I have been longing to write this note – one month of moving to San Francisco.
The move was pre-meditated and I had this on my mind since the day I came out to my family and friends that I am gay. But is that the only reason – matter of fact – gay or straight, I would definitely have loved to move out of India for sure – at least for a couple of years.
What made this move a bit painful (atleast a month before June 23) was the fact that I didn’t gauge what my benefits would be vs. what I am missing out. For me the most immediate focus was ‘what am I missing’? Here are a couple of things (not in any priority order) that made this process excruciatingly
- People – I have a small coterie of trusting friends and an wonderful family. I also have a long list of friends who I like even though they aren’t close. Leaving them for who-know-how-many-years-or-forever was the most difficult thing I had to face in my life ever – some of it was captured in a paragraph here – https://ashokbania.wordpress.com/2013/08/10/on-long-distance-friendships-and-relationships/
- Habits – Habits formed from childhood are very difficult to change. The very thought of changing them sent shivers … mundane things that makes one work in auto-pilot – going to gym, driving around, picking up groceries, fav hair salon, brands that I use etc. to very ingrained second nature – way I talk and comprehend others, rituals .. you get the drift
- Fear of Unknown – whether I will adjust to the culture, whether I would get what I want etc.
At one point, the pain was so much that I just wanted to relax – have a good night’s sleep and think of this as an experiment – if gone foul – will trace back my steps and find my way back.
I met a couple of friends via Yahoo!’s Pride email list. One of them was one of the nicest human beings I’ve ever met. He and his friends made sure that my transition was smooth and I get whatever I need to start off. Not only I could get his place to stay for two weeks but also I was offered a walk to the shuttle stop to where Yahoo!’s bus arrives every morning by one of his friends. I got to know about this plan a couple of days before departing India and that made my last 4 – 5 days in India concentrate on only one misery – missing People :)
I arrived on June 23 and since then there was no looking back .. for sometime at least. One day at a time, I started to plan out my life. Things that I took for granted – driving and getting around the city, ordering food, garbage disposal, arranging a meet up with friends – things that are done in an auto pilot way (usually) became tasks if not arduous ones. Brave new world!! as most of you guys will put it. Easier said but it’s difficult because my brain has been on since that day and it is tiring (part of it is because of my new job as well).
Having said that, I have been enjoying this city and this new life in a way which was inconceivable to me. Thrills that I thought never existed have been introduced to this 32 year old man.
- Catching a bus at the last second (albeit guided by smartphone apps)
- Getting drunk beyond limits and still get ‘out-drunk’ by the next person
- Waking up at 6 am and sleeping at 10:30 – 11 pm (hello!! that was never me)
- Chatting up with the land lady and get $400 off on rent
- Getting my bank account (trust me you can’t just open one easily), Social Security Number, House (getting a house to your liking in a short time in SF is like getting a PhD in 2 months), credit card in record 2 weeks
- Going to a gig by an obscure but favorite band and finding out people to go with and later become awesome giggly friends
- Using public transport as if I were a SF veteran
- Having the sense of being responsible for myself all the time
- Visiting a doctor and using my insurance card
- Random banter with strangers on weather, how cold SF is, food, music, gay culture etc.
- Seeing naked old men on streets
- Making Jalapeno the best friend for my Indian spicy palate
- Discovering that Indian food is viewed as one cuisine – lill do folks here know that there are like 1000 different cuisines within India
- Discovering bad Indian food everyday w/ the exception of my office cafe
- Seeing men holding hands and wishing one day I would too
- Noticing sex conquering over intimacy and love
- Being fairly surprised at seeing the pervasiveness of male body image issues
- Figuring out finer nuances and differences between Brit English (which I am used to) and American English – for e.g. ‘homely’ in America has a negative connotation (boring, dull) for people as well as places/surroundings
- Acronyms in dating world – NSA (no strings attached), LTR (long term relationships) – arrrghh!
- Getting weird one-liners and shocking photos on dating apps from guys ….
Honestly, all this wouldn’t have been possible because of people. People have been great to me and I am lucky. I have two friends – a couple who was introduced to me long back by a friend in Bangalore – they have been a great support and the fact that I knew they were there in SF even before I moved eased a lot of pain. Another very close friend introduced me to his cousin and his girl friend and in no time I felt that warm fuzzy feeling of being close to people and just be myself in front of them. In fact his cousin helped me a lot – in ways most people in my life haven’t. Then my long term association with another friend who drove me to the bed-bath-and-beyonds (lol it’s taxing to go to those places) and who also got me a tiramisu to celebrate my birthday – that’s pretty sweet. Small little happiness in the form of a welcome note and flowers came in from neighbors. A random guy next to my house, helped me carry stuff from the neighborhood grocery store to my place without any reason. How can I be skeptical about this world!!
Despite all these fortunate encounters and people in my life in SF, there are many moments when I still long to go back to my wretched (only because I didn’t have a lover/partner else everything was perfect – not that I have a lover/partner now!!) life with my friends. When I was leaving Bangalore, I told my friends that I would only meet lovers/partners in SF and not friends. If I have to be friendly with someone, I would pick and choose mediocre people so that they can’t contest the love or the strength of our friendship – it’s still a private joke within my group of friends. But I guess that was just an emotional me. I still do close my eyes, put on my headphones with songs that associates me to my past and take a hike down the memory lane and I enjoy it.
Regarding present and future, I still wonder if I will be able to accomplish what I came for – to have someone love me for eternity. Many of my friends dub me as a Disney princess for my wishful thinking – but then that’s me. Sex is essential but then it was a phase – when I was a teenager – I could perhaps dissociate Sex from feelings all so easily. There were times I was attracted to men who were possibly so not attractive to me right now. People may say I am too young to harbor these notions of nesting or say breeding (which I can’t coz no two men can get together and give birth to a child lol!) – but I think that’s me. I always wanted a stable family – a bit of predictability of seeing someone everyday – going back to a house full of people – where I hear people calling my name. I love family rituals and all the drama that comes along with it. A lot of people advise me to go with the flow – I don’t seem to understand it though. I always experience the flow and with experiences comes introspection – and then comes all sorts of thoughts. I do let things happen to me and don’t premeditate on things I have no control over. Some say that my thinking process stems from my up-bringing in India and some people have way outrageous reactions to my thoughts. I scoff at myself most of the time for what I think and what I do. Sometimes I feel I judge and then again I feel I don’t. This excerpt from Steppenwolf by Hesse clearly explains my continued state of thinking and all blah-spection “I came to realize that Haller (a character) has a peculiar genius for suffering, that he had, in the sense that Neitzsche intends in many of his aphorisms, trained himself to the point where his capacity for suffering was masterly, limitless, awesome” :D More on this topic later!! Phew!!
Things change – including my world view or beliefs. Knowing what has changed and why will help me be grounded to this world – the world that has offered me so much. For now, I have to just concentrate on a few things more – Job (very demanding), Getting a driver’s license and drive in California, Travel a bit within US, Health, Cook (haven’t been doing that regularly), Getting used to new things and just Be. Most importantly enjoying this disruption at this juncture of my life – I am lucky to have this stimulus which many people dread.
Will write back on this topic again – probably after a year.