On the process of unlearning apathy

It’s been 47 days since I moved out of my apartment on Lyon Street. Since then I’ve spent time in Portland, Oregon; Brooklyn, New York; and Burlington, Vermont. Last Wednesday, I arrived back in San Francisco, where I’ll be living for the next three weeks.

It’s hard to pinpoint the exact circumstances that led me here, to this lifestyle. The impetus to leave San Francisco, at least in some form, had been festering for years. That being said, certain motivations were evident: the pull of family; frustration with how insular and oppressive San Francisco tech culture can feel; a painful longing for real seasons.

And this: apathy.

Apathy wends its way into our lives in myriad, often small, ways. Ordering delivery instead of cooking for yourself; using Lyft instead of walking 20 minutes; passively watching Netflix instead of choosing active, stimulating activities; buying coffee instead of making your own. Isolated examples like these have the potential to sound trivial, and I’m not innocent of any of them, but there’s a line between convenience and laziness that modern living makes all too easy to tiptoe across. Taken in sum, I find a complacency that makes me uncomfortable.

In February, as I gradually parted with the accumulated possessions of my life in San Francisco, I made a conscious decision to keep a set of watercolor paints. I don’t remember when I purchased the paints, but I do know that I had not often used them. In all likelihood, they were an idealistic purchase, made with enthusiasm but without the followthrough to actually dedicate time to.

While in Burlington, I started painting regularly, and decided to make it a part of my travel routine: for each new city, I’ll paint a picture. Since then, the paints have come to represent more than their practical value: they’re an embodiment of an attempt to unlearn apathy. At the very least, painting will be a fun, visual record of the cities I’m spending time in. At best, it becomes an activity which inspires me to avoid doing things out of boredom, or laziness.

And with that: hi, San Francisco!