When you talk to just about anyone living in San Francisco, you'll find a common refrain: "I dreamed of moving to San Francisco." It seems that everyone is here for, well, San Francisco, but to be honest, it was never even on my radar. However, when I arrived, my eyes were completely opened to a new way of living that I'd never really imagined could be mine: great public transportation, no need for a car, small businesses instead of chains, restaurants serving food from countries I'd never even heard of, and parks and views at every turn (what??? I can walk to a bison paddock, waterfall, forest(s), and the beach from my house?!). I can go to Tahoe, the Redwoods, Napa, Big Sur, or a million more unbelievable adventures on the weekends- it's totally unparalleled!
The first few years, I was completely blown away. Over and over again, I found myself thinking "I just didn't even know that life could be lived this way!!" and not really knowing how I could ever live somewhere else- especially in the U.S., land of the cities built around cars, not people.
But the last couple of years have been a little less magical. I am still overwhelmingly thankful for the way of life I was exposed to, but I've found myself increasingly frustrated at a few things:
The elitist mentality- If I hear one more "everyone wants to be us" or "everyone is just going to follow what we do anyway," I might pull all my hair out. People legit have said to me that moving to Austin would be hard because people there don't like traveling (uhhh...) or that I bet moving to SF was a shock because coming from a small town like Houston with only white people would be quite a change (wake up call: Houston has 6x the population of SF and is the most diverse city in the U.S.). It is so darn tiring "sticking up" for anywhere outside of California. I'm just always perplexed at why I have to remind folks that there are people outside of California who are smart, well-educated, well-travelled, or maybe even, shocker, might love their lives! We. are. not. the. only. ones.
The constant in and out- Y'all, in 5 years, I've been through dozens and dozens of friends. People move away all. the. time., and it's totally exhausting. It's hard to continue to pour into people when you know they'll probably move away within 2 years. And if they haven't yet moved away, they're probably out of town or busy working. The adventurer in me got incredibly frustrated at not having reliable people to explore with like I so wanted. And hey, I'm very much a part of the problem. I'm always out of town and am now moving away? Can't say I'm proud of doing the same thing to other people that so frustrated me being on the other side of.
Oversensitivity/judgment- There is this unspoken "who is more 'woke'" competition in the Bay Area. If you don't know the latest politically correct term and use the outdated word, people put you down, and I find they're often looking for ways that you are messing up instead of thinking the best of you and engaging in a constructive conversation. The time I most felt this was when I was reported to HR - yep, reported to HR - because I wrote on my personal Instagram Story on my personal vacation in a Middle Eastern country that I thought deodorant and AC were great Western items. I see now how that was rude, and I totally acknowledge I shouldn't have posted that, but, come on- TALK TO ME! DM me! Write me an anonymous note and place it on my desk! Why jump to getting someone in trouble instead of "holding each other accountable through a judgment-free learning environment so we can all grow together to become more inclusive" (great words from a coworker that I saved because YAAASS!)? You end up just wanting to be silent in fear of being shamed- and that's just about the worst thing you can do in the fight to move forward social issues! Assume the best in others before the worst- that I would be more than open to having that conversation and learning from it.
Obsession with work & technology- I know this isn't strict to San Francisco, but I do think it's ramped up a level here. It's hard to meet someone new and not be asked what you do for a living or get together with friends and not talk about work. Jobs are not just a way to make money to help you live the life you want. Instead, your job title basically becomes your tagline (i.e. "See ya later! I'm going to get brunch with Rebecca, my friend who works at Facebook!"), and when you catch up with people, it's all about how they're frustrated with their job or how they've spent the last month working with their team to make a button blue on [insert tech company here]'s webpage, and it's totally changed everything (but actually- this is taken from a real conversation). While a lot of apps people are working on truly are changing people's lives, so many are mostly making life easier for those who are already privileged, so the "I'm changing the world by making a button blue!" mentality can get pretty tiring when the context for whom this change is happening isn't acknowledged. I'm not at all saying it's a bad thing to be working on those products- the concept of "change" just needs to be better scoped.
The fog- I have said this many times before, and I fully stand by it: San Francisco on a sunny day is one of, if not the best, cities in the world! It's so dang charming and beautiful. I crave sun so badly, but unfortunately, there are too many foggy days that can really get me down. Next time, I'm moving to the Mission. But then I'm part of the gentrification problem! Oh yes, this is why I still haven't moved to the Mission...
So I'm taking a break.
Next time I come back to San Francisco, I want to have better processed all of these frustrations and have a healthier attitude about how I deal with them. Do I expect SF to change? Of course not! But maybe I'll come back more refreshed and ready to roll my eyes at those things and not let them get to me as much. I want to feel as delighted as I once was- that overwhelming joy I used to feel where I had no words to describe how much I loved my way of life.
Do I think running away from problems is the way to go? Not at all. In many ways, I'm annoyed at myself for not digging into the problems and trying to work them out, but with that tug on my heart to move abroad for so long, I do think the timing is just about right for this break in my relationship with San Francisco. Will we get back together? TBD. But we'll definitely remain fantastic friends. ;)
Give me a few months of being gone, and then I promise I'll put out a "What I miss about San Francisco" blog post- because I promise I do still love it despite its frustrations.