I’ve been living in Berkeley, California now for about 7 months, maybe a hair longer. I have accomplished so much in a very short period of time.
When I arrived by UHaul with trailer and car in tow I was tired and lonely; I had just spent 9 months in Idaho with very little human contact outside my office peers, which of course was confined mainly to shop and small talk.
My first two weeks in California I spent acclimating myself to the climate, geography, and people. I familiarized myself with my walk to work (which by now I have completed several hundred times at least), and my immediate surroundings. I enjoyed local cuisine and set up my apartment with the belongings I had brought with me from Idaho, including my IKEA couch, coffee table, and desk, my relatively new queen-sized bed, television, and everything else that makes a home a home.
Everyone here, and by everyone I mean almost everyone I have met so far, is politically liberal. Normally I suppose I should think this is a great thing, growing up as I did in a very culturally conservative place (Alaska), and coming just recently from an even more conservative place (Idaho). But I have to tell you, liberal or conservative, brainless zombies are brainless zombies and are the same no matter what propaganda they are spewing. In some ways I find the conservative bastion of Idaho and the libertarian Alaska to be more friendly than liberal San Francisco. Having said that, I have met many nice, and intelligent people since I moved here.
I was at first very frustrated by my new job at the University of California, Berkeley. It’s a fine place to work, but the culture is very different than I was used to, and working in an open office environment (without my own door) was something I had not done in a long time, and never successfully. With perseverance and thanks to the therapy work I began in August (both group and individual therapy), I was able to overcome my strong resistance to my new office environment…and eventually I was even able to excel in such an environment.
As I mentioned I began therapy with a Jungian psychologist who stresses the importance of social connection as a means to end my loneliness. This has been a very fruitful time in my personal study of myself and my interactions with others. I have learned much about my relationships with my parents, my ex-wife, friends, and others that I had never considered before, both positive and negative with regards to my personal interactions in those relationships. I have learned how to cope with my copious shame from childhood, and to deal with strangers. I have overcome my reliance on alcohol as a coping mechanism and begun healing my body and mind. My ability to express my feelings – all my feelings, both positive and negative, has been increased greatly and it is now something I do regularly, which keeps me happier.
Real connections with others is my salvation for my loneliness and the only path forward for me. I am now working on my greatest challenge of all – how to ‘let go’, stop trying to control everything in my life, and allow true intimacy in. This is a very difficult challenge, but I feel confident I am up to the task.
My traveling companion and constant friend, Angel (my burmese cat), who also annoys me endlessly with her incessant crying at any time of her pleasing day or night is doing quite well, although she was diagnosed just two months ago by her new veterinarian as “overweight” and “arthritic”. The nurse said “she is a very particular lady;” indeed. She has decided that 7 am – or as soon as it gets light is the new time when I shall be required to wake and feed her…this is sometimes funny and sometimes annoying as hell. But what can I do, she’s 17 years old, ornery, and I love her.
I have read many books in the past 7 months including “Healing your emotional self”, “Metamorphosis” (by Ovid), “Inner Work”, “10 Universal Principles” (in which I discovered my strong personal opposition to abortion though I remain pro-choice), “Rise and fall of the Roman Empire”, “The Assertiveness Workbook” (highly recommended), “Learn any language”, “The Blunderer” (by my favorite suspense fiction author Patricia Highsmith), “The Book”, and “Spanish Vocabulary”. I have also started reading “The Koran” and find that although it is quite violent (contrary to some popular opinions) I also like it’s emphasis on worshipping God directly.
I have met a married couple visiting from China and showed them around Palo Alto (Stanford University, Google and Apple headquarters), been to Fisherman’s Wharf (3 times) and seen the sea lions and Alcatraz Island. I’ve been to Chinatown and Japantown and tasted mochi for the first time (quite yummy actually). I’ve dated a beautiful, younger african-american girl, been on some other dates that didn’t quite work out, eaten a whole host of delicious indian, thai, chinese, italian, ethiopian, and american cuisine. I’ve traveled to Mexico for 9 days, been to Minnesota to see my grandmother and other family, been to Santa Rosa three times, visited the vineyards in Sonoma county twice including the famous Francis Ford Coppola vineyard.
My next goal other than learning to ‘let go’, although its tangential to that goal, is to discover what I want to make my life. Will I stay an office worker the rest of my life (a terrible waste of my talents, whatever those might be)? Will I start on another career path that involves being a professional of some type (consulting, psychology, etc.)? Or will I do something highly artistic? Perhaps all or none of those things, and quite possibly, something totally unexpected. It should be an interesting year.