The past week marked the 14th anniversary of my move to the Bay Area. I've lived in the Bay Area just 3 less years than the number of years I lived in Hawai'i. It's hard to believe how quickly time has flown by. It seems like just yesterday I was finalizing my job situation and planning the move!
From the time I left home for college, I always knew that I wanted to live in this area.
My first visit to San Francisco was a week's trip en route to my freshman year of college. My mom's older brother, Uncle Jerry, raised his family here and my family spent a week visiting them before dropping me off at school. I grew up idolizing my older cousins Shari and Jeff and loved every minute of that week spent with them. They took us all over the City doing the typical touristy things. Having grown up in such a rural, isolated area I have to say that seeing San Francisco was love at first sight!
After that visit I spent every Thanksgiving holiday, Spring Break and many long weekends in San Francisco. It was a cheaper alternative to going back to Hawai'i and more fun than staying at school alone. It took a couple of years after graduation to find my way here but I made it happen.
While reminiscing about the past 14 years my cousin Shari commented that I am a completely different person now than when I was when I first moved here. I was so surprised by that comment because I really don't feel very different at all, but in retrospect, I really have changed so much.
I fired up the old external hard drive and pulled old photos to see just how much I have changed. Though this will only demonstrate physical changes, it's also reflection of how I've evolved (and hopefully matured) as a person.
1998 - 2003
I think these photos demonstrate how progressively unhealthy I became over a 5-year period. During this time, work was the biggest priority in my life. I had a multi-hour daily commute, worked "start-up" hours (i.e., all the time, and holidays too) and was driven first to succeed in the dot-com boom, then later to survive it. Health was not a priority.
New Years 2004
I was startled at how unhealthy and heavy I looked in holiday photos. I was so disturbed that I could barely look at them. I realized how unhappy I was with myself and knew I needed to do something about it. This was the catalyst that was the start of a complete life change. I joined a gym and started working with Trainer Dave (who still trains me today). I began educating myself on how to make health and fitness a priority in my life.
It wasn't easy to make this lifestyle change but I worked hard at it. After about a year, I started to see and feel a difference. But while this area of my life improved, I hit rock bottom in other areas. It was tempting and would have been easy to fall back to unhealthy bad habits, but I had invested enough hard work and effort into becoming a stronger person physically that it carried over mentally. I was able to pull myself together, regroup and learn how to develop good habits in those other areas as well.
Now that I was no longer ashamed of how I looked and felt, I let myself reconnect with old friends who I hadn't seen in a long, long time, and made new ones as well. And despite economic downturns I managed to stay employed, kept the weight off and discovered that I was capable of accomplishing more than I ever knew I could. Up until this time I ran casually 2-4 miles a couple of times during the week, 5-6 miles on the weekend and mixed in a ton of gym sessions in between. In 2007 my friend and 2-time colleague, Vicky, introduced me to a Garmin running watch and it opened a whole new world to me.
A few months later, in the spring of 2008, Vicky invited me to run my very first running race. It was a 5K at Shoreline in Mountain View. I had no idea what to expect and was still so naive about running (I ran in a cotton long sleeve shirt!). After that race I signed up for the Big Sur Half Marathon and from that point on I was hooked. Running became a passion that never imagined. The girl who could not do the Presidential Physical Fitness Challenge, and who was always picked last in PE class was suddenly running half marathons and marathons -- and loving it!
Fitness was no longer about trying to go lose weight and go down another dress size. Instead, it became about challenging myself and pushing myself farther than I ever thought I could.
I sometimes wonder how my life would have turned out had I not moved to the Bay Area, and I honestly cannot imagine it. On of the driving factors to living here was to have family around to support me. But after 14 years of laying down roots, my support system has expanded beyond family and now includes some amazing people that I am blessed to call friends.
In addition, I feel so fortunate to have discovered a love of something that I feel so passionate about. As a runner, there is no better place to live than the Bay Area. The year-round mild temperatures, the fog, the beautiful trails, and even the hills -- all of it makes it so easy to love running.
Everything happens for a reason and I truly believe that none of this would have happened had I lived anywhere else. My life, in every facet, has been exponentially blessed by living in the San Francisco Bay Area. And after all this time, there is still nowhere else I'd rather be.