It's Saturday and I'm in Los Angeles, packing up my apartment and getting ready to move back to San Francisco. It feels surreal and unimportant. Like: I'm just waiting to return home from a business trip.
In late September 2015, I returned to San Francisco after spending two months in Italy. That trip started out with a bang (!!!). A man I'd been dating in America - ironically, an Italian - came to meet me during my first week there. What was supposed to be a romantic tour of Rome together ended hours after he arrived: At dinner, between the antipasti and the pasta, he explained he had gotten back together with his girlfriend on a layover in Belgium (or was it Brussels?). I left him on the patio of Checco Er Carrettiere, walked out into the Roman night and vowed to spend the next two months giving myself over to Italy, losing my ruins in the ruins.
And I did. I lost myself to find myself. I lost myself to Trastevere, to Francesco, to David, to first century art, to the Protestant cemetery, to Robert Hughes, to Augustus, to the Augusteum which I could not stop trekking to, to Napoli, to the Lupa who I could not stop visiting, to stone fruit and pizza and cappuccino after cappuccino after cappuccino, to Ralph Waldo Emerson's Self Reliance, to Rome. I listened to St. Vincent's Surgeon over and again - I spent a summer on my back / Come cut me open.
I watched the cycles of the moon. One full moon. Two full moon. I'll be gone before the third. The sound or the site of a plane above left me gutted - planes meant I wasn't safe and it wasn't forever and I would have to leave. I got on trains to nowhere in particular, just anywhere from Termini and out into the country. It felt like escaping, somehow, but only into safe territory. I wanted a life where I only traveled on trains within the confines of a boot-shaped land mass.
There is nothing like the juxtaposition of returning to a home you've outgrown from the one that you're expanding into. I left claw marks on the Roman soil.
I got home to San Francisco close to midnight, showered, and hiked my way up to Grace Cathedral. I expected to feel something close to awe or relief - something akin to what St. Peters did to me - but all I felt was the worst kind of loss, as if my life was continuing on back in Italy and here I was stuck on another planet.
Less than two weeks later I realized I had to leave San Francisco. But really what I should say is: Less than two weeks later I realized that I'd been living out some sort of Bruce Willis/Sixth Sense reality in San Francisco. I'd died there, probably around 2011. I didn't know I was a ghost.
Moving to Los Angeles was like gathering up everything that was left of me and setting fire to it on my front lawn. I stripped myself down to the bones, to the foundation. I burned the rest.
I didn't have any (much) money. I didn't have a car. I didn't have good credit. I stayed with my mom for a few months, in Fresno, on my way down. I drove her car, ate lunch with my college boyfriend, bought Roller Blades to get around. I set up an office in my old bedroom and recorded podcasts from my childhood desk. I test drove a Honda Pilot with 200,000 miles on it and spent 10 hours at the dealership waiting to get a loan - because I had shitty credit, because I wanted that shitty, overused car, because I just couldn't be a 36-year-old woman who drove her mom's sky-blue Camry anymore. It took two days to get the loan approval. I cried at the Starbucks to my mom just minutes before it came through. I told her I didn't know how the fuck I would pay for that car. I told her it was crazy to buy something I couldn't afford. My mom - my conservative, fixed-income, checkbook-balancing, debt-free mom: Buy it so you believe in yourself. Buy it so you can show yourself you deserve more. She believed in me so much she was willing to encourage something that ran against every fiber of her being - spending beyond one's means.
I lived in limbo. Not yet out of my apartment in San Francisco, not fully at home at my mom's, unable to rent a home in Los Angeles. I told myself it was because of my credit. I knew it was because I wasn't willing to try. And then my best friend got engaged. The one I'd been in love with, the one who'd been in love with me. I found out on Facebook, the way people who mean nothing to you find out about important things. It was Christmas Day and I drove around in that Honda Pilot screaming at myself. What the fuck are you holding onto?
I rented an apartment the next day. I moved in on January 29th of 2016.
I had so many hopes for living in Los Angeles. Visions of a tanned body, better yoga studios, closer relationships with my sister and mom and nieces and nephew. I imagined community and becoming besties with Marianne Williamson and taking classes from Sat Siri and, well, more. But I never went to the beach, getting to those better yoga classes took an hour both ways, my sister and I - though we're now closer than ever - went through long periods of not speaking, and my apartment was too loud at night for me to have my mom over. Community felt even more impossible here with the freeways. Marianne Williamson moved to New York a few weeks after I got here, Sat Siri to Arizona.
Los Angeles was not what it was supposed to be. Los Angeles gave me more than I knew how to ask for.
What I mean is, Los Angeles was the thing let me cut the ties that bound me to a life I had outgrown, that was choking me and robbing me and stunting me. San Francisco was like living in a petri dish, except I'd expanded into the entire thing, grown over the lip, onto the table: My fungus was everywhere. I was a nine-year-old in a stroller.
Los Angeles gave me room to expand. And expand I did. Into myself. Into my business. Into my power. Into the acceptance of my full potential. Laura always told me about this one time where Danielle LaPorte said of Gabby Bernstein Girl don't know how powerful she is. She would tell me about that, insinuating that I didn't know my full power. Los Angeles was not a petri dish. It was a canyon (if not a vortex) and it gave me the space to understand what Laura was trying to tell me. Here I learned to see my power and while it's terrifying and blinding, it's what I needed to see. I can't do what I am trying to do if I don't see how fucking powerful I am. None of us can.
Girl knows how powerful she is.
In October 2015, my mom and I went and saw The Intern with Anne Hathaway and Robert Di Nero. Walking out to our car after the film I turned to her and started sobbing. She held me, like she did so many times in those few months. Like mothers know how to hold weeping, scared children. I couldn't speak, and she said What is it? and then without missing a beat:
Is it because you want to be her?
There it was. Everything. Anne Hathaway's character haunted me, haunts me still. Recently, in therapy with Azita, I told her that one of the hardest things to admit is that my dream is to run a company, lead a mission. Why does that feel embarrassing? And why has it taken me three years to not only tell someone but start to believe that I even could do such a thing? Why is believing in our realest, deepest dreams so hard? Why is listening to the voice that won't go away, that keeps us up at night, that devours us until we devour it back - why is it so hard to believe it's there for a reason? Why is it so impossible to think that our craziest dreams are actually the reason we are fucking here on this planet?
A few months ago shopping in a crystal store in Los Feliz, I sat down with a psychic. Among the things she told me: (1) I was a General in the Argentinian war of Independence (and dismissed women entirely), (2) I am a General now (but for women, oh karmic irony), (3) I will be a mother even though I don't think I will be, (4) Los Angeles is not my home, (5) get the fuck out of Los Angeles.
I hadn't thought of not living in Los Angeles, but the thought did open up the possibility that maybe I hadn't found my home. I was pretty sure I was happy here. I mean, wasn't I? But I started thinking about other places I could live, I started thinking about what I wanted to do with my business. Then I started reading TechCrunch again. One day I realized I'd been watching Silicon Valley reruns on HBO like 2013 Holly had watched Girls - breathlessly. Scenes of San Francisco on TV and in the movies and in my friend's Instagram feeds broke my heart the way pictures of Rome does when I'm not there.
It didn't take long to understand I was moving back (forward) to San Francisco. It didn't take much to realize I missed my home or that I didn't have to search other cities for something I already knew how to find.
I rented an apartment in early June.
I don't know what it means to be back in a place that I ran from as a ghost as this girl I am now. But I know that I am no longer a ghost. I also know that I am not the same girl who left. She had oversized dreams, and she knew she'd die trying to do what she feels she was born to do. But she still was terrified of what that meant, downplayed so much of it - especially her part in it. She didn't see how what she saw in her dreams could ever match what she'd make in reality. She only saw in a movie what that could look like, and her default was that it wasn't for her. She thought it hurt so much because she couldn't have it. She didn't realize it hurt so much because she was already pregnant with it.
It's August 5th, 2015. I'm in Italy. Sitting across the table from Luca at dinner as he tells me that something special is happening with him and his ex. They just met in Brussels (or was it Bruges?), they've been talking for months as friends, now he wants to commit to her. I think, But two weeks ago you told me you weren't in the place to commit. I'm trying so hard to be the cool girl, to be happy for him and her. I ask about her, look at pictures of her, let him go on with his stories of her. He had just met her mother, he tells me. And I am screaming inside, screaming so loud it is still going on in some corner of the Universe. I can't eat my pasta, though Luca keeps asking me to as he shoves his in his face. His is Amatriciana. Mine is Carbonara. The pasta is mediocre, though he insists it's excellent. He's a Roman that doesn't know Rome, I think.
My refusal to eat is causing a scene in his eyes. The waiters fuss. I realize I am not that cool and I realize that being as furious as my body is begging me to be is not weakness. I ask him whether he told this woman - this ex from some fucking European country that starts with a B, this woman whose mother he's now met - that he was on his way to meet the girl he's been fucking for the last 18 months in Rome? He nods slowly as if his hand is on my head and he's forcing it towards his dick. You know that nod, right? That look? I told her I was meeting a friend. His nod deepens as he says this because it is oppressing a truth that doesn't suit him. He keeps asking me what I'm thinking but I'm speechless. It's 90 degrees out and I have a brain freeze. I finally tell him I'm trying to figure out how to leave and also I don’t know how to leave. I'm trapped.
I start to strategize. Put the napkin on the plate. Lift the bag off the chair and put it on your shoulder. Scoot the chair back. Stand up. Turn left. Walk through that door over there. I rehearse it a few times and I stop shaking enough to execute the plan. Wait, that's a lie. I execute it even though I'm still shaking. I don't remember what I say to him as I leave. I think it's probably something like Never contact me again you fucking piece of shit.
Then I'm out on the cobblestone street, walking away from the restaurant. It feels weird leaving him inside. I wonder later, Did he walk straight home after? Did he get a gelato? Did he tell her? I walk for a few miles and come to the place nestled up on the Caelian - the one directly across from the Colloseum. There's a patch of gravelly dirt and I sit on it like I have dozens of times before. It's my place, my secret perch. I record a video of myself because my life is a Rom Com and because this could only happen to me. I sit and stare at the Colloseum, this thing that I feel I have spent lifetimes staring at. I post a selfie to Instagram and say something like What the fucking fucking FUCK. A friend writes back, It's all leading you somewhere.
It's all leading you somewhere.
I take those words with me as I make my way back to my apartment that night. They are running through my head days later as I run into Francesco for the first time, seated in the white plastic chairs tied to the tree on Via Girabaldi, as he nervously takes my number and tells me he wants to be my Cicero. They remain with me in those first weeks back in San Francisco as I break my lease and jump into the next void. It's all leading you somewhere plays on loop as I drive a U-haul from San Francisco down to Los Angeles, as I run my school with more people than I can handle, as my first attempt to get funded falls through, as I stumble through relationships and schools and life, as I hire a full-time employee, as I get Health Insurance for the first time in three years, as I walk into an Audi dealership on a random Sunday and buy the car I want in less than two hours and without my mommy. It is all leading you somewhere I think as I sit in the leasing office in San Francisco signing my name to the next chapter of my life. It's all leading me somewhere god dammit I tell myself as I sign away percentages of the company I built so I can give this thing a chance to grow into the thing I know it must, has to, grow into.
It's all leading you somewhere.
I want to go back to her that night in August, on the Caelian. I want to brush off a small spot of ground next to her and dangle my feet over the ledge, too, and grab her hand. I want to smile at her the way that knowing people smile at people still figuring it out, and tell her one day she won't be able to remember Luca's last name, because it will be the smallest most infinitesimal thing compared to all else, and then tell her that it all worked out, and better than she could have ever imagined/dreamed/hoped. Just like I want to go back to her on the bathroom floor, or the living room floor, or all the floors she's ever found herself on and in the middle of all the impossible she's ever found herself in and tell her the same.
And one day I know I will want to come right back to this moment and sit with this girl - this girl in her leopard print yoga pants and dirty hair and her tired fucking brain and half-packed apartment, writing this letter to you on the eve of her next jumping off point in the middle of so much impossible - and tell her the same, look at her the way knowing people look at people still figuring it out.
It's all leading you somewhere and it's better than you could imagine. Trust me. I've seen it.