There may be a devastating drought in California, but you would not have known it that day.
I awakened to a pitch-black apartment, silent except for the rhythmic symphony of raindrops collapsing against my concrete porch. Gone were the homeless folks typically resting on park benches across the street; they'd vanished in search of shelter, of course.
Digital numbers on my once-functional microwave informed me that I had missed the bus to work. Which would've been no problem on a typical partly-cloudy NorCal day. Today, however, I was in a bind: I certainly couldn't afford to pay a taxi driver $40 to drive me to a restaurant where I may or may not earn that money back over the next nine hours, depending on the clientele awaiting me at the bar.
With a sigh, I began the trek on foot. My umbrella lasted two blocks before rebelliously flipping inside-out. I raised my hood in a sad attempt to protect my hair, and continued along with rainwater seeping up through the holes in my well-worn black boots.
By the time I reached Geary Street, I was drenched. By the time I reached Sutter Street, I was more water than human. By the time I reached Broadway, however, the clouds had rolled away in defeat. Out of nowhere, the sun appeared.
I arrived at work a few minutes late, apologized to the owner, and fixed drinks for half-soaked customers the remainder of the night.
Although nearly four years have passed since then, I remember every detail, down to the ripped tights I wore with my jean miniskirt.
I most clearly recall being mesmerized at the top of the hill, as sunlight lapped against my damp skin. An iconic bridge, inspiration for songs and books and countless romantic photos, stretched before me. Water shimmered and pulsed toward the shore. The hills of San Francisco were dotted with quaint little houses which looked like a tribute to a different era.
In that moment, I vowed to always be grateful.
I vowed to never, ever take this world for granted.
I made an oath to enjoy the violent rainstorms which often lead to dazzling, sunny views.
For many years, I was successful; I made people laugh with my ever-present optimism. I exuded pure happiness. I was grateful for a job I adored, an opportunity to live in the tropics, and an amazing network of friends within a five-mile radius of my apartment.
A buddy once asked me it I ever wished I could "have it all." He was, of course, referring to a plush paycheck and the upscale clothes/cars/vacations which accompany that. I immediately responded that I did have it all. Money was irrelevant. I was content, peaceful, satisfied.
All of that changed last year.
Money became very relevant once I went into debt.
More importantly, I relocated for work...and the network I'd spent nearly a decade constructing began to disintegrate. I was alone. As a single 30-year-old, my friends were my family. My whole world. They always had been. Suddenly they felt so distant; I was in a new city...on my own...again.
In addition, work was more demanding than ever before. The fun was gone; I became a zombie, flying around the entire country without noticing or appreciating the ride.
The city with that spectacular view of the Golden Gate Bridge transformed into my enemy, my aggressor. In search of a comrade, I befriended a loneliness I'd never known before.
Several months ago, my best friend told me that we can either "get bitter or get better." That catch phrase caused something to shift inside of me. I had slipped into a state of despair...but I began to claw my way out.
My friends helped me rekindle some sort of hope for my future. Self-pity is dark enough to be oddly enticing to someone already at a low point. But once I allowed myself to enter that mournful space, escape became difficult.
Yet I managed to find the exit.
I credit those around me, who helped every step of the way...and I can't think of a better way to thank them than by spreading hope to others. Every day, any chance I get.
Things are still far from perfect. Sometimes I cry when remembering how life used to be. There was simplicity and balance before. My social circle was strong. I had a place.
I'm still unmarried, still finding my literary voice, still wondering if I'll ever discover my "forever home."
But I now hope to wade through all these uncertainties with grace and, yes, laughter.
The thankful girl on Fillmore Street is not dead, she just needed a moment to relocate and solidify her misplaced optimism.
So many of my friends have endured struggles far greater than mine. I would like to remind anyone dealing with loss, displacement, or failure that they are not alone. Strong arms carried me through my saddest days, and I'm steadily rebuilding my arm strength so I can do the same for others.