I spent this past weekend in San Francisco with my best friends, roommates, and sorority sisters from college.
Several of my friends live in the city, so we were able to stay at their gorgeous, modern home in Russian Hill. When we arrived on Friday night, the girls had a big spread of food and wine set out: apple and spinach salad, a variety of cheeses (pesto gouda was my favorite), crackers, clumps of fresh grapes, dark chocolate squares, strawberries dipped in white chocolate, nuts, spinach cheese dip, and raspberry Brie.
We munched and drank wine and chatted for hours late into the night sharing stories and reminiscing.
We spent the next two days cooking brunch together, sipping mimosas, catching up, and taking advantage of the warm, clear weather by walking all around the city and snapping 6-person selfies whenever the mood struck.
I walked along Polk Street and saw the famed Russian Hill parrots flying and squawking overhead, their green feathers against the sky like a bright blur of green paint on a blue canvas.
I leaned against the rough wooden slats of Pier 39 and felt the sun on my forearms as I watched the seals sunbathe with their heads nestled into one another’s bodies.
I ogled sesame seed bagels and raspberry heart-shaped pies and cream cheese Danishes at a gluten-free bakery before deciding on a thick, doughy cinnamon roll.
I overheard French voices at the Palace of Fine Arts and inched closer to eavesdrop on the trio of French friends as they took photos of the dome and commented on the abundance of stairs at its base.
I watched a Frisbee sail through the air toward my face at Fort Mason before a guy with a beer in one hand reached out and caught it.
I scooped spoonfuls of coconut rice pudding and dark chocolate ganache in my mouth at The Loving Cup, sighing with every creamy, heavenly bite.
I rode a rickety elevator to Natalie's rooftop and surveyed the city as the setting sun cast the cream-colored houses in its lavender glow.
I noticed the smell of weed in the air, smooth and sharp, as it wafted from below where I sat on the cold concrete steps across the street from Ghirardelli Square.
I stared at the Golden Gate Bridge from East Beach and let the light breeze stroke my cheeks as I thought about all the people who jump from its red steel guardrails.
I breathed in the stale scent of pond water as I watched the ducks waggle back and forth across the brown-green water in front of the Palace of Fine Arts.
I tasted each one of my friends’ cocktails at Pesce, sipping rosemary, ginger ale, lime, and basil vodka, grapefruit tequila, and spiced pear whiskey.
I saw couples and groups of girlfriends digging into omelets and stacks of French toast at sidewalk cafés along Chestnut Street.
I felt my skinny jeans become sticky and tight with the sweat from the backs of my knees as I walked at a forty-five degree angle up Green Street.
I laughed with my friends in our PJs as we snuggled in blankets and opened the blinds to the beaming sun of a new day.
Spending time in San Francisco brought back the rush I always feel when I’m in a city. I love the stimulation I get from walking, people watching, observing the scenery, and absorbing the sounds around me in an urban environment. I feel energized, vibrant, and curious.
There’s a particular kind of thrill that comes from using all your senses at once. When I tap into all of mine, I feel how I imagine human beings were designed to feel every moment of every day of our lives: alive and connected to it all.
There are few things more powerful than being conscious of your aliveness and your presence in the world. If there is a place, an activity, or a person that makes you aware of the gift that is being alive, cherish that feeling and keep it close to your heart.
Walking around a gorgeous, buzzing city makes me feel this way, as does conversation with my dearest friends. Since we realized that the last time we were all together was our college graduation in June 2013, we used the majority of our time to talk about careers, independence, growth, change, love, family, purpose, and friendship.
Not only was it was a perfect weekend spent in wonderful company, but it reminded me of how many reasons I have to be grateful for my life and the people in it.
Cheers to friendship, the constant that lifts me up and keeps me going wherever I am in the world.
Where and with whom do you feel most alive and connected to the world?