For the first time in my life, I don’t know where to go: Part 1

As soon as I could, I wanted to get out of San Jose. It’s not that I didn’t like my hometown — I just knew that there was much more to see in the world and I wanted to see it.

So I picked a small university in Seattle to attend my freshman year of college. And though it was exciting, the next year I got restless at school and headed back home.

Two years later, I transferred to UCLA and ran about in Los Angeles exploring all the creativity and adventures the city had to offer. I was in heaven. But after graduation, having not prepared as best I could to support myself, back to San Jose I went.

After just a few months though, I got a job, then an apartment downtown — my first ever by myself that I was paying for all on my own. 23 years old, living, working, paying the bills… kinda seems young now looking back, considering I’d always felt like some kind of a screw up. What I realized a couple years later was, I was really just an artist.

San Jose was so easy to get around in on bike, and I’d go explore the warehouse district, popping into the Citadel artist’s community to see what was there, or I’d ride all the way to the Eastside foothills. I had the Blank Club to go to downtown to dance, and independent films to see at the Camera 3. Young adult life in San Jose was pretty all right.

old building downtown San Jose near Japantown, 2007

By early the next year when I turned 24, I even saved up enough for my first trip to New York City, venturing on after to Northampton, Mass., Amherst, then up to Burlington, Vermont. I don’t even think I thought of it, then, but it was the farthest I’d been on a trip without “adult supervision” in my life (besides living in Seattle and L.A., of course). Yes, I almost got stuck in a snowstorm driving on the interstate, but I survived NYC alone and that was victory enough.

Having lived in big cities before and being a bit dazzled by all the action there, “the city” — our city, San Francisco — started calling my name… I’d visited it a lot as a kid growing up in the Bay, heading out to shows at the bigger venues, The Fillmore, Warfield, Great American Music Hall, smaller clubs like Slim’s, Café du Nord, and Bottom of the Hill, and dancing on Thursday nights at Popscene the minute I turned eighteen.

I found a great job at a non-profit right out on the Bay in South San Francisco, about a thirty-five to forty-minute commute on BART or fifteen to twenty minutes driving. I could live in the Mission where all the cool kids were. I was 25 and it was 2009. I found a studio for $1,100, which seemed like a ton of money back then, but with my new job I could make it work.

In March of that year in San Francisco, I started my music project Lady Lazarus and my artistic life exploded. I was a creative machine:  writing, making music, making art. I could not be stopped, and I realized who I was. I was an artist, and I’d always been. Everything finally just came together and I couldn’t neglect my passions anymore. No, instead, I was on fire.

The trouble was though, I burnt out. I was going out too much, and not taking care of myself — not exercising regularly and eating well. Work and commuting was stressful, and life in San Francisco was much harsher than I’d anticipated it to be. Not to mention that between work and art, I was burning my candle at both ends and not making enough time to simply rest and be.

After nine months in the city, I developed debilitating insomnia which was driving me out of my mind. I tried to recover while still living in S.F., but after relapsing back into night after night of sleeplessness, I felt I had to go back home to recover.

If you’re wondering at this point, "Melissa, do you know the way to San Jose?,” the answer is:  yes — probably more than most.

Read Part 2 here.

various shots downtown San Jose, 2007-2008