I Relocated to San Francisco
“When one door closes, another opens.” That’s how the phrase goes, and it sounds so simple. An opportunity doesn’t work out, but then a new one arises.

October last year, I moved to San Francisco all by myself. I was living in Denver as a visual designer at a tech company, but when we got acquired, my team and I flew out to the new headquarters in San Francisco. I saw what I could become: an illustrator on a team full of creative people, living in the foggy city, eating authentic Korean Chinese food. This is what was behind the door starting to open.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, it is estimated that a person in the United States can expect to move 11.7 times in their lifetime. This number counts moves to the other side of town, but a move from Denver to San Francisco is daunting, especially to a young, introverted, and independent woman. My support system is spread thin with friends and family all over the United States, so I can’t exactly call someone to help me move boxes into a truck. Here are the main steps I took:

Plan and sell everything.
Work trips helped show me my potential new life by exploring different neighborhoods recommended by coworkers and riding the BART. I also got the OK from my manager to move and was able to negotiate a relocation package. To give myself time to plan, I started this conversation about 4 months before my lease ended.

The average U.S. household has 300,000 things, from paper clips to ironing boards, according to Organizing and Productivity Specialist, Regina Lark. Since it costs a lot to move out of state, it’s better to get rid of it all before the move, so in Denver I sold everything that wasn’t coming with me to save money. I gave what I had of value to my friends, like plants and furniture. 

For the next two months, every conversation, email and Slack started with “I relocated to San Francisco.”

Dive into your new life.
I took a one way flight, and moved into a new house with two roommates. I committed to this new identity with a new driver’s license, a Clipper card, and a library card. I registered to vote and bought new plants to grow. Most importantly, I found a Korean grocery store so I can still make my mother’s doenjang-jjigae when I’m homesick. According to the 2010 Census, the racial makeup of Denver is 3.4% Asian while San Francisco is 33.3% Asian, so that helped me feel more at home.

Start making connections.
It’s uncomfortable, expensive, challenging and oftentimes lonely in a big move. As an independent woman who moved to a new city with no friends and family in the state, I reached out to everyone. Sometimes that’s coworkers with a coffee chat, or reconnecting with old friends. It takes a strong will to not feel like an imposter, or have FOMO with friends back home who seemed to move on without me. Each interaction chips away at the old identity and builds your new one. Stay strong in this period and know this is temporary.

Build meaningful connections.
It takes about six months to adjust, so there’s nothing wrong if you’re not instantly making friends. After awhile, my new connections became a new community, and reinforced my new identity. I’m no longer visiting, I live here. I’m building the community I ached for by going to design conferences, meeting new designers, and being inspired by local artists at the comic shops. You find your people, and in time, yourself.

“When one door closes, another one opens” is an overused phrase. In this journey I am understanding that I had to make every step happen. I had to close the old door and open this new door to San Francisco. It was a hard decision and took a lot of effort to make that change, so I felt everything: discouraged and overwhelmed, but motivated and excited. 

I could lie and offer some nice clean way that ends in a full circle with the phrase, but honestly, I’m still figuring it out. I still have 8.7 more moves to do anyway, so maybe next time.
Virginia Van Keuren is a Visual Designer at Twilio in San Francisco, CA. She can be found online on Dribbble or her website
Art used in this issue: “Construction” by Alexandra Exter
Desk Lunch is a community for all creative people of marginalized genders.

Desk Lunch is supported in part by SuperHi, an online school and community helping creative people learn and thrive. Follow them on Instagram and Twitter.
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