Lost and Found

Lately, when people ask me how I am doing, I have been telling them that I am feeling very lost. With my US visa about to expire and my imminent departure from San Francisco approaching faster and faster, I have gone back and forth between ignoring my life and falling into sheer panic whenever I don’t. Everything I love is here. Everything I want is here. I belong here. And in a fair world I wouldn’t have to leave. I felt defeated and that’s not a good thing to feel.

When we lose ourselves, what we really mean is that we’ve lost our way. We’ve lost our direction, our end goal, our carefully charted course that we once found ourselves barreling down. We’ve lost the drive we used to use to propel us. We’ve lost the vision we once used to light the way ahead. We feel lost when what we had dreamed our life to be like falls through and it is beyond our influence to fix it.

But here’s the truth about being lost – we’re only ever as lost as we are in denial. When we don’t want the past to be over and the future looks too daunting to touch, we call it lost. When we’re barreling forwards at a thousand miles an hour but gazing determinately out the rearview mirror, we call it lost. When what’s been is so painfully appealing compared to what is coming up next, we call it lost. Because we’d rather be lost than be found in this new, uncomfortable place. And so we bury our coordinates. We toss away our compasses. And we declare ourselves citizens of no-mans-land.

The truth about being lost is that we choose it when we just aren’t ready to be found yet.

When you’re lost, you find yourself in every step you take towards gaining back control of your life. By stopping the cycle of passivity and replacing it with one of autonomy. You find your new self in each small choice you make, each risk you take, each opportunity that you fail to pass up, even if it ends up being a flop. You find yourself by re-creating yourself into the kind of person who is ready to take on what’s next.

Because the truth is, we can’t ever truly lose ourselves, because all ‘losing ourselves’ means is that we’re choosing a story that ended over the one that is still going on. It means we’re gazing in the wrong direction and calling our disorientation lost.

Getting found, by definition, is the simple act of recognizing where you are.  You simply have to recognize that you’re somewhere new now. Somewhere different and challenging and less than ideal, maybe. But there you are. And to find yourself somewhere new, you simply need to start walking.

You’ll find yourself in wherever you end up.

You’ll find yourself in any place where you go with your whole heart.

So, game mode is on. I’m fighting back. It sucks that other people decide that I can’t stay in the place I am so happy in, surrounded by the people that make me happy. It has been driving me mad. But here I am. Moving to Berlin to help my current employer expand to Europe. And working my ass off to come back next year. California is where I belong and heck, I won’t let anything get in the way off that. Well, at least nothing within my power. Now excuse me, I am taking back my life…

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Trust that everything will be okay.

There will, inevitably, be times when life will throw us curve balls before we’re ready to hit them.

There will be times where we feel so happy – or comfortably content- with our lives that we wouldn’t want to change a thing. But life wouldn’t be life if it didn’t throw you that curve ball every once in a while and suddenly everything needs to change. Perhaps the most challenging time of all will be the chasm that exists between these chapters in your life. When we have to walk away before we’re ready. When we have to leave what we want and what we love in the past.

Up till this point, I had always been ready for the next chapter. I could always acknowledge the memories made but would look forward to making more, different memories in the future. I had never been in a situation like this before, where I need to walk away from what I love before I’m ready to. Every fibre of my being understood that my visa will expire in September and there is nothing I could do about it. Every rational part of me knew that my situation wasn’t even all that bad: The company I enjoy working for wants to keep me employed and relocate me to Europe once my visa expires. And, since they don’t have an office established there, I could move anywhere in Western Europe as long as I have a working phone and internet connection. And yet, I’ve been spending the last 4 months either ignoring all that or trying to find a miraculous loophole or shortcut that would allow me to have it all. I wanted to linger.

But lately, I have been trying my best to return to my old self. The self that is adventurous and positive and happy no matter the place or the situation. In moments of transitions, you have to believe that there are so, so many better things coming than any of the things we have left in the past. You have to have faith in the future, in the unknown, in the tomorrows and somedays that will line up in ways you can’t possibly imagine from where you’re standing now. You have to have faith in yourself – faith that you will get yourself to where you want to go, even if you’re not entirely certain where that is yet. Faith in your future self to figure out if she wants to move to Berlin or London or Lisbon or Paris or Amsterdam or…

Yes, California has made me indescribably happy and I will leave a big piece of my heart in San Francisco. But before moving to this city, before making it home and becoming this incredibly happy here, all I had wanted was to stay in my protected bubble of friends and family, rainy German days and not push myself out of my comfort zone. I guess I sometimes forget that, just because the scene in the rear view mirror looks nicer than the scene on the road ahead, doesn’t mean you’ll never reach another beautiful destination.

It’s rare and it’s wonderful to ever find a place or a person or a certain situation that makes you want to linger for longer. When happiness hits us, we all want to cling to it as tightly and as mercilessly as possible. We want to capture it and hold it between our palms forever – not realizing that we have to let it go for it to mean anything at all.

I thing that, when we have to leave the things we love behind, we are allowed to mourn them. To miss them. To look back on them dejectedly and sadly. But we must never, ever forget that the best days of our lives are not all behind us. That there are more wonderful things awaiting us in the future than we could ever even fathom. That so many of our happiest days are still ahead. And that we have to keep moving to get there – no matter how tempting that view in that rear view mirror is. And in order to get there, we have to blindly and blissfully trust that it’s going to be somewhere indescribably worth going.

Hawk Hill

I haven’t been sharing much about favorite or must-see spots in SF and the Bay Area lately. But I am back with a BOOM! Having recently decided that I will return to Europe after my work-visa ends this September, I immediately started making a bucket list of all the things I still need to do and see around here. And there is still a lot to explore!

One of the items on my list was a bike ride up to Hawk Hill, in the Marin headlands across the bridge, to catch the sunrise from there. And so I did. Getting up at 5am on a Saturday might not be your definition of a perfect start into your weekend at first. But lo and behold, what’s ahead of you will be one of the most gratifying rewards for early birds like you!

My boyfriend and I cycled from the Sunset district through Golden Gate, the Presidio and across the bridge. Hawk Hill was tough for someone like me with little practice in climbing. The elevation is 8% at times and I was cursing like a sailor. Don’t get me wrong, of course you can also take a car up there and get a similarly amazing experience. But there was something very magical about riding through a completely deserted city, having the streets all to yourself and not dealing with annoying tourists on the bridge. The 2-3km of climbing up HH is a bitch but do ride all the way to the top. After an hour, we were there and could take in the city on this completely clear morning. A pictures sometimes says a thousand words, so here are six thousand words for you:

Waiting for the sun to rise

Waiting for the sun to rise

Taking in the awakening city, bathed in pink and orange. You can even see Sutro Tower!!

Taking in the awakening city, bathed in pink and orange. You can even see Sutro Tower!!

The San Francisco skyline.

The San Francisco skyline.

Sunrise from Hawk Hill

Panorama view of the sunrise from Hawk Hill

It's called Golden City for a reason!

It’s called Golden City for a reason!

Golden State of Mind...

Golden State of Mind…

 

So, when in SF, try fitting this experience into your schedule!!

Cheers,

Ari

What NOT to do when riding Muni during Rush Hour

There are a couple unwritten rules one should follow when riding Muni. And there are certain unspoken expectations your fellow passengers have in you when you ride it during Rush Hour. Overcrowded platforms and crammed trains simply do not allow any social faux-pas. I have compiled a guide for you on how to properly ride Muni during those stressful hours based on situations I have observed while commuting.

1. DO NOT stand in the middle of the platform gesturing like a crazy person.

There are people around you EVERYWHERE. And one would think that hitting strangers left and right would be enough of a reason for those gesturing crazies to stop, to cease teir ridiculous way of making a point with both their hands and feet. But no. Some people have a hard time getting that message. My bruise is still healing off…

2. DO NOT clean your ears while riding Muni.

I don’t care how carefully you are trying to hide your Q-tip, I CAN WATCH YOUR REFLECTION IN THE WINDOW! It’s 8am, I am crammed into a car with strangers, I do not need you cleaning your ears right next to me on top of all that! That’s what bathrooms are for.

3. While we’re at it, DO NOT pick your nose so obviously…

… and then reach out with the same hand that had just searched for boogers in your nostrils to press the stop button. Just…don’t. I need to push that button next and I am at the point where I might just keep on riding until someone else eventually requests a stop.

4. One last thing about body hygiene, DO NOT clip your toe nails on the train.

I don’t know, maybe it’s just me but I am appalled by the thought of having a piece of your toe nail get accidentally shot in my direction. Again, that’s what bathrooms are meant for.

5. DO NOT pretend to sleep so you don’t have to give up your seat.

You know who you are! All you people sitting on the seats reserved for elderly or disabled, shutting your eyes just before the train rolls into the next station. Pretending you don’t realize what’s going on around you because you are oh, so sound asleep. And then opening your eyes again right after the seating fight mayhem is over, only to repeat it all over again at the next station. You’re pathetic.

6. On that note, DO NOT pretend not to see a girl in need for a seat.

Hey, not gonna lie. I would like to enjoy my 30 minutes on the train sitting, instead of being pushed back and forth by other passengers. I carry a heavy bag. I am wearing heels. If you see me getting up to offer an older person my seat, and you are a guy, would it be too much to ask to at least offer me your seat? Kindness pays forward!

7. DO NOT try to talk me into a free Jesus-Magazine Subscription

Independent of religious beliefs, neither 8am nor 6pm are good times to talk me into something I have never heard off, will never need and am absolutely not interested in. Especially after I politely decline two times in a row. There is only so much patience you can ask from me while I commute.

8. DO NOT spit on the platform.

Again dude, people everywhere! Somebody will inevitably walk through your freaking spit by accident. Have a tissue on you or wait until you’re outside or near a sink. Come to think of it, most of the typical Muni issues could be prevented through a more frequent use of bathrooms and all they have to offer.

9. DO NOT sit with your legs wide apart…

…blocking off two more seats than necessary. Can’t you SEE that people are tired and just seek the comfort of their own little 646 sq inches?!

10. DO NOT cut the line at a platform.

We have all been waiting in this line, at this platform for a reason, we would all like to get into the next train, we are all trying to be patient. Nothing is more annoying than an overly self-righteous person who just walks straight past everyone, almost pushes the person closest to the doors out of the way and then cuts corners to get a head start on a seat.

 

True story. I have observed all these things listed above in the past weeks- and some even more than just once. Public transport is already annoying as is, let’s all at least try to contribute our share to making it a little more bearable. ‘Kay? Thanks for riding Muni!

Cheers,

Ari

10 Reasons to Welcome December

1. Starbucks Christmas Specials
Personally, I have come to like the Pumpkin Spice Latte but my heart beats for lé Peppermint Mocha, an Eggnog Latte or (on sunnier December days here in Cali) a Cremé Brulee Frap! And, as if taste wasn’t enough of a reason to wait in line, you’ll get to have a pretty Christmas-y cup on your desk for the rest of your day, reminding you of the holly jolly days that are yet to come. Yay!

2. Christmas Candy
Hershey’s Peppermint kisses. Gingerbread M&Ms. Candy Cane Ice-cream. Christmas cookies. Speculoos. Peppernuts. The list could go on and on and on. Any of these options would go great with #1, too. Just saying!

3. Winter clothes and accessories
How about a cute scarf that matches the new tights you scooped up on Black Friday? Possibly a matching glove-hat combo, too? There is so much cuteness in fall and winter clothing. Not to mention that those woolen sweaters and fury jackets are every girl’s friend after the annual Christmas feast.

4. Lights
Lights, lights everywhere! Dark and grey November…ain’t nobody got time for you anymore! Every store is decorated, the buildings are framed with holiday lights, the streets accessorized with lit-up stars and bells… Definitely helps getting over the sun setting at 5pm!

5. Fireplaces
Not everyone is lucky enough to have one of those but if you do, go get yourself some of that delicious fiery warmth! Nothing better than being all cuddled up, drinking tea, reading a book and listening to a good Pandora Station while sitting home by the fire. If you don’t have a fireplace, you better make the right type of friends next year!

6. Christmas Songs
Okay fine, I admit that I am one of those people. One of those people that sometimes, very secretly, listens to one or two Christmas songs in…say…March or July. Just for the fun and to get a smile on my face. So, come December, I am the happiest camper alive because now it is legit to whistle “All I want for Christmas” or hum “Frosty the Snowman”. It just gives me flashbacks to all the past Christmases and reminds me of how magical Santa seemed to me when I was young. Christmas songs bring some of that magical feeling back into my daily life and get me excited for the holidays.

7. The smells
Pine Needles. Chocolate. New Clothes. Shopping bags. Even wrapping paper has a smell, a very characteristic mix of excitement, stress and secretiveness. All in all, come December, it starts smelling delicious everywhere! If you reside in Germany during that month, you will probably have dozens of Christmas markets around you to choose from! Hot spiced wine, toasted almonds, crepes with Nutella, fruits dunked in chocolate, candied apples, all those are smells Americans miss out on.

8. The people
Yes, December is very stressful for many. All this Christmas shopping, all these expectations. I personally have a list of 15 people I am shopping for and it keeps me up at night. But it is also that time of year during which, thanks to commercialization I admit, we are being reminded of love and family and spending time with those that matter. You forgive faster, carry a smile around more often and are a little more considerate and willing to share.

9. Christmas Movies
I have watched “Love Actually” three times in the past two weeks and am not ashamed to admit that. Whether it’s an all-time favorite, such as “It’s A Wonderful Life” or “Miracle on 34th Street” or more modern picks like “Elf”, Christmas movies spread pure joy. They are so over the top with everything, and there is singing and piano music and families all cheesy-peasy. It sets the stage for Christmas and totally gets you into the mood to eat, sing and celebrate. And eat some more.

10. The loved ones
Many of you might go home for Christmas or have family come visit you. That electrifying feeling of flying/driving/riding/walking home for the holidays is truly one of a kind, so embrace it! Count the days, mark you calenders, and use this month to appreciate the people you love in your life. Hug your mom extra often, call your grandparents more frequently, give your significant other an extra kiss. You know, all these things you should be doing anyways but are being reminded off by the jolly Christmas atmosphere.

So yeah, let’s embrace December, it’s not like you could escape it anyways!

Cheers,
Ari

Going home from another home

They say when you move abroad you are either running from or running to something. In my case, moving to San Francisco meant I was sprinting towards the life that I thought I should have had all along and I couldn’t wait to prove myself in this new world that I had chosen for myself. And life has been treating me well, better than I had hoped it would and better than I sometimes felt I deserved.  Now, I will be going home for Christmas. By the time my plane touches down in Hamburg, Germany, by the time I grab my luggage and fall into the arms of my (probably bawling) mother, I will have been gone an accumulated total of 483 days. And my God, am I ridiculously excited to go back. I have been watching Love Actually on repeat because both the first and the final scene remind me of how I will feel at the airport. I have been humming Christmas songs in my head since my boss approved my vacation request two months ago. I have moments of jumping up and down in my room when I’m alone, because that’s just how excited I am to see my parents, my brothers and my closest friends, to sleep in my old room, to eat my parents’ home-cooked meals, to wander across Christmas Markets and tour the cities I love.

CHRISTMAS EXODUS GETS UNDERWAY AT HEATHROW HEATHROW READIES FOR

And then there is a growing worry. Because, by going back, it might just hit me how long exactly I had been gone. I mean, of course there are the obvious measurements of time. I was 21 when I left and 23 when I come home. I missed my brother’s High School graduation and my other brother’s Confirmation. They missed my grad school commencement. I missed my brother moving out and I couldn’t visit him in the hospital on any of the multiple occasions he was brought in with an epileptic attack. They couldn’t help me when I lost my wallet with all my cards in it or when I hurt my foot so badly in the Grand Canyon that I couldn’t walk for two weeks. And while we were there for each other through phone and Internet, I’ve come to learn that distance is a good buffer. It is a hella good painkiller, too. And you grow comfortable being away.

Because, eventually, the distance gets easier to manage. No, I take that back. The distance is something we start to accept as the inevitable, as something we opted in on when we chose to live the life we want. The time zones and phone calls and missing one another are things to which we can adjust and be okay with, which we sometimes complain about but, at the end of the day, look past it.

So, I have become comfortable with being that one family member living at the other end of the world. Because, without this level of detachment, I would constantly feel bad for choosing here over there. For deciding that my hometown is simply too small for all the dreams I have in my head. For not following in my parents footsteps. At. All. Being the “gone one” has started to feel like not such a bad price to pay. But now that my flights are booked, it keeps hitting me exactly how much I’ve been missing all these people that have known me for more than just 483 days and I want to go back to what I’m used to and give them what they expect to get. Pre-San Francisco Me.

But how do we come home to a place that must inevitably have changed while we were gone? Going home from another home is a weird feeling, because people expect you to be the person you were when you left, and that’s impossible. And, vice versa, you expect things to be exactly the same as when you left, and that’s impossible, too.

“So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be” (The Perks of Being a Wallflower). Most of all though, I just really want Christmas to come!

Cheers,

Ari

Hidden Gems: Land’s End

If you’re looking for hiking trails with views that will leave you speechless, you have come to the right city! Land’s End is by Ocean Beach’s Cliff House (great food and great views!) and what I like about this trail is how close it is to city life yet, once you’re on it, you feel like you’re miles away from everyone and everything.

I would recommend you start at Sutro Baths. Sutro was a big swimming pool complex built in the 19th century but became unprofitable and shut down. But don’t sweat it, you can still see the leftover ruins today and they look pretty gorgeous!

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How this place used to look in the 19th century.

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View over Ocean Beach and Cliff House from Sutro

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All that’s left of the mighty Sutro Baths

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After hiking from the baths back up to the trails, walk along the Coastal Trail. It’s really only about 1.6miles long (2.5km), but because the trail follows the coast’s natural line, you will climb stairs up and down. All along the hike, you have the ocean to your left and Golden Gate bridge right in front of you, at an angle not many people get to see:

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The hike will also take you down to Mile Rock Beach, which…is a beach covered in rock sediments instead of sand. Go figure.

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Eventually, you will get to a couple of cliffs that feature the Land’s End Labyrinth. My roommate, and hiking companion, phrased it very accurately: “Following that Labyrinth path reminds me of life. You wanna rush and just get to the good part, the goal, the end of the labyrinth. And then you’ve reached it, but you wish you’d have focused a little more on the journey and less on the goal. Be fully in the present for every step that you take”
So, do that.

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And, eventually, you will reach Eagle Point and the Legion of Honor. That’s where you will find bathrooms and water fountains, so rest up and walk back to the parking lot on the Camino del Mar path. Enjoy some coffee and Hot Cocoa at Cliff House or one of the Cafés and just breathe in all this beauty around you. Hopefully, if you haven’t already, you will fall in love with San Francisco after taking this hike!

Cheers,

Ari