It’s hard for me to see anything to envy in most people who travel. Because deep down that is what they are doing. Fleeing themselves and the lives they’ve created. - Ryan Holiday
If this is true, then coming home was like sprinting headlong into a glass window that I didn't even realize was there. I was very fortunate to land a job less than two weeks after landing at SFO, but there are times when I've wondered if it was all a bit too soon.
It's not the hours, although I'm still adjusting - in at 4:30 am, out by 1 pm. My friends were collectively horrified when I first told them but, honestly, fresh-baked croissants don't grow on trees. Someone has to bake them. In the morning. Before the store opens. Besides, I knew what I was getting into when I entered the F&B industry.
The challenging part is the culture. As an intern in Paris it was kind of a given that I would be doing all the bitch work; that in the big scheme of things it didn't make a huge difference whether I showed up or not (although I always did); that I would make mistakes and that one of my superiors would step in and fix the situation, generally with many colorful uses of the words "putain" (fuck) and "merde" (shit). Being a full-time employee in the new-wave foodie metropolis of San Francisco is different. I have real responsibilities. And no one has cursed me out for the occasional mess-up.
But even though working in a French-speaking kitchen made me disciplined, obedient and somewhat impervious to harsh words, there are disadvantages. Some tools, for instance, I only know by their French names. I never thought it would be problematic to work in my native language but, there you have it, sometimes I don't know which items my co-workers are referring to.
While job hunting may have been a cake walk, so to speak, finding a place to live was much harder than it was in Paris. (I suppose I should use the present tense, since my current place is a temporary sublet).
"It's all part of the process," my brother said sagely as he passed by the spare bedroom in his house that was my previous home. I barely glanced up from my afternoon/evening ritual - a full glass of wine (or two, or three...) and the housing section of the SF Bay Area Craiglsist page open on my laptop. The last time I drank so much so consistently was as a pastry intern, only then the stress was due entirely to work.
I begrudged clicking on the rooms/shared subsection, because I knew I couldn't afford my own place, and I couldn't help but think about all the things that I would rather be doing than writing to complete strangers based on vague descriptors (hardwood floors! walk-in closet! great location!) and blurry photos, trying to convince them how awesome and responsible I am and that they should ask me to move in.
If my initial email was deemed sufficiently appealing, I might get a reply with a request to meet in person. But these were worse than job interviews. At least the latter is based, at least in part, on objective credentials. Interviewing to be someone's housemate is all about personality and vibe, so it's hard not to take it personally when I get passed over for someone else. I get it; I wouldn't want to let just anyone come live with me either. But I'm also an introvert, so by nature I make terrible, unmemorable first impressions.
My family owns an apartment in Chinatown, but the most recent resident, my late uncle, was a hoarder. I've been told that I can move in if enough space is excavated from his vast media collection but, surrounded by a labyrinth of books, VHS tapes, CDs and vinyl records teetering in stacks piled higher than I stand tall, it seems an impossible task.