I first heard Arianna Huffington share this quote when she appeared on Accenture's International Women's Day webcast. Ever since then, along with watching The Secret and completing Jeremy Hunter's Practice of Self Management class at the Drucker school, I've been doing my best to think limitless thoughts. This may not be the best thing for someone who has an optimistic disposition, but I like to think I have strategic or realistic optimism. Now limitless thoughts have become part of my new strategy to break down inherent barriers I tend to sneak into my internal narrative. Since, I've started practicing this strategic mindset of living life with the mindset that everything will be rigged in my favor, I see life becoming more a treasure box of a journey.
The latest treasure my husband, Rumen, and I were able to experience was our trip to San Francisco this past weekend. In the midst of graduating, helping build Rumen's architecture business, and wrapping up a client project on employee engagement, I've been given the mission to find a place to live in the most expensive city in the US of A. At one point, someone warned us that we'd have "an easier time finding a job than a place to live" with the demand for housing in SF being so high. Well, we had our fair share of missing out on locking down the right apartment just within hours of putting down a reservation deposit before the trip. Hence, we were thinking this trip to SF would be full of apartment visits, fierce competition against other SF transplants, and heartache.
Before the trip, I heard the voices of doubt about the move mixed with feelings of anxiety, and I countered it with a mindfulness meditation to track and sit with my feelings. After the meditation, I asked the universe to give us a sign for the right place to call home, so we could make a satisfactory decision sooner than later and maximize our time relaxing and exploring. Here's the story of how the universe did its thing.
We had six apartment visits booked back-to-back. By the fourth apartment, we were growing weary of asking the same questions of each leasing agent and agitated of the SF Friday traffic. Our fifth showing felt right the moment we drove up and parked. Wow, they actually have parking for prospective tenants. Who knew I would be so surprised at a detail that before now seemed so commonplace to me. The apartment community had all the amenities we were hoping for - several workout rooms, spas, pools, grills, rooftop terraces - you know what you expect to get in addition to the 400-something sq ft. studio you'd be paying for an arm and a leg. Also, since, I was tracking this apartment community online, I was able to lock in a price ahead of time that was comparable to other studios half the size of the one I reserved. Oh, and get this, we had our own fairly large patio and the studio was right next to a gate door. When you live the college student apartment living lifestyle long enough, these things - like fast accessibility to your car full of groceries - matter! It was in a great neighborhood in SOMA/South Beach area, and throughout the community we had views of the Bay Bridge. Oh, and the last of the perks but not least, the apartment community offered free fitness classes, an onsite deli, and a shuttle to FIDI. It was feeling soooo right.
Now, it was time to run to the next apartment showing. Rumen and I got the info on next steps should we choose this was the right place, and we jetted to the final showing of the day. Hungry and exhausted, we were hoping the next showing would be quick, so we could grab a bite to eat. When we arrived, we found out the landlord accidentally forgot the keys to the apartment at home. We felt bad for the guy bc he told us he was sitting in traffic for an hour to get to us. We thanked him for his time, got back inside the car, and thanked the Universe for its sign. We celebrated the decision at Ryoko's. The next day we signed the lease papers on our favorite apartment community.
After signing the lease papers, Rumen and I were able to enjoy omelettes at the Delancey Street Grill run by the Delancey Street Foundation. We had an awesome view of our future home community, the water, and the sun came out in all its glory. It was extremely hot, and I kept kicking myself for dressing for Mark Twain's "coldest winter." The day continued in a relaxed pace as we got to explore Crissy Field and the green Presidio. We scarfed down sandwiches from The Sandwich Stop for a late lunch on the field as we watched kites flying and people windsailing. At this point, it was freezing, so we were definitely ready to head to our Airbnb home for the weekend.
In the evening, we met up with one of my mentor's emerging leaders collective, as well as Kate from CGU. It was awesome getting to know other like-minded young folks that were chasing meaning and impact rather than just money. Our new friends showed us a good time out at Tonic, but we definitely did not get as much a chance to shake our tail feathers as we had hoped. It's okay though bc this evening only made me feel even more excited to be back in just a couple weeks.
Since, we had a whole day to kill before our 8pm flight, we went on a lovely nine hour Napa Valley Wine Tour on a limo bus equipped with mimosas. Our driver was a man named Jimmy who had a great attitude, although it was Father's Day and he was spending it with us instead of his family. After a quick stop at the Golden Gate Bridge, we quickly found out that Jimmy's father-in-law was in surgery and that work was keeping him busy while everyone else in his family was waiting through the surgery. Rumen and I said a quick prayer for Jimmy and his family.
The first vineyard we visited was the Jacuzzi family vineyards (THE Jacuzzi family, as in what you sit in when the pool's too cold), and it was probably my favorite one bc the grounds were a beautiful imitation of the Jacuzzi family's estate in Italy. I especially loved the olive oil tasting, and took home a classic champagne balsamic vinaigrette. Next, we continued the wine tasting and had our first cup of gelato of the day at Viansa. It was too easy to sit back and relax as we faced the hills of grapes vines. The warmth of the sun, the taste of mango gelato, the sounds of the birds talking to each other, and the smell of pizza being cooked in the clay pizza oven on the patio right behind us made this a beautiful moment to embrace all the stimuli hitting all our senses at once. We then took a trip to the Madonna Estate in Napa Valley. I appreciated the educational tour our guide gave us as we waited for our lunch to be prepared. It was the first time I attempted to say Gewürztraminer, as well as learned of a neat tool that allows you to uncork and re-cork your wines. You mean, I don't have to keep buying wine stoppers? Steal!
During lunch, we learned Jimmy's father-in-law's fighting spirit got him through the surgery smoothly and we celebrated that moment of relief with him. In the afternoon, we arrived at Yountville, CA, which is a cute town in Napa. We had the pleasant surprise of getting to browse vintage cars throughout the downtown grounds due to the Napa Valley Father's Day Invitational. Although I didn't see my red Porsche, I had to take a picture next to a beautiful convertible Chevy (one day...). We tried another two scoops of gelato - coconut sherbert and vanilla bean mmmm... After resting in some shade and walking around a bit, we headed back through Oakland to the city. We had a great conversation with a couple from Texas - Susan & Lance Dobson - about adopting and got tips from a foster parent's point of view on what to do when you first adopt (i.e., family therapy asap!). Susan and Lance were celebrating their 30th anniversary that year with visits to all 30 baseball stadiums, and they were just starting their tour of the California stadiums. Of course, we told them to wear blue to the Dodger stadium bc you know, we want them to enjoy themselves rather than fear the wrath of some LA Dodger fans with no sense of humanity.
On the Bay Bridge, we realized pretty quickly that traffic was making our 9 hr trip a 10 hr trip. Instead of getting to our rental car by 6pm, we would be getting to it closer to 7pm. That would give us only 30 min to drive back across the Bay Bridge, return the rental car, check-in to our flights and go through security. Which was impossible. Rumen and I were praying for a miracle. Jimmy did his best to drive as the limo bus as fast as he could, and when we got close to our stop at Pier 39 he told us we should run to our car bc it'd be faster than sitting in traffic. So, we did. We ran through tourists and across the busy street of cars on the Embarcadero. I used my racing skills to drive us to the rental car return by 7:20pm. It was 7:24pm, and the shuttle to the Oakland airport from the rental car lot had just left without us within a couple seconds of running up to the pickup point.
My optimism kicked into gear, and I started thinking Ok, we just need to get to the gate by 7:30, and since we didn't check-in we'll be part of the B group. So, we'll have a couple minutes. The check-in line for Southwest is never long. We'll be fine! We got onto the next shuttle bus. I was trying to keep my foot from shaking in nervousness. We can't afford to stay in SF one more night, and if we did - where would we stay? Something told me to look at my emails, which I had neglected all weekend (I was so proud of myself for this btw!). After deleting a few emails, I saw one from Southwest. Our flight had been delayed until 9:25pm. Wow. We now had a whole two hours, which meant we could actually feed our hungry tummies with some dinner. But, right when we got up to the terminal entrance, we saw a line going outside wrapping along the Oakland airport building. When we got off the shuttle, we heard that the security line had an expected wait time of two hours. Gah!
We rushed to check-in. Standing in the check-in line, Rumen remembered that Southwest offered curbside check-in. He went outside the building to scope it out. Yes, there was no line and they were accepting check-ins. A kind man with personality named Kenneth at the check-in counter told us that the other Terminal had a very small security line compared to the one wrapping the building, and encouraged us to take advantage of it. We ran on over to the other terminal and found the efficient and less utilized line. We got through security by 7:52pm, and we still had an hour to try the Mexican food at Andale before hopping on our delayed flight. The El Presidente burrito was awesome btw. This was the first time Southwest had ever delayed our flight, and we sat back in gratefulness. Rumen smiled at me and said, "I'm glad we have your optimism love."
In this moment, we had an immense appreciation for the universe for rigging everything in our favor this weekend - from the sign on which apartment to call our next home, to the maximization of relaxation and exploration, to the swift driving Jimmy, the delayed Southwest flight, the kind Kenneth for his tip, and the great food we got to enjoy to end the trip.
If I start living with this strategic optimistic mindset more often, I can just imagine the peace that will replace the anxiety that comes from uncertainty and doubt. I think this is the peace God wants for all his children.