By: Michelle Lu
Editor’s note: Michellu Lu is a Michigan native who now lives in San Francisco’s Japantown neighborhood and works at Amazon.
Day 0. I said goodbye to my roommates and threw away the last thing that I didn’t want to take with to Mountain View. It was a wooden mini drawer that I bought from a huge ass Goodwill, but never used. The rest of my belongings fit into my car, including two french bulldog stuffed animals which I placed in the passenger seat to keep me company on the fourteen hour drive.
Note: This was the first time I would drive such a long distance! I asked my boyfriend Joe to make me a playlist, but he was too tired, so I just put on a few of my favorite albums:
Blue, Joni Mitchell
Heartthrob, Tegan and Sara
XO, Elliot Smith
Day 0, Hour 10. At this point I wanted to drive into a ditch and wait for a tow truck to take me the rest of the way to Mountain View. I felt in the in between — too far from my temporary home of Seattle to turn back, and not close enough to my new home of the Bay Area to feel any source of comfort. I was in the middle of northern California wishing someone I loved would sense my frustration and loneliness, and call me.
Day 0, Hour 15. My friend Dan welcomed me into his home with a futon on which I could crash until I found my own place. When I let Joe know that I arrived in Mountain View, I found a sweet email from him encouraging me to take advantage of my environment and venture outside my comfort zone to actually make new friends. I already had friends in the Bay Area, though. They were my best friends from college.
Day 21. I packed up my suitcase and drove from Dan’s house to my new home in Cupertino. The place I would be renting was a shack, but it was exactly what I needed. What I needed was a cheap home where I could cry myself to sleep about my breakup with Joe, in private. On the drive to Cupertino, Joe’s e-mail about making new friends popped up in my head. Even though I’d always wanted to take his advice, I never acted on it. New friends simply weren’t necessary — I had Joe.
Day 30. After work I ate at the nearby Quickly, both hating and loving myself for downing the sweet bubble tea and oily fish balls. When I finished, I called my dad.
Day 48. On the way back from bouldering at the San Jose gym, I snapped a shot of the Oracle building to send to my mom. She’d been working at Oracle for the past sixteen years. I talked to my dad on the phone for the rest of the drive home.
Day 65. I arrived home from work, disappointed that all the invigoration I felt walking out of the office got sucked out by the stupid bumper to bumper traffic. At least I didn’t call my dad to cry about Joe. I still called my dad though, and he graciously kept up conversation with me most of the way home.
My parents were getting ready to move from my childhood home in Michigan, to Connecticut. In the process of clearing out my closet, they found a box full of exams and report cards from my elementary school days. My parents sat on the carpet for hours, reveling in the artifacts from my childhood.
“Michelle, you have to remember that life is beautiful,” my dad said.
It was an empty Hallmark reminder by itself; but coming out of my dad’s Chinese immigrant mouth, it sounded meaningful.
My dad told me that they packed all my old school work into protective cardboard boxes to be shipped in a big moving truck to their new home in Connecticut. I wanted to tease my parents about being hoarders, but it wasn’t worth the risk that they’d retaliate by throwing out my childhood.
Day 90. I came back from a road trip around Iceland with my friend Cathy. It was refreshing, dirty, and tiring, and the late night conversations in our hatchback home were irreplaceable.
Day 95. I tried to hit up my one-month old Tinder buddy, but he didn’t want to risk messing up with the girl he was pursuing at the moment.
Day 120. I drove my car of things to my new apartment in the Japantown neighborhood of San Francisco. When my parents asked if I needed help booking a moving truck, I laughed. I hadn’t even come close to the stage of life where my things would require care-taking. In fact, in the process of packing up my shack, I found myself resenting all the items which I’d carelessly brought into my life. I wanted to throw half of them away. My mom, on the other hand, brought everything to their new home in Connecticut — including an open package of coffee filters sitting in the cupboard.
The road to San Francisco was filled with slow-moving cars and grand plans for how I’d escape my “comfort zone.” I’d find interesting liberal friends at art museums, and share my feelings at weekly poetry nights, and ride bikes along a watery coast. San Francisco would be more than laying in my bed, talking to my dad on the phone.
My new roommate, Alissa, met me in the parking lot and let me into our twelfth floor unit. She had a huge smile on her face, even though all we knew about each other was what we’d revealed in an e-mail exchange.
That night I went to sleep on my hardwood floor, with a light blue sheet laid out underneath my pillow, wondering how long unit 1208 would be my home.
Day 121. I opened my eyes, slightly blinded by my big windows, but content to roll around in the sunlight. I pressed the home screen on my phone, and unlocked it to respond to my family’s group chat.