Lessons From an Escape TO Alcatraz

Michelle Chahine Sinno Alcatraz Bay Area San Francisco
On Alcatraz Island.

Last Thursday, we travelled to San Francisco for a long summer weekend getaway. The trip was about two things. Well three, really.

  1. It was about doing some of our favorite things back from when Nadim lived in the Bay Area and I visited frequently.
  2. It was about doing some of the things that were on our list at the time, that we never got around to doing before moving to L.A.
  3. And of course, it was about being proactive about planning fun weekend getaways, which is one of my goals this year as I seek work-life balance.

While there, it was great to reminisce about and visit some of our favorite spots, and reflect on that stage in my life in general. I spent the summer there during grad school interning with the San Francisco Chronicle, and that summer was all about possibility: the possibility of what I could do, write, be.. and where I could live. I was planning to move to San Francisco after finishing school, and I did for about 2 weeks–before moving to the Los Angeles area.

It’s been nearly four years since moving to Santa Monica. I thought a lot this past weekend about the importance of going back to places that are important to you. Certainly, visiting new places is key to a happy, balanced life. But, I do think, so is visiting “old” places once in a while. It helps connect you to a certain phase in your life and how you thought about things, reminding you of perspectives you may forget in the present.

While sitting in a sunny Biergarten last weekend, the main thing I remembered about my time in the Bay Area in 2011-2012 was just how much I was waiting. Waiting to become the person I wanted to be. Waiting to do all the things on my adventure list. Waiting until I wrote all the things I wanted to write. Waiting…

This is something I felt starkly last year too. I kept waiting for a busy period at work to finish. Waiting for my inbox to clear. Waiting to finish doing just that one more thing before I could relax…  and that’s when I realized: It doesn’t end. It never ends. If I keep waiting for the right time to find my work-life balance, I never would. So I started this blog.

Sometimes, waiting is meaningful. Sometimes, you have to wait in line (and NOT look at your phone, but be OK with the empty time, which can be a great break from the bustle of a day). I’ve been waiting a lot these days for replies from agents as I query my work, and that’s a key part of the process. Sometimes, you have to wait to see results from a fitness routine. You have to wait to save up money for something special… The list goes on. But the thing about this kind of waiting, is that it’s more of patience–because you are already in the midst of doing.

Last Friday, I finally visited Alcatraz, a simple 12-minute boat ride from Pier 33 in San Francisco. I so wanted to visited it in both 2011 and 2012. Why did I wait? Why didn’t I act? As I stood on the island looking across at crisp San Francisco on an exceptionally beautiful day, I felt something a lot like closure.

San Francisco from Alcatraz Michelle Chahine Sinno

I had finally done it, and in making the short trip, I had come a far way. It was a lesson on what a waste of time waiting to act–waiting to become who you want to become–can be.

Though I haven’t managed to get my books published, and I am still patiently plugging along when it comes to several of my life goals, I know I’m not waiting anymore.

What are you waiting for, today?

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