How does one just live?
I've settled into San Diego
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Dear friend —
What does it mean to live in a place?
I’ve been wondering about this since getting to San Diego. After a year of moving to a new city on a near-weekly basis, I’ve settled down in this Southern California spot for a bit — two months, to be exact. And two months is long enough to feel like I’m not just a tourist passing through. I’m actually living here, a resident.
But what even is a resident?
Make a habit of skipping from city to city, stopping in each only long enough to see the sights, and after a while it’s easy to forget how to actually live in a place. Most of San Diego’s well-known spots — Balboa Park, Sunset Cliffs, Liberty Public Market — I’d already taken in during previous visits. So what was I to do now, with all this time to spend in one spot?
How does one just live?
It’s hard not to fret about this, though to be clear, San Diego makes living easy. I’ve found a cottage with a little front yard in a neighborhood called South Park, with three indie coffee shops in walking distance. Every day the weather is nice — highs between 74 and 82 — a feature I missed desperately while in cities too cold, too hot, or too rainy, as cities outside coastal SoCal tend to be. So most every day, I go for a walk along tree-lined streets. I do some urban foraging, by which I mean I take free figs and passion fruit from neighbors giving them away (lots of “free fruit!” signs in this neighborhood). I browse little free libraries.
Wandering about eating fruit, visiting cafes, perusing books — is that all living in a place comes down to?
It’s that, plus a whole lot of errands, I’m discovering. Finally back in California, I’m tasked with doing the day-to-day stuff that I’ve been able to avoid for many months — like buying toilet paper. In the last few weeks I’ve done such glamorous things like getting my prescriptions transferred to a new pharmacy, waiting at the DMV to apply for a Real ID, and starting a Hungryroot subscription to make the feeding of self somewhat easier. Still on the list: dentist, haircut, vehicle registration (quite an involved process if you bought your car on a whim while in a different state!), etc. etc.
Being a resident is a lot of work! Am I up for it?
Slowly, I’m getting to know the place at a local level. San Diego’s actually a pretty hilly city, the neighborhoods broken up by tree-filled canyons, little pockets of wilderness between residential areas. South Park and North Park, for example, are two trendy areas split apart by Switzer Canyon, connected only by a raised two-lane road. Farther north is Kearny Mesa, where the east Asian communities are; farther east are the southeast Asian communities. Farther west is Little Italy; farther south is Barrio Logan, which my friend Jim calls the “real Mexico” at least in comparison to the touristy Old Town San Diego.
What I’m enjoying most, though, is simply walking around my own neighborhood. Somehow time flies by while I just hang out. Last weekend I walked to the local indie bookstore, Book Catapult, picked up a journal and Jose Saramago’s Blindness, then went to a coffee shop called Communal to read and write. Next thing I knew, the weekend was over —
Should I be doing more? Join a yoga studio? Find a favorite restaurant? Take swim lessons? Make more friends? Learn Spanish? Write another book? Oh, all the things you start to wonder if you should be doing when you find yourself in one place day after day —
It’s pressure enough to make you want to move on.
My goal for the next month: Relearn how to live. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Three links you might love:
Is wandering becoming an endangered act? On the lost art of flânerie —
When sobriety becomes a cult. A scary story of rehab gone wrong. Lately I’ve become really interested in how normal people end up in cult-type institutions. Reading recommendations wanted —
A request: I just signed up to learn Spanish with Babbel, but I need more help. Do you speak Spanish and want to chat to help me learn? Let me know —