When I Lived In San Francisco

When I lived in San Francisco, I lived far from the actual city. I lived in the dorms my freshman year at San Francisco State and the following year I moved into an apartment complex called The Villas, which was basically off-campus housing located near the border of Daly City. Back then, if someone asked you if you wanted to go to a “Villas party,” you knew it meant being surrounded by bros and cheap beer but you usually went anyway because there was nothing else to do. There was a seediness to the whole area, you never felt completely safe, but my apartment was huge and I could roll out of bed every day and walk to class. Whereas if I lived in the Mission or Lower Haight, like some of my friends did, I would have a 45-minute commute every day to school. At the age of 19, I could barely make it to class when I lived next door, so I knew that wouldn’t be a good idea. Besides, the Villas weren’t that bad. There was a swingset located in front of my building and I would often go there with my iPod and swing for hours. Plus, my shower had amazing water pressure. That’s a huge deal.

When I lived in San Francisco, I was the closest I’ve ever been to experiencing a real depression. There was a lot of pressure to make my freshman year of college great and tell all my friends back home amazing stories to let them know that I was moving on with my life, but things were actually terrible. To make matters worse, my mom sold my childhood home right when I left for college and moved to Northern California to live with her boyfriend, which meant that I had no real place to go home to during breaks. I was a nomad during the winter and spring breaks. San Francisco wasn’t my home but neither was the place I grew up, so I was stuck in this awkward limbo for a few years.

When I lived in San Francisco, I had trouble making good friends. In fact I hated 90% of the people I hung out with my freshman year. I just called them my friends because they accepted me and I felt less lonely when I was around them. I was ashamed of this because I wanted everyone back home to know that I was doing just fine and had a thriving social life. When we would call each other on the phone, we would talk about all the fantastic friends we were making. Only later, in our junior and senior year of college when we had finally settled into our new lives, did we admit to each other that the friends we made freshman year were just filler.

When I lived in San Francisco, there was SO. MUCH. COCAINE HAPPENING. Not so much with me — I never liked the stuff because it took away from my two great loves of eating and sleeping — but with many of my close friends. I introduced one of my friends to coke right before winter break and when I had gotten back, she told me that she had done it every single day since that night. I was completely shocked which, in retrospect, was very naive of me. If I learned anything from my two years of living in San Francisco, it’s that cocaine is a nasty terrible drug. I was lucky to never develop a taste for it but many weren’t so lucky. Pretty soon I was accompanying a best friend to AA meetings while another had moved on to doing heroin. To this day, I can’t think of San Francisco without thinking of pointless conversations, coke breath, having cracked out photoshoots with my friends (because being on coke makes you honestly believe you’re a supermodel), and hearing that “chop chop” sound of a credit card. Yuck.

When I lived in San Francisco, I only hooked up with two boys. Did I mention that I lived there for TWO YEARS? It got to the point where I honestly thought no boy was going to ever touch me again and that my romantic life was over. My confidence was so low by the time I left that city that I had become afraid of intimacy and boys. I would run away from them. No joke. You know who finally broke my sixteen month dry spell? A Mexican boy named Pedro from the Valley who had seen me at a warehouse party in Downtown LA and just started making out with me. He turned out be totally disgusting and embarrassing but it didn’t matter. Pedro unknowingly saved my sex life.

When I lived in San Francisco, I wore nothing but headbands and necklaces and deep V’s and short shorts. I was essentially a gay Olsen twin. This one time I actually put a beaded necklace around my head and thought it looked chic. I mean, maybe it was the coke. Who knows? All I know is that I’m happy to have moved on from that very #dark time.

I left San Francisco in a body cast. No, seriously. I did. Three weeks before the end of my sophomore year, I was hit by a car. I originally had planned on studying abroad my junior year and graduating from San Francisco State, but after the whole “getting hit by a car” thing, I was just like, “Okay, SF. You win. Smell ya later.” I’m glad I did. San Francisco was fun while it lasted but after awhile, it felt lazy and stale. I’m back here now visiting and everything is just how I left it. The familiarity is comforting but it also reminds me that I made the right decision in leaving.

I usually feel an intense sense of nostalgia when I visit the places I used to live but I never feel that way with San Francisco. Maybe it’s because I lived outside the city or it happened six years ago. Or maybe it’s because I just don’t recognize the person I was when I resided here. The things I did, the company I kept: a lot of it didn’t make any sense.

Well, that’s good, I guess. Here’s one less thing to mourn obsessively. TC mark

Ryan O'Connell

I'm a brat.


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  • jess

    This makes me really nervous to go to college

    • future gopher

      Don’t be nervous.  College will be a truly awesome experience and it’s incredibly sad that it’s over for me.  Just be yourself and say “hi” to everyone when you start.  If you get a chance, you should read “The Naked Roommate”.  It’s a really good book for up and coming college freshman.  

    • Sammy G

      You should be super nervous

    • http://www.facebook.com/grc15r Gregory Costa

      Don’t be nervous.  Just focus on school and stay out of trouble.  Ditch anyone who tells you that your grades aren’t your priority.  
        And before you do anything, ask yourself, “Would a Thought Catalog writer do this thing?”  If the answer is “Yes,” stop there and don’t do that thing. 

  • Lynn

    Glad I’m not the only one who feels more unattractive in San Francisco than any other place. I really thought it was only in my head.

  • James

    This article should be called “When I got Git by a Car” since it was the worst thing that happened to you. We’re terrible drivers here.  Otherwise, no one should complain about the opportunity of going to college in a city as open and diverse as San Francisco.

    Your college experience is what you make of it.  With this attitude, you’d have a terrible time anywhere.

    Maybe you’ll feel better about those sad days in San Francisco when you read “Four Decades in North Korea” by Charles Jenkins. I don’t mean to be a smart ass; it’ll really gives you some perspective on what real “dark times” are like.

  • http://twitter.com/stevesilberman Steve Silberman

    Ryan, I’m sorry, but one of the truly annoying things about being a longtime resident of San Francisco is having to read blog posts like this by young people who move here for a couple of years and then split for the next alleged hipster utopia, blaming the city for the excesses of their own immaturity. The NYC equivalent would be, “I lived in one shitty, roach-infested, overpriced studio apartment in the north Bronx while I was drinking waayyyy too much and checking out heroin, and now I feel entitled to say that New York and New Yorkers utterly suck — good riddance!” But people don’t feel the same license to write like that about NYC, because they realize that a couple of years of being basically a tourist in some lame neighborhood is not enough of a taste of the city to trash it wholesale. Daly City, really? “The Villas,” really? You think that’s life in San Francisco? I used to make that “45-minute commute” to SF State from my lovely neighborhood, Cole Valley, several days a week and never minded it — but I would have found living where you lived to be a boring, ugly Hell on Earth. There’s a lot more to life here than you gave yourself a chance to see between lines of coke. I know I sound like a dick saying this, but it’s also true. Come back for a visit sometime when you’re older. You’ll experience a completely different place.

    • mookie

      Steve, you took this way too personally. Ryan’s just talking about his #dark time at SF State. Get over yourself and your city, bro! 

      However, I live in SF and do agree that Daly City is NOT San Francisco.

    • http://about.me/redgirl Christina B

      Completely agree with you. Ryan, that’s being 18-19 and a freshman in college. It sucks no matter where you are. There’s drugs and drinking and stupidity. I moved to San Francisco after graduating from college, and find it’s a wonderful, stimulating place. I don’t have many “best” friends, but I have a close network of intelligent, talented, driven individuals who are a constant source of entertainment and inspiration. 

      If I don’t spend the rest of my life here, then it’s because I’ve hit the jackpot and have my own island somewhere. 

      City life certainly isn’t for everyone, but you didn’t live in the city. You didn’t have a San Francisco experience. 

  • mookie

    Sounds like SF State sucks ass.

  • jem

    Amazing water pressure is a huge deal. I love my shower’s water pressure.

    • Ian Ashton

       I agree with the water pressure comment. It’s an essential prerequisite to evaluating a new place to live.

  • Guest

    You weren’t introduced to Fernet. That makes a difference.

  • Meghann

    San Francisco is heaven on Earth. I say this as a former resident of Mary Ward and two Parkmerced apartments, as well as a study abroad alumna whose mom sold the house in Sam Diego and moved to Berkeley while I was living in Paris. SF State is fully depressing, that is true, but if you tough it out it’s absolutely fantastic. I’ve since moved to Chicago for grad school and soon I’ll be in DC and hopefully, one day, New York. But I completely and unequivocally left my heart in San Francisco.

  • Guest

    Daly City? I have to agree with Steve (above). That’s like living in some hole in NJ and writing about how much you hate New York.

  • Amy

    More like, “When I went to College.”

  • http://twitter.com/ciaoalexis Alexis Brown

    I’ve only been to San Francisco once, but I saw more crackheads there in 3 days than I’ve ever seen in New York in my whole life.

  • Dylan V

    I’m currently a student at the University of San Francisco, which is the heart of the city. In the Richmond neighborhood right next to Golden Gate Park, right next to Haight, 3 miles from the Ocean Beach, 20 minute bus ride to downtown and 20-25 minute bus ride to the mission, a short walk from Clement street, just to give a few examples of it’s wonderful location. I just finished my first semester, and am back at home for Christmas and I can definitely say that I am already completely nostalgic, longing to be back in SF, and I think a big part of that is because I live right in the middle of it all. The huge downfall of SFSU is it’s not actually in SF; I have a few friends at SFSU and their biggest complaint is they don’t really leave the bubble of that weird limbo town around Daly City. At USF, there is no bubble. The immediate city is my bubble, so I get to explore all day every day and see how truly beautiful and amazing the city of San Francisco is.
    I really wish you had the same experience I’ve had in my first semester. Weird Daly City outskirts is not San Francisco. I’ve been out there. It feels dead and depressing. San Francisco is so full of life and beauty. Maybe one day you’ll go back and stay for a while and feel and see that life. I really hope so.

  • goldglass

    I definitely don’t read this as Ryan trashing SF. I think this piece captures what it’s like to have kind of a shit time in a place that is indeed full of beauty and wonderment, and how all that surrounding beauty can make you feel all the worse. Living in a crappy part of an amazing city, not having solid connections to the community, hooking up with two gay dudes in a gay hook-up central….he had to leave, not because the city sucked, because his situation sucked and the city was inextricably part of it.

    I’ve lived in the Bay for 6 years, and I grew up just 90 minutes away. At 23, I know that the right thing for me to do in 2012 is to try to live in another city for a while. I want a fresh frame of reference, and I know a change of location won’t erase my problems, but I also know I can’t just stay here forever waiting to become happier. Even though this is, yes, a truly beautiful city full of amazing people.  And when you tell those beloved people you’re thinking of leaving, their reaction is inevitably, “WHY would you ever leave this place? It’s amazing! It’s fantastic! I’m in love with it!” Well, I’m not. It’s not you SF, it’s me.

    Oh yeah and fuck the big earthquake.

  • Guest

    I live in SF and I need to get out. I understand.

    • http://twitter.com/miggygotmoxie Miggy


  • Anonymous


    [kills self]

  • Hepcat451@yahoo.com

    Doesn’t seem right to start every paragraph with “when I lived in San Francisco” when you live in Daly City. It’s like writing a remember nice of new York city when you really lived in new jersey

  • Joshua Powers

    Damn I would have hooked up with you

  • Ollie

    Wow…I liked this a lot. It was so vulnerable.

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