviews and cute designs, so I supported a local business and got a great gym/laptop/weekend bag.

9. I Know You!

At a friend’s party in L.A. last year, pre-move, I got to chatting with friends of hers, a couple whom had recently moved to L.A. from San Francisco. I told them I’d been considering moving to San Francisco and asked them how they liked it.

“It’s cool. But…it’s a really small city.”

“How so?” I asked.

“Well, you sometimes run into people you don’t want to see. Like ex-boyfriends or ex-girlfriends…”

I remember that conversation each time I run into someone I know here. I don’t know that many people here. I couldn’t even scramble enough people together to have a flash mob. So, it amuses me that I’ve run into an average of one person I know every 2 months. I went years in L.A. without randomly running into anyone I know.

I did have the misfortune of running into a woman from the nightmare job. A woman whom I intensely disliked and whose presence seemed to make my awful days that much worse. Her nose seemed permanently in the air around me. Ugh. I saw her one afternoon while I was shopping downtown with two of the 20 people I know in the City.

“Shit!” I told my new friend J, while trying to hide behind a clothing rack, “I know that girl. Don’t look!!! I know her from work and I can’t stand her. The last thing I want is to see her on my work-free weekend. Ack, I hope she didn’t see me! I’m gonna go over there!” I pointed to a section on the far opposite end of the store, which was thankfully, very large. I don’t know if she ever saw me. She never said anything to me about it later. My life will be fine if I never see her again.

10. Reuse This!

I have a new hobby. It’s called “collecting reusable bags because I forget to bring one I already own and end up buying another.” It’s ridiculous. As I mentioned, San Francisco is all about being good to Mama Earth, and as such we’re encouraged to bring our own reusable bags to the grocery store. If you forget or don’t have one, you can pay $.10 for a non-reusable bag from the store. Paper only. Plastic bags are banned here. The plastic bags which I like to use to dispose of cat litter.

I always forget to bring a damn reusable bag with me to the store. I end up spending the $.10 on a paper bag I have no use for. A few clerks act like an admonishing Principal Strickland as they dutifully tell you with mild judgment, “I’m going to have to charge you 10 cents per bag.” Damn, I get it. Let’s move on. Don’t bag-shame me.

Admonishment, judgment and bag-shaming seem to have no effect. I forget to bring my reusable bag, 9 times out of 10.

11. Buying Eggs is a 10-Minute Task

Organic, free-range, free-range organic, brown free-range, brown organic, cage-free, vegetarian-fed, cage-free brown, OMG, how many freakin’ egg choices are there?! Which one makes me seem the most humane? I suffer from analysis paralysis a lot more here. There are so many options for food!

I'm practically running unofficial egg taste tests in my kitchen.
I’m practically running unofficial egg taste tests in my kitchen.

My sister and I went to a farmer’s market one Saturday morning where she wanted to buy an avocado.

“One avocado please.”

“Sure,” said the vendor, “do you prefer a sweeter flavor?”

“Yeah, that sounds good!”

He rooted around the pile of avocados in front of him.

“Will you be eating in this in the next day or so, or a week?“

“A day.”

More rooting around.

“Hmm, will you be cooking it or eating it raw?”

“Raw.”

More rooting.

A beat. “Here you go, this should do it!” He presented the winning avocado with a slight flourish.

And all of that was just to buy one avocado, which to his credit, my sister said was very, very good.

12. Who are you?

The foggy days get old quickly.
The foggy days get old quickly. (View from Sea Cliff)

I yammered on in the early days here about how people didn’t make eye contact on the street. Like a puppy eager to make new friends, I smiled at people whose eyes I caught and they’d look away, down or through me. I now recognize my irritated response as part of the rejection phase of cultural adjustment. About three to four months into the move my attitude toward San Francisco was that of a woman carping about the guy who hooked her and then disappeared. As anthropologist Kalvero Oberg observed, “At this stage the newcomer either gets stronger and stays, or gets weaker and goes home (physically, or only mentally).” I got stronger and stayed, I am pleased to say. Also, I make eye contact with few people these days; I’ve learned well from my citymates. I’ve adapted to the culture and feel like San Francisco is my home.

Folsom Fair
The very naked Folsom Street Fair was…eye-opening and made me want to bathe vigorously.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. Honorable mentions go to: my growing dislike of bikers who wantonly disregard pedestrians and road rules; my growing love of Oakland; attending more festivals and fairs in one year than I have in the past five; way more time spent waiting in line at restaurants; seeing triple the number of publicly nude people (up from 0); my expanding collection of hats, scarves, sweaters and coats; getting better at figuring out what’s compostable; and finally, significantly increasing my knowledge about wine thanks to several visits to nearby Napa Valley.

This City didn’t make the adjustment easy on me. We fought and it was really tough at times. I persevered, made it through and I really like it now. I forgot what it’s like to genuinely have fond feelings for the city you live in. Moving here goes the list of “Great Life Decisions Made by Me.” I can’t wait to see what the next 12 months have in store!

With The Painted Ladies
With The Painted Ladies

What Halloween Taught Me About Economics

This is the third year that Jimmy Kimmel encouraged parents to torment their unsuspecting, innocent, sticky-fingered children by pretending the parents ate all the kids’ Halloween candy. These candy-nappers film the interaction as they break the news to their presumed beloved spawn. We, the adults, are expected to laugh at the pain these helpless tykes feel at the shocking and unexpected loss of their sugar haul.

“That’s not a very kind thing to doooooo,” one sweet boy wailed at his candy-napping parent.

No, kid, it’s not kind. It’s not funny. I feel your pain.

I grew up during the “How Halloween Candy is Killing Your Kids – Film at 11!” hysteria of the 80s. Panic-inducing reports warned concerned parents to check their kid’s Halloween candy collection for razors and other non-treat items. Nefarious derelicts were out to poison your children one tainted Snickers bar at a time, the news warned.

Dutifully, after trick-or-treating I’d turn over my hard-earned candy – hard-earned through amped up cuteness and that trick adults love: politeness; saying “please” and “thank you” – to my parents to inspect. Their turnaround time would be anywhere from 10-minutes to 72-hours. Those 72-hour Halloween seasons blew like exploding chunks of pumpkin.

“How could it possibly take so long to check candy for razors?” my young mind would wonder.

Some years, it seemed that when my parents returned my prized candy, the load was noticeably lighter. Um…didn’t I have more Now & Laters in this pail? Nah, I probably just thought I had more.

Trick or Treat (TV series)

The last year I trick-or-treated, I was a sophomore in high school and did it sort of ironically – at least that’s what I’d tell anyone my age who might have caught me out. Truthfully, my younger sisters were going and I wanted free candy. Besides, most adults thought I looked like a middle-schooler anyway. May as well capitalize on my baby-faced appearance.

As always, when we returned home that evening, I handed over my sack of sucrose to my parents. “I’m 15, do I really need you to check my candy? I know what a razor looks like. And, anyway, I don’t know how you can tell if something is poisonous if it’s in a wrapper.”

Yeah, I was a little bit of a know-it-all.

My plea for adult responsibility via candy-checking didn’t work. Off to my parents my candy went.

The next afternoon, when I was reunited with my candy, I felt certain I’d been ripped off. I KNOW there were Sour Patch Kids in there. I don’t mess around with my Sour Patch Kids! I confronted my parents. I was on to them.

Like a woman from Snapped who slowly poisons her husband by adding small doses of arsenic to his morning coffee, my parents had been siphoning off more and more candy from my collection over the years. This had gone on for long enough. I did the leg work. I asked politely for candy and dressed up like a fool for the amusement of grown people. I wanted what I worked for!

“Parents, I don’t want to accuse anyone of anything, but I’m pretty sure I’m missing some candy.”

“Oh…,” parental stammer,” well, your sister didn’t get as much candy as you did, so we gave some of yours to her.”

WHAT?! Again, I have to share? Man sometimes I miss when I was an only child. I worked for the candy and because the little ones didn’t hustle enough, I have to give up some of mine? This is crap!

Candy Thief
My parents were candy bandits!. Photo cr: Jenn and Tony Bot, flickr.com

“And we also took a few pieces. You don’t need to eat all that sugar.”

But, I worked for this! It’s mine! I earned it!

There was no point arguing with them. They were in charge. They made the rules. The candy was gone and trying to retrieve the misappropriated goods from my little sisters was like asking for a grounding. Sigh.

The following spring, I earned my very first paycheck from my first non-lemonade stand, non-babysitting, non-chores around the house, job. I’d calculated that at 16-hours a week and $4.25 an hour, a two-week paycheck would have me living in petit baller-land in no time.

I was horrified when I saw my net pay.

“What the hell is FICA and why is it taking my money?!”

I’d known about federal taxes, but what were all these other deductions? Why does the federal government need all this money from me? I’m only 16. I just want to be able to buy a tasty chicken fried steak lunch at school, maybe get some clothes and sit around at Starbuck’s, pretending to be intellectual while drinking coffee that isn’t going to stunt my growth because I’ve already accepted I’ll be 5’1″ forever.

Now I understood why adults were always whining about paying taxes. I worked 32 hours and it seemed like half of the time I worked went to the government. For what?! If this is how much I have to work just to get this piddly little check, I’m going to have to work forever!

The thing is though, I wasn’t actually that shocked. Sure, momentarily, the government raining on my first paycheck parade with its deductions, gave me pause. However, my parents Halloween-candy pilfering and redistribution of candy-wealth to my sisters had prepared me for this moment.

Sour Patch Kids
If you value your limbs, you’ll  back away from the (sour patch) kids. Photo cr: dklimke, flickr.com

My parents taught me about the concept of the sharing the wealth through Halloween candy. My little sisters were quite content with their inflated candy stashes and my parents were right: I didn’t need all that candy anyway.

I feel for the kids whose parents pulled candy-thieving pranks on them. However, maybe they will learn something from this. Something other than, “sometimes mommy and daddy can be mean.” I still won’t take joy in their pain. Don’t be messing with people’s candy. The last time someone tried to steal my candy, bitch almost lost an arm.

My “Mindy Project” Moment With a Guy On the Elevator

photo cr: Demom Media
photo cr: Demom Media

I marathoned season one of The Mindy Project during the summer television drought. I developed a girl crush on the lead character, Mindy Lahiri, almost immediately. She’s me. She’s my friends! Mindy’s an educated, single, professional woman in her early 30s, living in Boston. She’s a relatable blend of endearingly awkward, at times second-hand-cringe-inducingly awkward, feisty, ready to go head-to head with the funniest of dudes in a battle of quips, unabashed lover of pop culture, with a fabulous style exhibited by her flyass enviable wardrobe. And she’s brown! She’s a brown girl on TV, Indian-American to be more specific, and her brownness is not the focus of her character’s life. She gets to be “normal.”

Mindy, much like the Rachel McAdamses, Reese Witherspoons and Sandra Bullocks of the romantic comedy films she adores, is steady meeting cute dudes in random places, like the elevator. Elevators are like a goldmine for hot dates in her world. I remember in college reading stupid articles in Cosmo with titles like, “How to Get Him to Notice You,” which they seemed to repackage every issue using similarly uninspired titles and not dissimilar content. [How many different sex positions could Cosmo possibly find in the almost 50 years of its existence? They are either making shit up, inventing new and uncomfortable positions or slowly parsing out pages of the Kama Sutra until they run out.]

Cosmopolitan (magazine)
75 moves? Yeah right! | photo cr: Wikipedia

As Cosmo explained, eligible single men are everywhere! That cutie in the grocery store eyeing those cantaloupes? He’s hoping you’ll make the off-color joke about the large melons he’s checking out. The hottie at the gym who’s grunting like a warthog as he bench presses 500lbs? He’s just trying to get your attention. Do a little booty shake as you do your lunges and he’ll drop those weights and make a beeline for you. Or there’s the good ol’ elevator. Don’t be afraid to make eye contact with that handsome stranger in the business suit! He could be your soulmate.

I don’t know where to find these magic elevators from the Cosmo world, because most of the tech dudes in my office building act as though they fear exchanging words with females. “Have boobs? Won’t speak.” Furthermore, nobody wears suits in this city and if they do, they stand out like a contraband plastic bag in the grocery store.

Yesterday evening, I had a Mindy moment!

As I walked out of my office suite into the elevator bank we share with the company across the hall, a guy asked me, in a way that made me think his own question surprised him, “How was your day?”

Was he talking to me? I looked around. Yep, juuuuust me.

I smiled with hint of confusion and answered, “It was pretty good. How about yours?”

He was wearing a faded-red shirt and jeans. The shirt wasn’t faded, red as in “bled out in the washer”, but a distressed shade of red. The distinction is important. A messenger bag hung from his shoulder. I decided he was cute, his voice appealing and best of all, age appropriate.

Elevator Ride (what I have done for a living s...

The elevator arrived (“Doors opening,” announced the disembodied voice who for some reason has a British accent) and we entered. I figured the conversation would naturally die as others were already in the car.

“I’m leaving at 5:30,” he continued, “so it has to be good.”

“Oh? Is that not normal?”

“Nope, I usually work until 8:30. There are only four of us, so it’s not like anyone is forcing us to work late. We just do.” He seemed bemused.

Hold up.

Am I actually having a conversation with this dude? Like for real?

We exited into the lobby. I thought, say something funny!

“Haha. I wonder why that is. Maybe the force of the…(blah blah blah not funny, you fool!).”

Were he not present, I would have slapped myself upside my own head.

I added, “Haha. I don’t even know where I was going with that theory.” Like a damn fool who doesn’t know how to have a proper conversation.

He chuckled. “No, I think I get it. Haha. You’re probably thinking, ‘this guy is weird!'”

Uh, no. Not at all.

Intersection
Intersection dilemma | Photo cr: lukeroberts

We were on the street outside now. A few feet away was the intersection. Now what? Are we walking the same way? If we are, do we keep walking and talking? What if he was just being polite and wants me to stop babbling at him? If we’re going separate ways, should I pretend I’m going his way anyway in case he is chatting me up? This is what I hate about being single at my age. You’re always second guessing your natural instincts because even though you know you do “put yourself out there” and “present yourself as open and receptive to attention” and all the other repetitive phrases with undercurrents of unintentional judgment from helpful loved ones who want to see you boo’d up and not end up a crazy cat lady, you can hear their words in the recesses of your mind. By this point, Mindy Lahiri probably would have rattled off three or four cute quips and scored a date. Yes, I am aware she is a sitcom character.

I could see our bodies subtly moving in opposite directions. We were headed different ways.

“Well, I’m this way,” I tried to say as brightly as possible with a subtext of “I am open to more conversation possibly over a drink, but not in a desperate ‘make me your baby mama’ way.”

“Ok,” he replied. I couldn’t decipher his expression. He smiled though and said, “See you tomorrow.”

Will we? See each other tomorrow? I don’t recall seeing him ever before. This man from the elevator who talks to humans who have ovaries. Will there be more to this story? Who knows? At least I got an elevator moment! Well…kinda. No date. No soulmate (I don’t even think I believe in that). An elevator conversation with someone cute? I’ll take it!

Yes, I Am a Single Female in Her 30s With Cats

Last year, while walking to lunch, a male co-worker and I got into one of our usual tiffs when I declared:

“I want a dooooooog!”

My interest in getting a dog had grown greater and greater over the years and deepened after I bonded with a stray in Costa Rica the year before.

Why do women with cats get such a bad rap? People with dogs do plenty of kooky things.  | Read more from "Yes, I Am a Single Woman with Two Cats" on The Girl Next Door is Black
We met on a dark and misty evening in Costa Rica. The year was 2011. It was love at first sight. He was a stray, I was a tourist. I named him Otis. I wanted to take him home. Make him a US citizen. But, alas it couldn’t be.

He scoffed and threw me a pointed look, “You already have two cats. No guy is going to want to date a woman with two cats and a dog!”

I and my female co-worker (and close friend) gasped in disagreement. This was a common occurrence. Our male co-worker would nonchalantly drop a statement we’d find incendiary and a heated debate would ensue, often in the lunchroom, hilariously, with others joining in and sides forming along gender lines.

[Ex: One guy complains that women only want men with money. Another chimes in that he’s had to buy former girlfriends designer bags only to have them break up with him and then be out the cost of five-star dinners and Balenciaga bags. I say something like, “I don’t specifically look for a guy with money.”

Male: “Yeah, right. You guys want expensive dinners and gifts.”

“I like to travel. I want a guy who has money to travel so we can travel together. I am not interested in being anybody’s sugar mama. If I want a Balenciaga bag, I’ll buy it my damn self.”

The women would respond with a chorus of “Yeah! I bought my own Chanel bag!” or “I took myself to dinner at Bazaar!” or “I have my own money!”

The men would protest in disbelief. Ah, I miss those lunches.)

I sighed heavily with exasperation, “What? First of all, I’m not going to plan my life around what some nonexistent guy may or may not like. Second, I didn’t say I was going to get a dog. I just said I want one. I am not ready to own a dog right now. And what if I did get one? I wouldn’t want to date some guy who would dismiss me because of my pets!”

He looked dubious. “Ha! I don’t know what guy would be like ‘She has two cats and a dog, cool!’ Most guys will just think you’re weird. It’s bad enough you have two cats.”

I rolled my eyes. “I said ‘I am NOT GETTING A DOG!'”

Why do women with cats get such a bad rap? People with dogs do plenty of kooky things.  | Read more from "Yes, I Am a Single Woman with Two Cats" on The Girl Next Door is Black
LOLcats anyone?

It’s “bad enough I have two cats?” Nobody asked you, bruh.

He’s not the only one who feels that way though. The “crazy cat lady” cliche has survived for decades, to torment innocent single women who’ve committed no greater crime than taking in a feline or two. I almost have to choke out, “Yeah, I have two cats,” when someone asks if I have pets these days. I have noticed some visibly wince or wrinkle their nose with distaste at my response. “Oh! That’s…nice,” they’ll say falsely as if I missed their judgy-faced expression. I secretly want to add, “But, I’m only temporarily single! I have had boyfriends before! I am not a ‘cat lady!’ Don’t judge me.”

What is with the species-est attitude against cats? They are perfectly fine animals. The Egyptians knew what was up. They revered cats.

Enter many Chinese novelty shops or restaurants and you’ll likely see at least one small statue of the good luck kitty with the raised and sometimes, waving hand.

Why do women with cats get such a bad rap? People with dogs do plenty of kooky things.  | Read more from "Yes, I Am a Single Woman with Two Cats" on The Girl Next Door is Black
This waving kitty (maneki-neko) is thought to bring good luck or show welcome. | source

Cats are funny. Cats are the subjects of many memes and YouTube videos. There are cat celebrities.

Cats are cool. There’s nothing inherently crazy about owning a cat and having XX chromosomes.

You know who does seem crazy sometimes though? Dog owners!

Let me tell you about (some) dog owners and their quirks. Here is just a sampling of the oddities dog owners get up to:

1. Dress their dog up in silly costumes

Why don’t you dress yourself up as an alligator or 3-headed alien? I have never put clothing on my animals. I don’t think my cats would be amused to be dressed up like a pumKitty on Halloween or SantyCat on Christmas. How undignified! And if it’s true that owners become like their pets and vice versa: my cat can give major side-eye. You don’t want to be side-eyed by a cat. That look says, “I’m coming for your face with my claws, bitch!”

Why do women with cats get such a bad rap? People with dogs do plenty of kooky things.  | Read more from "Yes, I Am a Single Woman with Two Cats" on The Girl Next Door is Black
How would you like to be trotted out in public wearing a cow-printed onesie? | source
2. Push their dog around in a stroller

The hell? The dog is made to walk, sans shoes, padding already built in. You push your dog around?! You just got served! By your dog!

Related to that:

3. Carry their dog around a purse

I can’t. I really can’t.

 

4. Bring their dog everywhere

Are you so co-dependent on Virginia Woof that you can’t leave her at home when you go to a restaurant, the beauty salon, the bank or the therapist’s office because you need her there for moral support? (I don’t know actually know if that happens, but I’m 75% sure some Tupperware-faced lonely housewife in Beverly Hills has done this at least once.)

5. Take their dog to dog socializing events

Not for the people to socialize. Haha, that would be absurd! No, this is for the dog to engage it’s social skills. There are dog parks, dog play-dates, dog hotels, doggy daycare, and dog agility camps. The dog probably has a better social life than the owner.

Why do women with cats get such a bad rap? People with dogs do plenty of kooky things.  | Read more from "Yes, I Am a Single Woman with Two Cats" on The Girl Next Door is Black
Did someone say carrots?
6. Claim their dog is vegetarian

I’m sorry did you mean to buy a rabbit? Dogs are DOGS. They eat meat. In the wild, many of them are skilled hunters. They hunt other mammals. Our sharp teeth that we use to bite through tough things? Those are called “canines” for a reason. Put a hunk of beef on the floor next to a bowl of carrots and grains. Which do you think Sir Barks A Lot is going to make a run for? It sure as hell won’t be those damn bunny stalks.

7. Moon over their dog, some even claiming their dog is their best friend

Do you know how crazily people would look at me if I said my cat was my best friend? People would be whispering, “No wonder that chick is single!” However, it is seen as quite acceptable for a person to say their dog is their BFF, ace boon, road dog, ride or die bitch.

Some dog owners will blather on for days about how talented their dog is. “Waggy Simpson can sit!” Big deal, my cat can leap buildings without breaking a pant. Now, that is some impressive shit!

I almost never talk about my cats unless prompted and even then it’s usually in a sardonic way: “Does anyone want my bitchy scaredy-cat? That dumb cat had the nerve to hiss at me for trying to feed her. I’ll put her ungrateful catass out like Dino!”

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8. Walk their dog according to the dog’s schedule

I know my neighbors’ dog walking schedule. Twice a day, morning and evening, their demanding barky mini-dogs who snort like pigs, get walked.

Some people have to plan their day around their dog’s schedule. Or they leave places early to go walk their dog. Sorry you missed it when President Obama walked into the bar at my birthday party and karaoked to 2 Chainz’ Birthday Song” (“It’s your Birthday/It’s Your Birthday!/Bad bitch contest you in first place!”). I hope Arf Garfurkel enjoyed his midnight walk.

Hey guess what trick my cats can do? They walk themselves! They have litter boxes; they know how to use ’em. I will come and go as I please.

9. Pay astronomical amounts to groom and primp their dog

Some people even take their dogs to acupuncture!

Actually, I have to admit: I saw a poodle dyed orange and black last year when the Giants were in the World Series. It was cute. But still, really? Does Pug ‘n’ Whistle really need her nails polished? That is like some Kim Kardashian “everything in my house must be white” level of foolishness. (Please don’t ask me how I know that bit of information.)

Why do women with cats get such a bad rap? People with dogs do plenty of kooky things.  | Read more from "Yes, I Am a Single Woman with Two Cats" on The Girl Next Door is Black
LOOK AT THIS POODLE! | source

Now, read the above list and tell me who is “crazy”?

I have never made food for my cats. How about some of you dog owners? Mmhmm. Buying special raw meat for L’il L’il Bow Wow. I see you.

Where’s the “crazy dog lady” stereotype?

I actually love dogs. My boss brought her dog to work one day last week and all my professional composure went out the window.

“OMGDOGGIELOVEDOGGIELOVEDOGGIEAWWWWWWW! WANNAPLAYWITHDOGGIIEEEEE!”

Which brings me to the fallacy of the “dog or cat person” bifurcation. It’s silly. I can only like cats or dogs? Well guess what? I like both! They are entirely different species, a different genus. It’s like asking if I prefer chimps or humans. Of course, the answer is chimps. At least they know how to respect their elders.

Then again I’m also neither Democrat nor Republican. I’m an ambivert. I’m also ambidextrous. Unfortunately, I am not bisexual. I feel like dating women would be much easier than dating men. I think I’d be into feminine girls, so if I found someone my size, I could wear her clothes. Double the wardrobe! Anyhow, maybe I am unusual in not having a strong preference for cats or dogs over the other.

Why do women with cats get such a bad rap? People with dogs do plenty of kooky things.  | Read more from "Yes, I Am a Single Woman with Two Cats" on The Girl Next Door is Black
They’re both great pets! | source

You may wonder why I have two cats. It’s not because I want to begin a life of cat hoarding. When I used to aspire to be on TV, it wasn’t to be looking all wild-faced, with cats prancing all over my malodorous-looking home, showcased on A&E. It creeps me out seeing hordes of cats together. I shuddered just writing that. That’s disgusting.

Contrary to popular belief, some cats are social and my Maine Coon is one of them. For the first four years I had him, I lived with roommates who had their own cats. He loved playing with them and asserting himself as the alpha kitty. I enjoyed this, as well. I don’t want any weak pets.

When I started living alone, I felt guilty leaving him home by himself all day, so I got the second one. She is absolutely useless to me, but she does keep him company and lets him be in charge. So, she stays. For now. Which I’ve been saying for 7 years now. Damn bitchy cat.

People who don’t understand cats often make assumptions based on stereotypes or brief negative exposure to one mean cat:

“That cat I ran into in the street while it was eating tried to attack me! Cats are evil.”

“Once when I was little, I pulled our family cat’s tail and she bit me. Cats are mean!”

“Cats don’t show love. When I try to squeeze my friend’s cat with a love hug, the cat yelps and runs away!”

“Cats are too independent. [I am needy.]”

Well, when I was a kid I saw Cujo – the movie about the rabid dog that tries to kill its’ owners – it terrified me. Not too long after, I encountered a snarling, drooling German Shepherd that chased me down the streets of Brooklyn for blocks as I pumped my little legs as fast as I could on my bike. I was scared to death of dogs for ages! I thought dogs were vicious animals ready to attack unsuspecting little girls. Thankfully I eventually got over that and learned many dogs are really sweet. Also, rabies shots are legit!

There are weird cat owners, just as there are weird dogs owners. Nobody has the “crazy” pet-owner market owned except maybe those animal hoarders. Who lets a house full of animals shit all over their place? The hoarders aside, let cat owners be. Not every single woman who owns a cat has got the crazy eyes. Dog owners can be just as nuts as cat owners.

Bus Bullies and Ratchet Bitches*

Last week on my way home from work, trouble came looking for me in the form of a bus bully. I could have ignored it, but the fighter in me protested: “Nope, we will NOT be backing down today.”

When I boarded the bus, it was standing room only. I parked myself near a pole, turned up Spotify and tried to decompress from work. Whereas I could have gotten lobotomized and still done my old job, my new job keeps me on my toes: literally and figuratively. By the end of most days, I’m spent. That day had been particularly exhausting.

Photo cr: torbakhopper, flickr.com
Photo cr: torbakhopper, flickr.com

A minute into my bus ride, the girl (she was maybe in her early 20s) sitting in front of me said to her friend, seated behind me, “Hoes be having they p-ssy all in my face and shit.”

Say what now?

Another woman (not a man) can call me a bitch and I won’t care. Dirt off my shoulder. But, I do not accept “ho” or “hoe.” Perhaps to me the word “ho” is like the word “chicken” is to Marty McFly. [“Nobody.calls me.a HO!”]. This may seem hypocritical given the post title, but so be it.

I looked up from my phone. Dammit, I just wanted to listen to some music and read.

“Excuuuuse me?” I said with surprise (and ok, maybe some irritation, but still, I was calm).

The girl gave me a stankass look. Or maybe that was just her face. Frozen in stank position ’cause all she does is act stank. “Giiiiirl, I know you ain’t talkin’ to me.”

“First of all, I am not a girl. I am a woman. Second, you will not speak to me that way.”

I always wondered when I would stop referring to myself as a “girl” and start referring to myself as a “woman.” This, apparently, was that moment.

I could see on her stankass stankface that she was taken aback. To her friend she got all huffy and began heaving her giganto-boobs in my direction, neck-rolling, steam coming out of her ears that are probably too through with hearing her stankiness. Her stankface became even stankier as she exclaimed stankily: “Ooh this bitch…blah blah blah…dumb ho…niggas….blah blah..I know she didn’t…more stankface bloviating. I am a stankface who says stankface things.” [Ok, fine, she didn’t say the last two things.]

Now here is where I could have told trouble to take a damn hike.

A woman in a wheelchair needed to board the bus. As it happened, stankface was seated in the wheelchair area.

The bus driver instructed: “Everybody move back, get up! Wheelchair coming!”

Stankface got up with a huff, rolling her eyes and heaving her giant bosom. I taunted her (gleefully?), “Oh look. Now your problems are over and you don’t have to be near me!! Lucky you!”

She stood over me, at least 6 inches on my 5’1′ (and 3/4!) frame and made like she was gonna fight me. Her face became the stankiest I would see it that day. Winner of the stankface-a-thon is YOU!

I didn’t flinch. I know a bully when I see one. I was the smart black kid who got teased for “talking white,” listening to grunge music and caring about school. I was not here for her bullshit.

“I am not scared of you little girl. You know how they say someone’s voice was “dripping with disdain?” That was me. I was practically vomiting disdain. Disdain all up and down that bus! Channeling my grandma, my dad, my moms and any other strong people I know who don’t put up with disrespect, I thought to myself, “I am too old and too accomplished to have this stankface little girl talking to me this way and wasting my time over some nonsense.”

Stankface moved closer to her stanky sidekick. She was now standing next to me. She and her friend continued to chitter on, loudly, as though the rest of the bus cared what went on in their stankratch lives, about what an awful person I was. Ho this. Ho that. I could see other riders looking at them askew. Then a detour: “My baby daddy…blah blah…my son…oh yeah, my daughter.” These ratchet bitches have kids? God help those children and our society.

Don’t make a comment about their kids. Don’t even say the word “child!” Don’t say that you feel sorry for their kids. Keep your mouth shut! You are too old to be getting into a fight. You have a real job. Get it together girl.

I could see my criminal future flashing before my eyes, Facebook HuffPost headline reading: Promising black female tech employee (one of 5.75 in the City!) gets in bus fight with stankface ratchet bitch over the word “ho”. Ruins career.

I silenced the devil on my shoulder. Instead, as they tried to antagonize me with their words, I smirked. Bullies hate when you don’t break down and give in to their shenanigans. Oh does it anger them. “Oh hellll no, this bitch is laughing,” stankface grumbled indignantly. Yep, this bitch is laughing, and you and your heaving bosom of all that is ratchet and your stankface are getting more upset and I don’t give a f-.

Another woman, seated with her child, pulled the cord to get off the bus. She announced loudly, directing her attention to the stankcrew: “I am getting off the bus with my son. If anybody gets in my way….”

What in thee hell is with people on this bus? This bus line can be particularly trying. There always seems to be someone yelling, someone with an attitude, someone angry at the world, someone smelly, someone talking to themselves, some dude trying to make eyes at you with a yellow-toothed smile. Sometimes, it’s overstimulating.

The woman and the toddler got off the bus just fine. No incidents. A few senior citizens boarded the bus at the same time. Stankface’s friend continued sitting her rathet ass in one of the seats reserved for the elderly. Might I remind you that I said the bus was standing room only? And stankfacefriend didn’t move? No respect.

As it turned out, the stankcrew had another friend on the bus. He was a real charmer. “Maaaan, them Oakland cops ain’t got nothin’ on me. I know how to work them!” Oh how lovely. Stankface and stank-less-face nodded in appreciation at his skill in avoiding the cops.

Finally, after what seemed an interminable amount of time, we arrived at my stop.

There were so many things I wanted to say to those girls as I disembarked. “Get an education. Go to an etiquette class. Control your heaving bosom! Unstank your face! You’re feeding into negative stereotypes. Stop throwing around the word ‘nigga’.” I resisted uttering these things as well as the urge to grin widely and say “Toodle-fucking-loo ratchet bitches!”

Instead, I got off the bus and thought about all the ways I could have behaved better. Stankface reminded me of bullies I’d dealt with when I was younger. It was as though my younger self took over, seeking vindication. Stankface touched a nerve, one that raise my self-defenses. I am not proud of how I allowed myself to be drawn into the madness. I am not proud of my judginess. I misbehaved. Try as I may and wish as I might, I am still not perfect.

*I am trying really hard to stop referring to some women as bitches. But, sometimes a bitch is a bitch is a bitch. Don’t come after me mega-feminists, I know.

On Being Black in San Francisco: A Snapshot

Photo cr: massiveselector.com
Photo cr: massiveselector.com

Last night, my sister, my friend “Mercy” and I were on the bus returning from Oakland’s First Music Festival (a blast!). We were exhaustedly babbling, trying to figure out what to do for dinner (sleep sounded like a great option!) when a young guy behind us interjected:

“Excuse me ladies…”

Oh lord. Don’t let this be some lame line. I am too tired.

“Excuse me ladies, but I just have to tell you how refreshing it is to see three African-American women on this bus. On any bus here really.”

Oh. Well…yeah. 

We all nodded laughed knowingly. We get it. There are so few of us here – particularly the young and upwardly mobile. You get so used to being the only one on the daily. It’s like we’re unicorns, aliens or endangered species; so, when you see another, it makes an imprint.

We chatted with him for a little while (he did, not-so-subtly, but charmingly, try to get one of our phone numbers indiscriminately) about the festival and his job at one of the museums in the City.

No numbers were exchanged, no wondrous epiphanies had, just a pleasant and notable encounter among strangers on a bus.

Side note: I’ve visited Oakland four or five times in the 11 months I’ve been living in San Francisco and I gotta say, Oakland just might be cooler than San Francisco. *Ducking flying objects*

I Don’t Pop Molly

Note: If Google brought you here, see the definition of the song hook lyrics at the bottom of the post.

“I don’t pop molly, I rock Tom Ford.”

– Jay-Z, “Tom Ford, 2013

Photo cr: epSos .de, flickr.com
Photo cr: epSos.de, flickr.com

If you listen to hip-hop these days, you’ve no doubt heard all the references to molly (basically ecstasy): “I Can’t Seem to Find Molly“, “Popped a molly, I’m sweatin‘” or maybe you’re even listening to Miley “cultural appropriation” Cyrus’ latest song. She sings about poppin’ mollies in “We Can’t Stop“. [She told producers she wanted “something that sounds black.” Girl, get your life! I give major side-eye to people who reduce blackness to the sliver of sub-culture of which they are aware. You need to diversify your black exposure. 13 million black Americans aren’t all the same. It’s like if Rihanna said she wants a “white” sound for her next album and had bagpipers all up in her video. Have a seat with your pancake booty that has no business twerking.]

My sister asked me to go with her to an album release party for Big Sean‘s album release party earlier this month. We arrived just in time to see him being hustled from his outdoor stage into Brooklyn Circus to sign CDs. The crowd was large, super hype and pushing and shoving trying to sneak in behind him. The bodyguards weren’t having it. It was a disorganized mess. No one seemed to know how we were supposed to get into the signing. Some people had wristbands, others didn’t. If there are two things I can’t stand: crowds & chaos. As the crowd started to form a line, I overheard this exchange between a girl who appeared to be in her early 20s and two older teenagers:

Girl: “Y’all want some pills?”

Boy 1: “You got mollies?”

Girl: “No, but I got those Obamas and McDonalds.”

Disappointed, the boys shook their heads no.

What the…?

Obamas?! My sister joked, ‘That must be some Presidential-grade shit!”

I looked at my sister, pleading with my eyes to leave. This isn’t my crowd. I don’t pop mollies, Obama or McDonald’s. I am not here for that business. I’m too old for this shit. We didn’t get to see Big Sean perform, but we did see him. I didn’t need an up close and personal experience.

My sister declared, “This.is.ratchet! Let’s go!”

Thank goodness.

—-

Definitions (since more than a few people land here after searching for the meaning of the song hook):

(to) Pop = (to) take, ingest

molly = a drug, MDMA, makes people feel good. Drugs are bad, kids.

(to) Rock = (to) wear well

Tom Ford = fashion designer

People Doing Good Things: Educating the Incarcerated

A photograph of a cell block in the Wisconsin ...
A cell block in the Wisconsin State Prison. Photo cr: Wikipedia

It’s well-known that the United States imprisons more people than any other country. Too often it seems we throw people in prison and forget about them. They’re wayward people who deserve punishment for their bad deeds, right? But, what happens after prisoners get released? According to a 2011 Pew Center study“45.4 percent of people released from prison in 1999 and 43.3 percent of those sent home in 2004 were reincarcerated within three years, either for committing a new crime or for violating conditions governing their release.”

California’s recidivism rates are some of the highest in the country. California also spends a lot on its prison system. The state spends more money locking people up than it does funding higher education. Prison reform in the US is necessary; what we have now isn’t working well.

Last night I went to an alumni mixer for my business school. My friend and I mingled, exchanged pleasantries, answered the question oft-asked in SF, “Who do you work for?” and eventually landed in chat circle with three others. A man named H shared the story of his career ascent: “I made some bad choices in my life that I take responsibility for. I wasted a lot of time. I spent 8 years in prison.”

Whoa.

Say what now? Prison? Like Oz-style with shanking and what not?

Yes, prison. San Quentin prison. You know, where Johnny Cash held his first prison concert?

Damn.

English: Aerial view of San Quentin State Pris...
Aerial view of San Quentin State Prison, in Marin County, California. Photo cr: Wikipedia

He went on to tell us about the program he joined in prison that helped him reset his life. It’s a program called The Last Mile that focuses on teaching prisoners business skills and providing project-based learning experiences. They eventually transition into a paid internship with one of the many technology companies in the Bay Area.

As I listened to H speak, it impressed me how forthcoming he was about his past and the path that led him to this point. He admitted to having made mistakes, but took the steps to change the course of his life for the better. Through The Last Mile, not only is he now employed with an up-and-coming technology startup, he had the opportunity to meet and learn from top leaders in the industry, the kind of people with whom ladder climbers dream of rubbing elbows. Had he not shared his story, I would have assumed he’d taken a more traditional route to reach his current state. His appearance and demeanor were professional and he spoke knowledgeably about the work he does. He enthusiastically praised the program and seemed grateful for the opportunity.

I didn’t ask what led to his imprisonment. It’s unimportant (to me). What’s important is that in the present he’s working hard to carve out a fruitful life for himself.

I greatly appreciate knowing that organizations like The Last Mile exist. It’s one kind of reformation our prisons need. People aren’t disposable. Prison shouldn’t be a place people go to learn how to become better criminals or lead to a vicious cycle from which people can’t escape. As H said, paraphrasing one of the speakers he’d met: “We recycle cans and bottles, why can’t we recycle people? Give them another chance?”

I wish H the best. I hope there are many more out there like him, being given a second chance at life.

Men in San Francisco and My Awkward Black Girl Moment

photo cr: Chicago Art Department, flickr.com
photo cr: Chicago Art Department, flickr.com

If you haven’t watched the hilarious web series “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl” on YouTube, you need to get on it! Issa Rae plays “J”, a well-meaning, feisty-but-lovable, often awkward, twenty-something dating, working, and trying to navigate her world in Los Angeles. She hilariously narrates the awkward, uncomfortable, and sometimes cringe-worthy moments many of us encounter in our daily lives. Watching that series helped me let the gunk out after long, shitty days at my recent lifeforce-sucking job.

My awkward moments often involve men. I turn into a babbling fool around men I find attractive. I wonder: can a hot guy can peer into my soul and see just how hot I find him and how much energy it’s taking me to keep it together around him? Stop looking at me with those hot eyes; I may melt under the pressure!

Idris Elba at a 2007 American Music Awards aft...
Well hello there, Idris Elba! (Photo cr: Wikipedia)

There are some beautiful men in San Francisco. I don’t mean surreally good-looking like Rob Lowe or an “ordinarily I wouldn’t be into him, but he’s so damn charming” Channing Tatum kind of beauty, or in an “only in my wildest dreams”, Idris Elba kind of way. Rather, these men are beautiful in an “unassuming, I’m a 21st century man so I may use some male moisturizer, and try to present myself decently and think about what I wear (just a little), but I’m more focused on my career and the world around me than my pecs”, kind of way.

I’ve had more than a few women here, upon finding out that I’m new to the city and single, ask me: “Have you been dating online?” Not “Have you been dating?”, but rather “Have you been dating online?” As though online is the default way of meeting a potential mate. Erm, ok. People don’t meet each other through friends, classes, the grocery store (stupid articles that purport to give tips on dating always list the grocery store as a great place to meet men. The only men hitting on me the grocery store always seems to be missing teeth and a sense of smell) or just happenstance? You know, the “normal” way? This is how things go in this tech-centric city, I guess? I thought it odd, but after a few months of not meeting anyone, male or female, and feeling like men wouldn’t even make eye contact with me on the street, like I am a succubus or something ready to steal their soul, I decided to give online dating a shot again. I’d tried it a few times over the years in Los Angeles on several different sites and ended up wanting to stab myself repeatedly, effed-up-Criminal Minds-style. It was painful. I ended up meeting the guys I dated through offline methods. Imagine that.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that online dating here is soooo much simpler…at least for a woman. Holy eligible men, Catwoman! It seemed like every dude’s profile was some variation of: “When I’m not working at my [bragworthy job] I am snowboarding in Tahoe [with requisite photo of them in snowboarding gear, on top of a mountain, looking rugged], traveling to locales unexplored [along with various photos of them in front of recognizable world landmark], eating at Michelin-starred restaurants [yuppies love good food!], running marathons barefoot in the wild, rescuing orphaned puppies from mangy, rabid bobcats and mentoring impoverished children from under-served communities in Tantakistan (yes, I made that country up, don’t go looking for it). I also have my Masters in Only Super Smart People Study This subject.” Are you kidding me? Men like this exist in real life?

Online dating seems immensely popular in SF | photo cr: Homies In Heaven, flickr.com
Online dating seems immensely popular in SF | photo cr: Homies In Heaven, flickr.com

Of course, I also had men my dad’s age reach out to me, despite my clear age limits (I gave a good 12-year range, with my own age slightly higher than my minimum). I don’t mean to seem ageist, but I am just not interested in dating someone who could be my dad’s buddy. And I don’t think my dad would care for me to bring home a new pal for him either. It just weirds me out. Interestingly, more than a few twenty-something guys contacted me too. These young dudes are digging the thirty somethings (for what, I am not sure I want to know).

Even the men who aren’t hot-at-first-sight become really interesting and appealing once you hear about their experiences, their travels, their knowledge of the world around them, their stints in grad school, their love of dogs (my hope is find a man with a dog so that I can play with the dog and he can continue his responsibly of taking care of it, mwahhaha) and their passion for their careers. Looks are only a small part of what makes a man attractive to me.

This morning, while walking from my bus to the office, I ran into a guy from ____. We both had headphones on and for a moment I had the awkward “Are we going to walk together and chat or just say hi and go back to our music as we awkwardly walk in the same direction?” I was awkward, but he coolly took off his headphones and put them away. I followed suit. This guy is goooood-looking. He’s not usually my type, if I have one, but he’s so unpretentious and easy to talk to that I can’t help but be drawn in.

I am not usually one to go on and on about blue eyes. I’m more of a chocolate-brown eyes kinda girl. However, some people have these piercing blue eyes that come alive when they wear the right colors. I met Justin Timberlake once – in a highly embarrassing encounter where I made a straight fool out of myself and wasted my opportunity to talk to him by saying something absolutely ridiculous – and I will never forget how bright and clear his blue eyes were.

This guy had those kind of blue eyes and was wearing a deep blue jacket that made them stand out. He’s relatively tall and looks like a lacrosse player. I don’t actually even understand what lacrosse is, he’s just what I imagine a lacrosse player looks like: masculine and like he smells good even when sweaty. I felt so awkward during the five-minute walk to the office. Five whole minutes! Was my face oily? Am I talking too much to avoid awkward silences? Am I making myself sound like an airhead trying to keep things light and fun? I went to college, why have I suddenly lost the ability to form a complete sentence aloud? Omigod, I haven’t even seen if he has a ring on or not! When did I regress to 15-years old?

Perhaps there are plenty of fish in this sea! | photo cr:  Hans Martin, flickr.com
Perhaps there are plenty of fish in this sea! | photo cr: Hans Martin, flickr.com

I made it to my office (he held the door open for me. Eeee!), we parted ways, and I let out a huge sigh of relief. Ohhhhhh, so much awkwardness! Had I been holding my breath for the past five minutes? Does every guy here go snowboard in Tahoe? He does. He also has his MBA and I’m betting volunteers with ethnic lepers on the weekends. If he has a dog, I don’t know what I will do with myself. Where do these men come from?

For the first time in a long while, I’m enjoying being single and dating. With so many fascinating men to meet, who can blame me?

I Woke Up Thirtysomething

photo cr: Alan Cleaver, flicrk.com
photo cr: Alan Cleaver, flicrk.com

 

“As you sit in your rocking chair at the age of 100, what might be a regret you will have if there was something(s) you did not do/achieve/try?”

I stared at the question on the work/life reflection worksheet given to me by my career counselor. One of several questions aimed at helping me find my “passion.” The idea being once I discover this elusive passion, I can direct my efforts toward an endeavor I’d truly find satisfying and meaningful, instead of middling through a career that like a perfunctory meal, provides nourishment, but doesn’t inspire, isn’t particularly memorable or something you want to effusively praise to your friends.

Things I’d regret not doing? I don’t even know what I’m doing 6 months from now! Since I stepped onto the other side of 30 it seems time hurtles by like it’s in a foot race. Occasionally, the race is interrupted by brief pause, an allowance for me to catch my breath. During one recent pause, feeling particularly present, I realized: I am not sure how I even got here. Whose life is this? One day I woke up with a career, a recruiter describing my resume as “impressive” and people asking me for advice because they think I know things. When did that happen? Was it not just yesterday when I moaned to my friend that no one seems to take you seriously in your twenties? But, that was years ago now.

I ask myself, what do I want my life to look like at 40? That’s my next major birthday milestone. It’s a tough question. In younger days the path was clearer, the choices more binary. Each phase ended with a right of passage: a graduation, a year ending dance, an exam of life-altering importance.

Then it’s welcome to adulthood! You’re in the real world now, baby! The paths are many: crooked, narrow, hazy, smooth, booby-trapped, newly paved, yellow-bricked or bumpy. There are fewer guideposts along the way to center you, fewer checkpoints that allow you to ask, “Am I going the right way?” Seemingly endless options, and like a menu with too many entrees, at times overwhelming. If you don’t choose well, you risk waking up after another blurred lapse of time wondering, “How did I get here?

photo cr: Lululemon Athletica, flickr.com
photo cr: Lululemon Athletica, flickr.com

When thirty neared, I had a serious crisis of confidence. During the post-college years I’d spent pursuing an unconventional life of meaning, deciding to pursue a longstanding dream of being an actress, a great many of my college friends had spent their time building careers, marrying and starting families. While I plodded through jobs unfulfilling jobs – to me, the kind of work I took on was for survival, not intrinsic satisfaction – my peers were taking glamorous international trips, buying their first homes, continuing on to grad school, talking about 401ks and life insurance and I was doing…what? Nothing I was proud of. After a few years, I recognized that the business of Hollywood isn’t for me and felt lost. Now what? For quite a while, I viewed the period I spent pursuing  an acting career as a waste, a decision that set me back.

I enjoy reading autobiographies and stories about other’s lives. They are fascinating and often inspirational. In my twenties, reading bios detailing all the incredible accomplishments other people have achieved, I often feel like I’d done nothing to feel prideful over. Being surrounded by the conspicuous consumption culture of Los Angeles and living paycheck to paycheck didn’t help. Near thirty, I realized that I wasn’t being fair to myself or giving myself enough credit for all that I had experienced, seen and overcome. I climbed out of my well of self-pity and focused on the trajectory of my life for the next few years. What did I want to create, see, and do? Who did I want to become? I created a vision board. Make fun if you like, but I’ve been able to strike through a lot of things on that vision board because I’ve achieved them.

If there’s one important lesson I’ve learned about life in my 30+ years, it’s that it’s full of surprises. I may set the framework for what I hope for in my life, but the actual content is harder to predict and I’m mostly okay with that. Some aspects have unfolded in ways I would never have imagined. I would not have predicted that I’d live in Los Angeles for over a decade, quickly tire of Hollywood shenanigans, dump my starving artist life and return to the world of business. I wouldn’t have guessed that today I’d be single, childfree and living in San Francisco working for a tech startup. I enjoy and appreciate my life, but it’s not the one I thought I’d have. At 22, I thought by now – mostly due to the narratives we’re told through books, visual media and society – that I’d be married, have a couple of kids (a boy and a girl, of course) and have a high-powered job doing something worthwhile.

photo cr:  Lel4nd, flickr.com
photo cr: Lel4nd, flickr.com

When I attempt to write the story of what life will be like for me at 40, I come up blank. I’m still on the fence about having kids. Some days I want to, other days I don’t and time isn’t on my side, Halle Berry’s amazing uterus notwithstanding. [Though, if I do decide to remain childfree, San Francisco is apparently the best place to do so!] I am realistic enough to consider that I may not find that life partner to share my future with and I have to account for that in my vision. Even my past dreams of owning a home are up in the air. I no longer think about owning a home in the suburbs because the word “suburb” scares me. I don’t know what kind of job I want or in what field. I’d love to live outside of the United States in France or Brazil or many other places and travel the world meeting interesting people, having stimulating experiences. I’d like to be fluent in at least one other language. There is a long list of things I’d like to accomplish, but no comprehensive story.

For now I’ve come up with simply this:

When I’m 40, I want:
  1. to be happy;
  2. to feel proud of my accomplishments;
  3. to continue having awe-inspiring, thought-provoking experiences;
  4. to continue learning;
  5. to feel like I’m progressing as a person;
  6. to have love in my life, whether that be the love of family and friends or them + life partner and children.;
  7. to keep traveling internationally (and domestically);
  8. a dog (and for my favorite cat to be around and kicking in his geriatric years).

Whatever it takes to get to achieve these things, I’ll set the stage and life can flesh out the script and fill in the cast of characters. My role is to stay focused on my goals and remember as often as I can, not to take the days for granted. Time isn’t going to slow down for me.

You have to live life deliberately. It’s all too easy to put things off, only to find one day you’ve lost precious time that you can’t recover.

 

When Volunteering Gets Real

A homeless woman yelled at me today.

Through my company, 10 of my co-workers and I volunteered to help out with Project Homeless Connect’s (PHC) annual event. PHC helps to “connect” the homeless population with the essential services they need: everything from dental care and eyeglasses to haircuts to helping people get low-cost bank accounts. You know, the things that help people feel more included in modern American society.

The event was held at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium (where Phish had played for three days earlier this month)  with stations set up for various services including employment.
The event was held at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium (where Phish played for three days earlier this month) with stations set up for various services including employment.

My company was staffed in the cafe where a mock restaurant was created to give people with the experience of dining out. There were hosts, expediters, servers and bussers. I like interacting with people and moving around, so I volunteered to be a server. As I’ve learned through previous experiences working with the homeless population, most people are generally pleasant. They really appreciate being treated like a human being and not ignored as often happens on the streets. I had an amusing encounter with an older woman who only spoke Mandarin. All I know how to say in Mandarin is “hi,” “thank you” and “black” (as in “black person”).

[One of my college roommates is Taiwanese-American. One afternoon she was on the phone with her mom, speaking in Mandarin, describing her three roommates. I heard my name “Keisha” and then something else. I asked her, “Did you just tell your mom that I’m black?” She smiled at me sheepishly and said “Yeah, how did you know?” I answered slyly, “I always know when people are talking about black people – in any language!” Call it BSP: Black Sensory Perception.]

Erm...how do you imitate Brussels Sprouts? | photo cr: Barbara L. Hanson, flickr.com
Erm…how do you imitate Brussels Sprouts? | photo cr: Barbara L. Hanson, flickr.com

There were three pre-packaged lunch choices: chicken, turkey or veggie. When I asked the Mandarin-speaking woman for her order, she stared at me blankly and said “No English.” Uh oh. Undeterred, I pantomimed a chicken flapping it’s wings and clucked, “bok, bok!” That got a laugh from the others seated at the table. I then mimed a turkey sticking out it’s neck. More laughter. I didn’t know how the hell I was going to mime a vegetable. Stand still like a carrot, with leaves growing out my head? Lay on a plate like broccoli? I decided to just find a volunteer who spoke Mandarin. [Incidentally, if you want to see real ethnic and racial diversity in San Francisco? Look at the homeless population: Asian, black, white, Latino, immigrants, gay, in wheelchairs, old, young, couples, singles, siblings – everyone.]

There were several Asian volunteers there, none with my company though. I didn’t want to be that idiot that goes around asking any and every Asian person if they speak Chinese. Thankfully, I have a lot of Asian friends, friends who like to play “what kind of Asian is that?” and I’ve learned a lot from them. I scanned the volunteers for someone who looked like they might be the right candidate and hit jackpot on the first try! Thank you, D!  Or rather “xie xie.” I learned (and quickly forgot) how to say “chicken” in Mandarin. I also learned how to say “turkey” in Spanish, thanks to one of our Spanish-speaking customers who kindly answered my “¿Como se dice…?”

——

A guest beckoned me over to her table for help.

“Mumblemumblemuble?” she said.
“I’m sorry, could you say that again?” I asked her.
“Tryyyyyyy!”
“Ok, it’s okay. I am trying to understand what you need. How can I help?”
“It’s NOT okay! TryyyYYYYY!”
At a loss, but with a smile I asked again, “One more time?”
“I.need.a.TRYYYYY! Tryyyy!!!!” She grabbed the tray in front of her neighbor and banged it on the table.
“Oh a traaaaaaaay, ok, we’ll get you a tray.” I realized that she had a Southern twang, which ordinarily I have a good ear for understanding having lived in the South for some years, but the context threw me.

When I returned with her tray she said slowly to me with disgust, “Do you KNOW. how STUPID. you have to be. to make me repeat myself FOUR TIMES?!”

I told her I was sorry and was glad I could help her out.

“WHAT IS YOUR NYYYYY-ME?!” She asked me this as though she were going to report me to someone.

She’d become increasingly more agitated and I admit, I was a little anxious, not knowing if her anger and frustration would resort in me getting smacked in the face. I told her to enjoy her tray, smiled and walked away. I refused to return to that table until she left, concerned that there was something about me in particular that might set her off.

I was pretty shaken by the incident, which surprised me. It’s not like I haven’t had people yell at me before. I can throw down with the best of ’em during rush hour traffic in Los Angeles where it’s common for people to cut you off and give YOU the finger for honking at them. I guess, I wasn’t expecting it. The majority of our other customers were amiable and mostly kept to themselves, some even cracking jokes (“I’ll have the filet mignon, please). I also felt I had to maintain a professional demeanor, so I couldn’t be gettin’ all crunk on people.

The scene didn’t go unnoticed as several of the other volunteers looked at me with sympathy (and were probably grateful it wasn’t them!) and assured me that everything was okay. The task leader had a chat with the agitated woman and checked on me to make sure I wasn’t in mental tatters . Other than being a little shaken, I kept it moving. No need to let that oddity throw me off. Besides, I couldn’t take it personally. I’m no doctor, though I do love the hell out of some psychology, but the woman probably has a mental illness of some kind. That’s not the behavior of a mentally stable person. I just wished I knew how best to settle her.

That incident aside, I’m glad I participated.  I’m so inspired by this organization, the hardworking employees that power it, the professionals who donate their services and the volunteers that donate their time. Even San Francisco’s Mayor Lee was there. I spent about three hours on my feet, serving and greeting people. It’s not much; I didn’t change lives. I got to meet some of San Francisco’s residents that often go unnoticed. I hope today’s event helped make some of their lives even just a bit better.

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Rainbows, Rainbows and More Rainbows: San Francisco Pride 2013

femaleflagSan Francisco Pride weekend was crazy, insane, high-spirited, free-spirited and fun.  I’ve been to pride parades and events in Los Angeles multiple years, but I’d never made it up to San Francisco for the events. As I’ve quickly learned since moving here less than 10 months ago, any occasion in San Francisco seems to call for wearing a costume of some sort. So, you can imagine that the locals (and visitors) were all very eager to amp up their personal decoration for the pride parade.

The very, very diverse crowd on parade Sunday did not disappoint. I saw lots of boobs, big ones and little ones, some penii, big ones and little ones; many bottoms, round ones and pancakes. Lots of rainbows. Rainbow flags, rainbow booties, rainbow shorts, rainbow tutus, rainbow hats. Tattoos, piercings, spiky hair, purple wigs.  I was offered pills, smackers, weed, hash, beer, vodka, jello shots, beads…We danced, we cheered, we smiled at happy couples. It was festive, it was jubilant and it was joyful. The weather could not have been better for the pride weekend right after the dissolution of DOMA and rejection of Prop 8. San Francisco is known for its cold summers, but pride Sunday was comfortably in the 70s for most of the day, surely encouraging less clothing.

Photos I captured of the event.

The crowd waiting for the parade to start.
The crowd waiting for the parade to start.

With my younger sister (right). This was her very first Pride parade and she loved it. I’m glad I was able to share the experience with her.

The festivities continued City Hall (site of the several same-sex weddings held in 2004 that spurred the legalization of same-sex marriage in CA before Prop 8 overturned it) with food booths, music stages, beer & wine gardens and street dancing. It was a blast!

Happy First Blogaversary TGNIB!

Happy 1 Year, The Girl Next Door is Black!| photo cr. chrislrmo, flickr.com
Happy 1 Year, The Girl Next Door is Black!| photo cr. chrislrmo, flickr.com

A year ago today I created this blog in anticipation of writing about my then-impending trip to Tanzania. It may have begun as a result of my first trip to Africa, but it became so much more. In honor of the first anniversary of my blog, I’d like share some stats (humor me, I work in tech).

My very first post was Dead Trees and the End of My Love Affair with the Mailman. That post was fun to write and the response was encouraging.

I’ve written 32 entries, an average of just under 3 entries a month.

I’ve gained 45 followers.

There have been a total of 3845 page views.

The most popular tags I’ve written about are “black people” and “race & ethnicity“.

TGNIB was visited most in April 2013 and July 2013.

The Top 3 Most Popular Posts are:

Why I Don’t Eat Watermelon in Public (246 views) – Paula Deen’s “n-word” kerfuffle and rumored predilection for dressing up her black staff as Aunt Jemima and plantation workers were a big boost to this entry.

Black in the United States and Exhausted (232 views) – Experienced a resurgence after the verdict was announced at the trial of Trayvon Martin’s murderer. I have so many thoughts about that case, or rather the race and stereotype discussions it generated, but I’m going through a bit of race-chatter fatigue right now.  For sanity’s sake, I’m taking a break.

How I Learned to Love My Thick Thighs (200 views) – Some men like thick thighs, some women are actively seeking to make their’s thicker and others want to lose the thickness altogether (I’m basing these assumptions on the search terms I see). I couldn’t have picked a better title for the post. Interestingly, the bulk of the feedback I received on this post was in person or via email. It really struck a chord with some. It was inspired by a discussion I had with a couple of female co-workers. Yet another conversation with other women about our weight. It’s bothersome.

The Top 3 search terms that land people here are “black woman”, “black women next door”, and “full moon massage dar es salaam”. I’ve never written about massages (I’m actually not that big of a fan), nor have I been to Dar Es Salaam (Tanzania’s capital).

The Oddest search terms that land people here (not statisics-based) are “black people eating watermelon”, “pics of girls wearing flip flops on hiking trails”, “thick black thighs”, and my favorite: “what to do when black people move next door.” The answer is: get your life and say hi to your neighbor. What in the hell kind of question is that?

Most page views come from the United States (2,559), followed by the UK (335) and Canada (123). There are visitors from all over the world like Pakistan, Poland, Korea (South, are they even allowed to use the internet in North Korea?), France and Tanzania. Curiously, there are no visitors from South America. Perhaps it’s time to write about my past Brazil trip?

Writing this blog has been fun. I enjoy sharing my ups and downs and rants and raves and discovering that there are others who can identify with what I write. Sometimes, I get caught up with the fear that I’m sharing too much. But then, someone will tell me how a post I wrote really resonated with them. That’s been an unexpected outcome of writing. I don’t write with the intent to inspire others. I’m just a normal chick trying to figure out how life is supposed to work. I probably spend far too much time worrying about the reactions of the amateur grammar police.  I love reading your comments and appreciate that some of you share your experiences with me and other readers. I’m flattered that there are people who enjoy reading my thoughts. I’m touched when followers implore me to write more or ask “When is the next post coming?”

I cannot say thank you enough to all of you who are regular readers and commenters! I hope I can continue to interest you with entertaining content.

Here’s to the first year of TGNIB and I hope more years to come!

Waking Up From a Bad Dream: Job Nightmares

I’ve been living in San Francisco for 9 months. I genuinely like San Francisco now (no one say, ‘I told you so!’). I realized a few months ago that I like the city. At the time, I’d add the caveat: “But, I’m not sure about the people.” Now I just like it. No, it’s not the city I knew it to be when I first visited over a decade ago. Yes, as a new friend lamented “Strangers don’t talk to strangers here” and “Men [seem] too afraid to approach women.” I’m adapting to the culture and the norms. I even trained myself not to make eye contact with people on the street.

I appreciate that San Franciscans are generally polite, willing to stand up for things they believe in, love their pampered pooches and have a great fondness for whimsy, celebrations and dressing up in costume with or without reason. It helps that my new friendships are settling comfortably. I still don’t have last-minute “join me at the bar” buddies or “Hey, its Saturday. What are you up to?” level friends. But, I feel less lack in that realm now. I’ve started dating and am pleased to say there are many ambitious, accomplished and interesting men here. I am more comfortable and settled now. I am intensely happy that I made the decision to leave L.A. I needed to.  This is the right place for me right now. This is home.

WILTING FLOWER

photo cr: chad_k, flickr.com
photo cr: chad_k, flickr.com

Unfortunately, the past few months have been really challenging for me. I really grew to hate my job. Hate. Like “I don’t want to go, please don’t make me!” or “I wonder if I can get a doctor to write me a note declaring that the job is bad for my health and I need disability,” or even worse “Drinking before work wouldn’t be so bad, right?” Before work many mornings, I’d begin with a pep talk, “You will have a good day. You are lucky to be employed. This is only temporary.” Some days out of sheer silliness and desperation, I’d borrow a line from The Help, “You is smart. You is kind. You is important.” Usually within minutes of walking into the office, all that sunshine, roses and ponies, would fly right out the window. Or more appropriately, absorbed into the walls of my boring brown cubicle in a part of the office that received no direct sunlight due to the view being blocked by a neighboring office building.

I knew two months in that I was dissatisfied with my job. I spoke to my boss and few peers about it, but, unfortunately, that didn’t really help. I tried several things to improve the situation, but ultimately as each day passed, I grew to dislike it more and more. I even called my dad and asked for his advice and that almost never happens. I didn’t know what to do. This is real life. It’s not like when I got a job in high school at Bed Bath & Beyond, knew I hated it after a weekend of work and said, “Deuces, BBB! Keep your cookware and your bedding!”

My spirit was slowly dying in the eight months I spent in the job. I was bored; I felt unchallenged; I didn’t see much room for growth or learning opportunities. The culture felt staid and isolating. Most of all, I didn’t feel like my position was seen as valued or that people recognized my skill set. An astute co-worker (who internally transferred out of a similar position months earlier) even commented “You are so smart and so underutilized here.” Who you tellin’? I felt like an overpaid admin. I respect the hard job admins have especially having worked as one for a bit (and being highly allergic to the position), but I didn’t sign on to be an admin and I didn’t spend years developing a career to be an admin. I lost interest in my interests.

I didn’t read. I didn’t write (sorry blog readers). I didn’t take photos. I lost the energy to continue my friending frenzy. I was cranky and solemn. Even my guilty pleasure Housewives shows were less entertaining (although the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills were on some seriously boring BS. No one gives a shit whether or not Adrienne and her frozen plastic face tried to sue Malibu Barbie Brandi. Show us the riches: beautiful clothing, fancy cars and real estate porn).

I began to doubt my skills and self-efficacy for the first time in a long, long while. It’s akin to being an ‘A’ student and getting your first ‘D’. Your view of yourself cracks and may even be shattered depending on how closely tied your academic success is to your self-identity.

photo cr: Jan de Graaf, flickr.com
photo cr: Jan de Graaf, flickr.com

In May, I flew to a conference for a work. For three days I was in sessions learning new things from peers and leaders in my field and most importantly I was using my brain, which had become a novelty. It was noticeably different from my normal work day. How deflating. I had the rest of the week off to be a bridesmaid in my friend’s wedding in Los Angeles, which was beautiful and a ton of fun. Returning to work after a week away was intensely painful. I had hoped to stick it out with the company for at least a year. However, when I returned after a week away, and the dark cloud that’d been amassing around me was right there waiting where I left it and seemed even more consuming, I knew I had to get out for the sake of my sanity. I was sinking into a depression.

I felt guilty complaining about my job knowing how many people are unemployed and wish not to be. It wasn’t like I was being abused, harassed or overworked. When I told a friend that I felt bored and unchallenged and wasn’t interested in having a job where I could surf the net all day she said with some amusement, “Um, so what you’re telling me is you’re getting paid not to do much and not really think? This is a problem?” I know.

HELP IS ON THE WAY

On a first date with a guy named, let’s say, Sam, he inevitably asked the questions I’d grown to dread answering, “What do you do? Do you like it?” By then, I’d given up trying to be positive about my job and would readily tell people that I didn’t like it when asked. He shared with me that he’d gone through something similar in the past couple of years and realized he hated his career as a TV sports reporter. After seeing a career counselor he decided to work toward becoming an elementary school teacher. Talk about a career change! It was clear how happy this career switch made him, despite the drastic difference in income. He recommend his career center to me and I made an appointment with a counselor immediately the next day. The date was fun and Sam was cool, but he didn’t ask me out again and I didn’t feel strongly enough to pursue it.

photo cr: marc falardeau, flickr.com
photo cr: marc falardeau, flickr.com

My career counselor was a breath of fresh air. She immediately became my favorite person. I wanted to pocket her and carry her around like a lucky rabbit’s foot. She is brilliant, encouraging, supportive, sharp and has an impressive and varied career background of her own. She is amazing.

Career counseling feels a lot like therapy (er…not like I would know what that’s like): there’s self-reflection, talking about your childhood, discussion about how your parents influenced your choices and maybe even some tears. While I thought I knew why I hated my job, seeing a career counselor helped me better understand the underlying reasons and allowed me to articulate my thoughts and feelings better. After taking several assessments she remarked me to me with wonder, “It’s amazing how you’ve been able to work this long in a job that is practically the antithesis of who you are.”

HOW DID I GET HERE

I fell into my career. Yes, it is in line with my business degree. But, I didn’t deliberately choose it. When I graduated from college, I wanted nothing to do with business. I wanted to be an actress. I missed expressing my creative side and acting always made me feel awake and alive. Ultimately that wasn’t the right path for me though. Thus, I fell back on my degree and my career chose me based on that degree and my skills. I didn’t spend much time nurturing it or thinking about what success would mean to me because I always figured I’d do something else. I assumed I’d eventually discover my passion and it would all be smooth sailing from there. Time sped by and before I knew it, due to a confluence of my need to be a high-achiever and to progress. I accidentally developed a career.

I cared about promotions because I value being rewarded for my efforts. But, it’s never been “exciting” for me. I’ve long been envious of people who speak of “loving their jobs.” Or people who eat, sleep and breathe their careers for one reason or another. I wonder what that’s like. Why couldn’t I just have a burning desire to be a teacher or an architect or a doctor? But, as I discovered during my sessions with my career counselor, it’s in my nature to have varied interests. For me, it’s not so much about what I do as it is for me to have variety and feel like I’m learning and experiencing life anew.

LESSONS LEARNED

I learned so much in the sessions I had with my career counselor / saintly woman sent from the heavens, and it’s not over. Three of the most important lessons for me:

1. Don’t get good at things you don’t want to do.

If you’re the person who’s great at picking weeds and no one else is around to do it, guess who’s getting asked to pick weeds? You. And the more weeds you pick, the better you get at it. I don’t want to become an expert weed-picker, so I need to stop picking these damn weeds! Let someone else do it. There are people out there who looove maintaining gardens. I am not one of them.

2. Take charge of your career.

This isn’t news. People say this, but I didn’t really get it. I let things happen to me without realizing I was doing it. I didn’t stand up for myself enough. I didn’t push hard enough for that promotion or the raise or ask to do the work I would have preferred to do. As professional and assertive as I learned to be, I realized I was still guilty of employing some of the behaviors that do a disservice to women. I don’t toot my own horn; I find it tacky. I don’t ask for gobs of money because I don’t want to be greedy. Still, you best believe someone else is doing these things and making much more than I am and doing work they want to be doing.

photo cr: Enokson, flickr.com
photo cr: Enokson, flickr.com

3. Take time to nurture your natural interests and skills.

Almost all the assessments I took during career counseling pointed to my creative skills and interests. Growing up, I was really creative. Aside from business, my other interests were all artistic. I wanted to be an actor, a writer, a dancer, a comedian (don’t laugh), an artist. As each year of my life goes by, I take on fewer and fewer creative endeavors. I used to love doing arts & crafts! No wonder my spirit was dying. I was focusing all of my attention on things that do not generally interest me and not doing the things that feed my soul. (I hate that phrase, but it’s very much applicable in this case.) Creativity, much like other skills, needs to be nurtured to grow and flourish. But, somehow I convinced myself that because I wasn’t great at it, I shouldn’t be doing it. I need to be doing it though. I may never be a top photographer, but if taking photos and capturing images of the world as I see it brings me joy, I should do more of it. It doesn’t have to be a career, it just has to make me feel happy.

WAKING UP

I started a new job on last week. It’s not a career change, but it is a role change (and a career advancement). Thanks to my career counselor, I know better now to focus on honing the skills and strengths that interest me most and that may be transferable to other roles. I feel optimistic that this position will allow me to do that. The company itself could not be more opposite the place I just left. I’ve been welcomed by my new co-workers with excitement and genuine interest. I feel like I’ve joined a family.

photo cr: Rhys Asplundh, flickr.com
photo cr: Rhys Asplundh, flickr.com

I wish I didn’t have to go through the frustration of my previous job. I’m sure I’ll look back on that time with the same derision I do the year I lived in San Jose. Nevertheless, in some ways, I am grateful for the experience because it propelled me to take action to make serious changes in my professional life and do some intense self-reflection. I even rediscovered what appealed to me about business in the first place. Additionally, I have an even greater appreciation for the great jobs, managers and mentors I’ve had in the past.

I don’t know what the future holds and what my next career may be. It could be in business after all, just in a different role. After all, as I remembered in career counseling, at 6-years old I was starting my own businesses in my bedroom, building storefronts out of construction paper (creativity) and “selling” products to my mom. I look forward to approaching my new job with a renewed fervor. That dark cloud is dissipating and I’m seeing larger and larger slivers of the sun each day.

I Admit It: I Love L.A.

Giant Blue Bear on 405 Freeway Los Angeles | The Girl Next Door is Black
Seen on the 405S while on my way to work one day. The traffic was so insane it took me 2 hours to go 4 miles, with 13 miles more to go. I was so tired of being in my car. But, I got a good laugh when I saw these bears on the truck bed in front of me.

I couldn’t wait to get the hell out of Los Angeles by the time I left in 2012 after over 10 years of calling it home.

My biggest complaint about L.A. is the heinous, constant traffic. It’s terrible and it’s a regular topic of conversation in L.A. Few cities in the US compare.

I moved to San Francisco full of hope and relieved to live in a true walking city.  No more daily near-death incidents on the freeway! No more road rage! No more wondering why everyone in a BMW seems to drive like a tool.

My how things have changed.

Watts Tower Los Angeles, California | The Girl Next Door is Black
I was homesick for L.A. | Watts Towers in South Los Angeles

By the end of the my second month in San Francisco, I was pretty depressed. I had no friends, the job wasn’t what I thought it would be, my apartment building is old and seems to have no noise insulation whatsoever. I pay what’s essentially a mortgage to hear my upstairs neighbors’ every elephant-ine moves and sometimes entire conversations (sadly, nothing interesting).

In a very dense city of close to one million people, I felt lonelier than I have in a long while.

Around the same time, I had to head back to L.A. for my dear friend’s bridal shower.

It was exactly what I needed.

Three months in San Francisco allowed me to see Los Angeles with new eyes again.

When I picked up my rental car at LAX, the agent asked , “What kind of car would you like? Do you want a car that gets good mileage?”

I scoffed.

“No, I don’t care about that! Which is the fastest in this class?”

He pointed me toward a cute, gray VW Jetta with a V6 engine Sorry, Earth.

Roosevelt Hotel's Tropicana Bar pool Hollywood Los Angeles, California | The Girl Next Door is Black
The Roosevelt Hotel‘s Tropicana Bar pool. Look at those trees! | Hollywood

As I sped toward my old neighborhood, in the warm sunshine, with the windows open, letting the breeze circulate, singing at the top of my lungs to a song on Power 106, shaking my booty in the seat, I felt so at peace. On the freeway. On the awful 405 freeway that I’ve written scathing yelp reviews about and I felt at peace.

It was comforting. I missed the benefits of solo time spent in my car. I can’t sing at the top of my lungs in my current apartment – everyone would hear. I still have my car, but I drive so rarely these days. I didn’t realize how important that personal time was.

The palm trees were as gorgeous and magnificent as I remember thinking they were when I’d moved there over a decade ago.

I thought: the sun really does love this place! How can it be so impossibly beautiful, warm and bright?

A friend who’d lived up in Berkeley for undergrad warned me when I told him I was considering San Francisco, “You’re going to miss the weather.

“Yeah, yeah, I know, everyone says, ‘the weather is so amazing.'”

I liked it, some days even deeply appreciated it, but, I realize now just how much I took it for granted. I really think the sun sets up camp there and just visits other cities from time to time.

The trip went by in a blur. I met up with former co-workers and other close friends, including my older friend J___ who is almost like a surrogate mom to me. We, the bridesmaids, pulled off an excellent bridal shower and made the bride happy.

I’m so glad I went back.

I released the pent-up emotion that had built since I moved to San Francisco. Being back in L.A. made me feel normal. My friends’  warm welcomes reminded me that I I’m not alone. I am loved. That I am someone people want to befriend.

I understand Los Angeles. I once functioned as part of the city. A sense of inclusion in your city is more important than I ever realized.

"Home Is Little Tokyo" mural at 1st and Central in Los Angeles. http://www.publicartinla.com/Downtown/Little_Tokyo/home_little_tokyo.html cr. The City Project, flickr.com
“Home Is Little Tokyo” mural at 1st and Central in Los Angeles. This mural reflects the rich history of Little Tokyo. When Japanese-Americans were forced into internment camps, a number of African-Americans repopulated the area, including Charlie Parker. cr: The City Project, flickr.com
Golden State Burger Los Angeles Fairfax | The Girl Next Door is Black
A group of my friends and I had a “burger club.” We tried to taste as many of the gourmet burgers in L.A.’s ever-growing burger scene. | Golden State Burger, Los Angeles

When I left L.A. that weekend, I said and felt something that I so rarely did in the time that I lived there: “I love Los Angeles!”

I love that in a city largely ruled by the entertainment industry, we clap as the credits roll at a movie’s end.

I love that there is so much amazing food of all types of cuisines.

I missed the unique/break-the-rules/bold/relaxed/trend-setting fashionI forgot how seeing the way others dressed inspired me to push beyond my fashion boundaries.

Was it my imagination or did some of the guys get cuter since I left?

I miss the train-wreck-style “entertainment” of high-speed car chases.

I miss the morning show on KROQ and waking up to the cheery crew at KTLA Morning News.

I liked that I didn’t see hipsters every.where.I.looked. Hipsters have their own neighborhoods in L.A.

Hearing people argue about which eatery in the city has the best Mexican food never stops being amusing.

One thing that hasn’t changed: I still hate LAX.

I knew I didn’t want to move back though. At least not until I give San Francisco at least a year. Even then, I left Los Angeles for a reason and I didn’t make the decision lightly. Moving back might feel comforting at first, but eventually the same elements that made me want to leave will probably arise again. It hasn’t been the easiest move, but I know that the experience is good for me.

I really needed that trip. I needed a reset. I needed closure with Los Angeles.

When I returned to San Francisco, I felt reinvigorated.

I owe Los Angeles an apology. I didn’t appreciate it enough when I lived there. I spent most of my 20s in L.A. and I will forever be linked to the city via my memories.

I now find myself protective of Los Angeles. I will defend it.

It’s not the kind of city you can live in for a year, or even three years, and think you get it. You cannot possibly get it. The city is huge!

If you’ve only been to Hollywood, Santa Monica and Venice, you probably don’t know Los Angeles. What about Echo Park, Monterrey Park, Baldwin Hills, Burbank, Studio City, Leimert Park, Pasadena or Highland Park?

There’s an ad that plays here in SF, sponsored by Discover Los Angeles. I used to think it was beckoning me to return. A female voiceover says – and I’m paraphrasing:

Just when you think you’ve seen all I have to offer, there’s more.

Thank you, Los Angeles. I owe you a lot. Now, it’s San Francisco’s turn.

Los Angeles Snowglobe | The Girl Next Door is Black
Kisses & Hugs L.A.