How did you get here? Part Two, San Francisco

“We are all OK, but you have to get up.” Those are the words I heard through the phone on the morning of September 11, 2001. It was my sister.

Like so many, there are parts of that day that will replay over and over for the rest of my life. Thankfully, my dear friend I couldn’t find for the better part of that day was able to walk away, down the West Side Highway, until he was far enough away to cross town. He made it back to the apartment we shared for years. He will have memories and sadness from what he saw from his office window. The second plane crashing into the tower, I’m sure people jumping, other things he just won’t talk about. Yet somehow he is still in New York and back to work steps away from where the towers once were.

Part of me had guilt. It was the saddest time in so many people’s lives, but personally, I was happy, really happy. I wasn’t in New York, I had met my now husband, and soon after that day he proposed. He had already planned a different type of proposal that involved a trip to NJ with my family around. When 9/11 happened he was away working. He came home early, told me a lot of things I’m not going to share, and asked me to marry him. Nobody has ever loved me like that.

My working life had also taken a dramatic turn. The job I moved to San Francisco for lasted about a year. The writing was on the wall almost immediately, but the problems of the office principal aren’t worth recounting. I did try to show the New York office what was happening without completely spelling out someone else’s personal issues. I tried to present things in a matter of fact, dollar and cents, scenario. They weren’t ready to listen and did not have my back. And, if I am honest about it now, I didn’t have the kind of fight in me anymore to make it work. So I let it go. The office closed, and no, I wouldn’t be coming back to New York.

I believe with all my heart that job helped me. I made it to the West Coast, decided to take a part-time baking and pastry program at a small cooking school as an alternative to going to the bars to try to meet people. I didn’t like San Francisco when I first got here. I was lonely and I started my exit plan. One option was going to a full-time cooking school, and in order to do that, I would need current practical work experience. I took a weekend job delivering wedding cakes all over the city and in the surrounding Bay Area. It helped me get to know the region and slowly learn to love my new address.

After 6 months in San Francisco, I was a little less sad. I called a childhood friend. Our mothers had always kept in touch and we knew a lot about each other through them. We talked for a really long time and it felt good to know I had him nearby. A couple weeks later he had a birthday party. I wasn’t going to go, but thankfully I got out of my own head and decided not to be selfish. Going out that night wasn’t about me. I needed to figure out how to get there and celebrate my friend. So I picked out an outfit around my casual sneakers I could walk in; pair of corduroy Capri pants and my favorite China town ice cream factory T-shirt.

The party was a lot of fun. I planned to stay an hour or two and ended up being there all night. His former band mate, the drummer, gave me a ride home. After that ride home we talked on the phone every night for two weeks to try to coordinate a night to get together. Neither of us like the phone that much, but yet, here we were talking for at least an hour at a time. Finally, one awesome date finally came about before we both then went out of town. He made a ship to shore call from his family’s cruise. He told me he thought it was great that I could show up at a party in sweat pants. Meanwhile, they were so not sweat pants, and had been a splurge from a Manhattan boutique store. Didn’t matter, I was hooked. Yes, he is the one that eventually came home early to propose. But after the first date all I knew was I really liked him and maybe San Francisco was shaping up after all. As the months went on, he would be the someone who helped me talk through my next moves so I could gather the courage to change my life.