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What if Boulder had skyscrapers that weren’t made out of sandstone? What if the natives still biked to work in their “professional attire” of socks and sandals, but dodged taxis on their way? What if there were as many foreign languages spoken at one time as there are recycling bins at an event center?

If all these alterations were made to Boulder, we would call it San Francisco.

Indeed, the city could be considered a more extreme Boulder, but what caught me off guard is that the citizens here are even friendlier. One of my all-time favorite speeches, “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sun Screen)” advises graduating students to, “Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.”

The speech is spot on. San Francisco natives are some of the most considerate, outgoing, smiley city-dwellers I have ever met. Maybe it’s how good the air smells. Maybe it’s the abundance of green open spaces for exercise. Whatever it is, San Francisco tops my list for the nicest-people-while-still-living-in-a-metropolis award.

Everywhere I go, a “young girl sitting alone” siren must be silently broadcast to the ears of every other solitary person in the vicinity. Like patrollers on duty, men and women of every age sit down at tables next to me and politely inquire as to what I am studying. “Mandarin,” I tell them. In response, they tell me about their uncle who studied that at Stanford or that they just talked to someone else that is from Beijing and how last week they had a great dinner in China Town. San Francisco is clearly the social polar opposite of New York City.

The outgoing personalities don’t seem to be isolated to any one neighborhood, either. While running last evening to the top of a scenic hill, I paused to watch the sun embark on its nightly pre-bed ritual. As it relaxed into the horizon, sailboats on the bay found their masts dipped in gold. Home windows blinked flashes of light. Nearby trees shivered, their movement sending waves of yellow down the branches.

Just then, a young family in a cherry-red Maserati pulled up next to me on the curb. Rolling down his window, the father leaned out and spoke, “Isn’t this marvelous, ma’am?” I was taken aback. Not knowing how to respond, I simply smiled and reaffirmed his statement. Then he added, “Well, I hope you get to enjoy more of it. Have a great night!” His young children flapped waving hands of their windows and the car growled away.

“Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.” San Francisco was making me soft.

I started picking up on their gregariousness. On my nightly runs through the luxurious Pacific Heights district, I would wave at families coming home in their Bentley or Porsche and politely yield as they pull into their driveway while saying, “After you, neighbor!” Repeating this phrase made me realize the importance of making one’s own reality.

We each live in a personalized physiological world that is constantly being reconstructed by our thoughts. What we outwardly communicate is the equivalent of chiseling our contemplations into stone. Once it has been said, it can be recalled, referenced, cited. By referring to the people in this opulent subdivision as my neighbors, I am making a subconscious promise to my psyche: these are the people I live by. Hence, I must be one of them. I must live here too.

Aware that I would not be finishing my run on one of the many mansions that boast price tags half my age multiplied by one million, my psyche is forced to make sense of the two misaligned statements. It thinks to itself, “If these are my neighbors, where is my abode?” From that point on, I have opened an outlet for my subconscious to find ways to make what I have just declared to the world a reality.

Simple statements are what start this brain challenge in the first place. Aware of this strategy, my nightly dreams fill with possible opportunities that could make me their neighbor. The hopeful thoughts and warm personalities of the natives distract me from the fog and wind as I continue to enjoy the company of what seems like an entire city that is just waiting to hold a conversation.

Fairview High graduate Monika Lutz will chronicle her gap year with occasional columns in the Colorado Daily. E-mail her at