San Francisco is saved for the particular hearts looking to have it all: a sunny Saturday at Dolores Park, perched on a hill, Instagram-ing your besweatered Frenchie named Monty, as you watch the motivational yogis through your socially-conscious-and-cost-effective-plastic eyewear. You’re eating fresh bread from a bakery that inspired a documentary, and that documentary made you cry because you never realized the spiritual implication of yeast. You drink the artisanal coffee that’s better than that artisanal coffee that’s poured in a Mason jar you didn’t recycle after, say, finishing your roommate’s brambleberry jam, but poured into a jar you probably bought at the Pottery Barn on 17th and Market, also known as “church.”
What’s not to love? So much of life happens in San Francisco while looking for parking or waiting for brunch.
It’s a city that would never claim to be better than any other city; however, some might consider that to be true, especially when, one young professional at a rooftop party looks out onto The Golden Gate Bridge and says to himself: “Damn, I love being a Googler,” then downs another shot of Goldschläger.
Why should this city fight for attention when Saudi Princes flock here to hike up the real estate prices, and make it nearly uninhabitable by most twenty-four year olds’ standards? They cringe knowing they pay a monthly rent, which is more than a house and paying for a mortgage in any typical hometown.
San Francisco is here for the Californian born and bred, and those welcomed from all corners of the earth, those recovering from other cities that beat spirits down, and those having existential crisis after a work one day, wondering as they fall asleep— can a person truly be a “marketer-at-heart”?
In San Francisco, we’re betrayed each year, cursing the months of June and July, as we thaw from a freeze drawn in from the Pacific, which slowly lurks through the city. This mercurial weather makes us swoon again by September when the Indian summer nestles into Oz.
Where have you been, you say to the weather, annoyed, as if this is the city’s biggest problem, or its lack of vegan donuts. No, it’s not the loss of small business, or The Tenderloin that’s left despondent and abandoned because a mono-industry doesn’t do much to feed the city that raised those thought leaders.
Some neighborhoods hold dichotomies depending on the street corner. May the sector of the city be named after saints that host hipsters in overly specific bars and employ sassy mixologists that can’t explain what bitters are, but ask, “Well, do you have an iPhone?”
Or, some quarters are where frat boys go to perish, only to rise from the post-grad ashes in cream-colored apartment buildings frosted like wedding cakes, growing into P90X-ed financiers who will be engaged to their college lovelies within the year.
It’s all far too overwhelmingly akin to a Gap commercial, gorgeous and something to raise your hand for, but not what the true San Francisco is about: husks of beautiful humans wear colored skinny jeans, chambray button-ups, and tailored military jackets, the uniform of every twenty-something female, overflowing from BART and MUNI.
You’re not sure how you got into the tech industry, what became of your English Literature degree from Berkeley, the more whimsical corner of The Bay, but often lament over The Silicon Valley Syndrome, the curvature of your spine, and the amount of screen time that makes you crave human interaction everyday by 6pm. Without fail, when you go home for Thanksgiving, and people ask how you like your job, you’ll respond with “loving your team,” “gaining new skill sets,” and “the great culture and innovation.”
Then again, San Francisco is filled with city-dwellers who feel anxious amongst its easygoing-ness, yearning to be brought to their knees by the raven-haired sister-city across the country that’s rougher and far bitchier. Deep down, for some reason, these itching people have always wanted things to be that way.
On the weekend, and on the periphery of the city where people go to drink and live a bit more, you’re inside a dark concert hall named after someone, like a backwoods’ cousin called Slim. It’s across the street from that ironic white-trash-themed bar, where a pregnant woman serves Jell-O shots, in a kitschy way, and where you kissed a girl for the-first-and-only-time after probably what was 3,000 drinks mixed with Sunny D. (That was a lie: You also kissed your best friend in Vegas.)
Before the concert starts, you and your friend manage to hold a conversation, yelling over Mansions on the Moon, and he says how excited he is to move to New York City. You know he’s on this bigger trajectory, once his lease is up, a form of freedom, because he told you about The Plan one night in The Mission after you both played and lost a shuffleboard game against a couple, 40 years your senior.
He mentions how much he wants to see you do what you love to do— but full-time. It’s always a more aching reality to hear when someone says what’s true, out loud.
Why you didn’t chase another city? Maybe that job didn’t pay enough, or maybe what’s scarier to consider is that you weren’t ready to sleep on an inflatable mattress in Prospect Heights and pay $1000 month because you’re vaingloriously spoiled and entirely judge yourself for having superficial fears that some people only wish to have.
You like nice, lovely weather, going to the beach on Tuesday, and don’t want to look like the Michelin Man 6 months a year, wearing down jackets. You want your avocados reasonably priced. You want to see your parents often, talk to your sister in the same time zone, and still believe that if you wanted to, you could jump in your struggling 1986 Blue Mercedes right now, cross the Bixby Bridge, and camp at Big Sur, only to sleep on the edge of the coast because you could do that because you live in California.
Still, you’re afraid you couldn’t hack it in that city because there’s a part of you that will never believe in these city myths made by the media: a whimsical Brooklyn, or that every girl gets carried away with four best soul mates, and merely throwing a hat in the air will assure you, “you’re going to make it after all.”
You’re looking for a home with no assumptions, only stories to write because a city doesn’t build a discipline. However, it’s important to remember that the story happens when you place a character against a landscape, and maybe that’s enough. Self-doubt is the only resistance in your life at this moment.
You swap between pondering over poems written during your commute, and wondering about the people who say they are “living the dream” or “doing it big” because maybe we aren’t all capable of such a fraught intention. Maybe these are the strangely vague words we tell ourselves to hear a better story, to protect ourselves from failure, or to keep one-step ahead from what’s chasing us.
When you run through Golden Gate Park, you’ll pass a windmill and a herd of bison secluded in an Edenic field, abruptly interrupted by a pack of weirdoes on a Segway tour. You stop and laugh, completely out of breath, because where the hell are you, you think.
And that’s what you love about San Francisco— it’s filled with nerds, and weirdoes, and dreamers, and people who create things for others, magicians who manifest ubiquitous worlds out of intangible ideas brought to life because much of life is just that—sheer will.
When you leave the office late, the fog covers the skyline and you decide to forgo the subway and walk a few extra blocks to be under the night’s halo.
As of late, life feels primarily in commute. You’re wondering if you’ll ever truly arrive somewhere. Much of life in your twenties, and much of self-rearing, comes from the books you read and the trains you take. Growing up is this knowing, and suddenly, this unknowing of yourself, shuttling between lucidity and bewilderment. Perhaps the timing isn’t right, but it’s important to hold out for second chapters, to buy the ticket, or sense you’ll wait for the next one to come.
San Francisco has a hand in bestowing you a social conscience. Everyone is a part of the city-hive, and while giving up the seat on the subway is a gesture, it’s still important. In any city, it’s important to show how we are still good to one another. How the MUNI conductor waits for you when she sees you running down the street, and warns passengers to be careful at night because it’s dark and the stairs are steep.