Oliver Gilan

I Moved to San Francisco

Today I woke up at 3:30am, hopped in an Uber, and headed to JFK where I flew to my new home in San Francisco. This is the first time in my 25 years of life that I will not be living within an hour of my parents in the suburbs of NYC. I’ve traveled alone including a backpacking trip to Costa Rica, a month of working remotely in Brazil, and other fun trips here and there but never have I lived permanently in a whole new part of the world like this.

The word permanently is certainly doing a lot of work here. There’s nothing necessarily permanent about this because a lot can change overnight and there’s no real commitment for me to stay here if I don’t want to. But I did not come here with the intention of going back tomorrow. Nor next week or month. So why did I come here?

Well Census, the company I work for, is headquartered here but we have an office in NYC as well and it’s not like I’m being forced by them to move. We also have a fully remote-friendly culture so I could theoretically have moved to any city as long as the timezones weren’t obscene. So Census isn’t the whole story. This city has more to offer than just that.

For starters, I needed to get out of New York. I was born in NYC, raised in it’s suburbs, went to college in New Jersey, and then moved to Manhattan after graduating. I love New York and I love the chaos and dynamism and opportunity. I love the stories of the people there and I’m captured by the personality and history of its buildings, streets, and neighborhoods. I firmly believe it’s one of, if not the, best city in the world.

And yet everything about it is familiar. The weather and how it changes with the seasons, the shortening and lengthening of the days, the rhythm of the city over the hours, days, weeks, and months. The way the light bounces off the buildings, the manic drivers, the debauchery, the class. All of it is familiar and right now as I move on from my long illness and the world moves on from COVID I do not want familiar. I want new settings, new people, new challenges. I want to go out and see things I haven’t seen before and inject a bit of entropy into my life as most young people should. Being alone so far from everything I know isn’t a bug it’s a feature of this move.

So why SF? There’s a number of reasons but ultimately it just makes sense. At least for now. When I was young I always wanted to go out West, my job is headquartered here, I have a couple friends in this city from college and from work so I’m not starting completely from scratch, and if I execute on my dreams to start my own company any time soon then SF is a great place to be for that. I’ll also be close to so many other awesome parts of America although I will be further from Europe which is a bummer. The opportunity for me to grow and improve on many dimensions exists in SF and that’s ultimately what I’m excited for.

I will have to go out of my way to meet new people and make new friends (if you’re located in SF reach out to me!) and I’ll have to build new routines. I’ll be working in-person far more than I previously have which will be the first time in my professional career (apart from my first internship at Prudential) where that is really the case. I’ll also be living with roommates for the first time since my Sophomore year of college pretty much. All of that means I’ll have to put concerted effort into carving out high-quality personal time where I can be alone with my own thoughts as well. I’ll also have the opportunity to take advantage of the natural beauty and abundant nature within a short distance of the city and relearn my old hobbies around sailing and surfing as well as some new ones. I’m starting with a blank slate here and I’ll be presented with opportunities I would have missed in New York due to my entrenched patterns and behaviors.

The signs for my destiny point to SF in this moment but that can change and I will keep an open mind with all things. I want to give this city a fair shot and to me that means a minimum of 6 months but potentially even a year or more of living here. Life is unpredictable, however, and I may soon find myself moving yet again but even if I do I do not think I’ll be going back to New York. The gravity of that city is powerful and I already have attractive opportunities there that would incentivize me to move back but I’m intentionally turning away from those for now. This is the time for me to explore the rest of the world beyond the New York metropolitan area and I’m going to take advantage of that. I’m going to seize the opportunities this city brings my way and my mantra for the next indefinite amount of months can be summarized with the following: