To celebrate one of my closest friend’s birthday, I decided to invite him to my place in San Francisco for a little birthday weekend. Driving up from San Jose, I had an hour before he arrived to cook our dinner and bake a cake to surprise him with. I was haphazardly running around cooking our dinner, cleaning, and attempting to bake a funfetti boxed cake correctly so that it was ready before he arrived.
To give you an idea of my cooking skills: my housemates that had observed me and given me pointers in the past jokingly made a bet on whether or not I would mess up the cake. As I was getting the ingredients together all I could hear was, “She’s going to burn the cake.” “No, she usually sets a timer. She’ll probably time it wrong.” “Or burn something from her dinner she’s cooking in the meantime.” While I laughed and rolled my eyes, I started my timer for the cake while I sauteed the mushrooms and broccoli for our the fetuccini alfredo.
After frantically running around, the cake was successfully cooked and wrapped in tinfoil out of sight. My main goal finished, I let Brandon in and finished putting the pasta together. To my delight, the dinner came out well. I am glad to report that he was indeed surprised by the cake. However, when it came time to unwrap it, I let out a disappointed, “Oh no!” To my distain, the middle of the cake came out undercooked and all of the frosting had melted off, dripping along the sides of the glass dish. The frosting left small pools of white crystalized frosting melted on the wooden table. Brandon consoled me, “It’s the thought that counts and at least it tastes good!”
The next day we were adventurers in my city, gingerly hiking up Bernal Heights on a sunny yet windy morning. We got to see a three-sixty view of the whole city while trying not to get knocked off by the strong winds. He told me amusing stories about his trips to Hawaii with his family. I shared my desire to visit one day and see the volcanoes erupt the way his did while on a helicopter ride. After laughing and photo taking, we decided to go downtown to walk around union square and eat sushi.
I had not been to Union Square in so long I almost forgot about the iconic heart sculptures that were displayed at the four corners. These hearts have been around San Francisco for as long as I could remember. They were always in the most random places but where I had seen them most consistently was in banks and heavily trafficked street corners. It was always a reminder that this city always holds a piece of your heart no matter how brief your visit or your time living here is.
While we ate our sushi, I asked about what his plans were now that he is twenty-seven, his response was, “Make money. Get that bag.” He said it with a rigor in his eyes and a matter-of-fact tone that made a twinge of admiration run through me. “That’s a good plan.” A plan I had made for myself as well. That would be the outcomes, at least, of the inner development I was about to do.
During that lunch, in a moment where time had stood still, I looked at my friend enjoying his meal then out around the skyscraper masterpieces that surrounded us. A perfect sunny day with a cool breeze. A moment in my life I didn’t think was possible for me. I was independent and self-sufficient. I was living in my favorite city. I was able to treat my friend to lunch. It may be small victories for some, but for me it was monumental. In the past, I thought that the journey to success would have to be hard and strenuous for it to earn. Do the work. Put in the hours. Sacrifice whatever you needed to sacrifice. If there was any good that came out of this global pandemic, its that I took the opportunity to stop, look inward, and realize that I could find a different path in life. A way where I could be happy and free and still be on my path to success. In that moment, a wave of gratitude washed over me for what it took to be here. In that moment, I felt in every fiber of my being that I was successful.
We spent the rest of our afternoon walking around Golden Gate Park while sipping our favorite boba drinks from Tpumps. I had gotten the mango peach honey one while he went for chocolate hazelnut. It was nice to see so many people spread out around the park talking and laughing while throwing tennis balls for their dogs to catch. Seeing birthday balloons billow in the wind and while the smell of barbeque and beer pierced the air. It was like everyone was collectively laughing their cares away, dancing with friends, and eating great food because they could.
I couldn’t have asked for a better day to show my friend what really makes up the heart of the city.