And so, after almost two years at my current residence and countless vows that it would be "the very last place I ever move as long as I'm in San Francisco", I find myself once again immersed in the seemingly endless search for a new home. The last time I was looking for an apartment to rent--from an actual owner or property management company, not just just a room to sublet--I was a 23-year-old student with a cat, no stable, provable income and no credit. Not exactly your ideal candidate for tenancy in the fine city of San Francisco.
I have to admit: I kind of thought that it would be easier now, mired in quasi-adult-hood and respectable tax-paying citizenry as I am. But over the past two months I've somehow found myself pulled deeper and deeper into the same heartburn-inducing, hair-pulling-out, anxiety-ridden chase I remember from years ago. Except worse. I think that trying to find a job in San Francisco may be the only thing more frustrating than trying to find an apartment. And only then because you can be locked out of certain jobs for being "overqualified", but if you want to really want to--and can--pay someone an absurd amount of money to to live in a roach-infested closet in the tenderloin you shouldn't have as much of a problem. As long as you have immaculate credit and no pets, that is.
The paradox of San Francisco, as I see it, is that it is incredibly, teeth-gritting-ly hard to rent an apartment. And yet everyone in San Francisco is Always Moving. I'm not kidding. I myself have lived in seven different residences in the almost 7 years I've lived in the city. Going on eight. And the crazy thing is, I've found that this is not uncommon, but rather seems to be the rule. Most people I know--and have known-- in this city move, on average, about once a year. Maybe two.
My first was a hectic 6-person house way yonder in the outer sunset. The most current roof over my head is a quirky Edwardian in the lower haight bursting at the gills with 5 roommates, and at a year and 11 months this April--and I'm praying that is all--actually my longest residency in SF to date. The shortest, for the record, was a desperately-entered-into, month-long sublet a block from USF with matted camo shag carpeting in the lobby and up all 8 narrow flights of stairs, where after being unable to bring myself to cook even a microwave meal in the dingy shoebox of a kitchen or tolerate the high-pitched whining from my otherwise very nice roommate when she would open her bedroom door for 2 seconds and my cat Jasper would bolt in--she was allergic to felines, unbeknownst to me at time of lease-- I quickly realized I must give myself over yet again to the terrible Craigslist Tango. In between I've lived many lives in many different apartments of all shapes and sizes across NOPA, western addition and the haight: alone, with a boyfriend, with boys, girls, cats, dogs, a snake, with 1 roommate and with 4 or 5. All interesting households, and all beloved, at least for a time.
So why, I have to ask myself and the universe, do we San Franciscans persist on torturing ourselves with this crazy, competitive goose chase and with hauling our many boxes of junk and slowly decaying Ikea furniture with us all over the city? Is it because the grass is always greener? Because there are just so many wildly different and wonderfully unique neighborhoods and Victorians and Edwardians and Modern-Style Condos and we're just dying to try them all on for size? Are we all on a never-ending quest for cheaper rent, for nicer roommates, a rooftop view or the ever-coveted in-unit laundry? Or do we just have a terrible case of restlessness and apartment ADHD? What golden goose of a flat can possible be worth the headache of schlepping yourself all over town to see 5 different places a week--4 of which are tiny, dirty holes--and the heartache of losing that 5th one that was just perfect to the group with credit scores one point higher than yours?
I'll admit, all the stress of it all has had me a little down lately. Ok, a lot down. I don't think I've felt this off-balance since my near-nervous breakdown last fall. And yes, like then my crankiness and emotional instability have me even more worried that my long-suffering loved ones will soon be running for the hills. Not to mention that two of my closest friends also now happen to be prospective roommates, and as much as we love one another inevitable tensions and frustrations can arise from the chaos of the hunt. Suffice it to say that this reluctant optimist has seen better days. But you know, today I realized that I'm a little tired of feeling sorry for myself. So I think maybe it's time to pull myself up by the bootstraps and just get on with it, whatever "it" may be.
Because although the circumstances that have brought me to move this time are far from pleasant--see: hypocrisy, verbal abuse, one bathroom for 5 people--at the very least it serves as a push to change my surroundings, to give me a new perspective and a new home to reevaluate my place here and refresh my point of view. And a valuable reminder not to get too comfortable; whether in my home, my job, my relationships...in life in general. Because when you get too comfortable is when you start to become stagnant, cease to grow, and often lose appreciation for what you have without even realizing it. Come to think of it, maybe that's why San Franciscans are constantly on the move. Maybe it's because we are wary of becoming too complacent, too stationary. Too numb to the bizarre, impetuous, fortuitous amazingness that blossoms on every street corner and down every alleyway here.
So instead I will try my best to embrace each unexpected moment as it arises and welcome the chance to rejuvenate my perspective, so that I may always be grateful and that life may always be full of wonder and new surprises. And I hope that--if I am able to successfully control my stress level in a positive way--all of my hair and fingernails will still be here to enjoy it with me.