Real Talk: Goodbye, San Francisco
Before I begin, I’d preface with saying grab a cup of tea (or whatever your drink of choice may be) and put your feet up because we’ve got loads of catching up to do]...
I’m sure some of you have noticed [hell, some of you even have messaged me about it] that my time creating for this space has tapered off. I mean, the last time we chatted was back in September [damn]. That’s the longest I’ve ever gone without posting here. And it’s not because I didn’t enjoy creating anymore or that I didn’t have the time. Rather, to be quite honest with you, it’s because I was pretty unhappy. So since I was in my head, dealing with my own thoughts, it was hard to create for a space that I love to fill with sparkle. And instead of lying or pretending, I just chose to stop creating all together [which honestly is a shame because creating makes me happy].
Now, I’m sure comes the part that you’re wondering about- why wasn’t I happy? I’d say starting with the shooting at YouTube HQ in April things got pretty tough. As I talk about in this post, it was difficult to navigate this situation while I was also feeling like I was starting all over on a new team. At the same time, for the first time, I was dealing with some real world instances around what it’s like to be a black woman in corporate America. But that all eventually sorted itself out [meaning, with time you heal, I got better acquainted with my team and my work, and I started seeing a therapist; so things were starting to look up]. But I still wasn’t feeling like “me” [this is how I phrased it to my therapist]. So what was at the root of it all? Here it is, plain and simple- I wanted to leave San Francisco desperately [and as my therapist helped me figure out go to where I felt like I had a support system]. At the time I didn’t have a way out...until now!
I’ve been looking forward to writing this blog post for some time now; I’d say since August. The blog post where I finally get to say goodbye to San Francisco. And for some reason, even though I don’t move for another month, I felt like I couldn’t continue on with regular programming until I addressed this here. Until I got back to “me.” So yes, I can now finally proclaim: “I’M MOVING.” To where ? To New York! Doing what? This is the really fun part- still Marketing at YouTube, but this time working on Public Figures, and even more, Fashion & Beauty on YouTube (eeep!) Literal dream come true. [More to come on this!]
My relationship with SF has had its highs and its lows from the very beginning; I’ve talked about that a lot here, and after 2 ½ years I’m ready to say goodbye. So I decided to write a letter to put into words the journey I’ve had over the last 2+ years. What follows is pretty personal and honest. These are my opinions as a result of my own personal experiences and in no way do I mean to discourage others or come off as negative. I’m just keeping it real.
So here goes-
Dear San Francisco,
Back when I interned at Google my sophomore and junior summers you were “the city.” I chose to live in South Bay both times for an array of reasons [for my East Coast folks, think of SF as Manhattan and South Bay as Long Island- long commute]. So, on the weekends, I would take the train up to you to spend time with the rest of the interns and would crash on their couches until I ventured back home on Sunday afternoons.
This meant those 48 hours were like pure bliss- brunches, picnics in Dolores Park, trips to museums, concerts, rides across Golden Gate Bridge...you name it we did it! Fast forward to my senior year, I was lucky enough to receive a full time offer to return to Google. Again, I was faced with the decision on where to live, this time, prior to knowing out of which office I would be based, I chose you because I wanted “the city” to be my post college experience. [As luck has it, I landed at YouTube so my commute wasn‘t something I had to worry about and choosing you was the right choice].
And I’d say for the first year and a half we got along quite well. I mean, it was definitely difficult for me to leave behind my family and basically all of my friends from high school and college who stayed on the East Coast to go live in a city and work in an industry that I never imagined I’d be in. But after ~6 months, I got the hang of it and was really starting to figure out this West Coast thing. I took trips up and down the coast- LA, Half Moon Bay, Monterrey, Mendocino [you name it, we did it]. I learned that I actually love early mornings and love being outdoors [ dare i say hiking? the natural beauty here can literally take your breath away].
But things really started to change after 18 months, after our first rotation and the majority of my class leaving the Bay for our second rotation. It was then that I had to get reacquainted with you, and I started to see things that I really didn’t like.
For one, and I’m just going to say it, San Francisco, you’re not diverse. I’m sorry but a city where almost 90% of its residents are White or Asian = not diverse. Furthermore, you have a severe homeless population that over indexes on people of color. So, living in a city that is already not diverse and then having the majority of the people who look like me be homeless...just not a good feeling. Period. Even more, as a black woman, that meant that often times, like when I’m waiting for the bus in the morning or sitting outside eating at a restaurant, when choosing who to approach to ask for help, they’d approach me [understandably, honestly]. And it would often put me in a situation that I never knew how to best navigate [still don’t]. It was a weird game of the have vs. the have notes with acute tension around race.
Next, especially since this wasn’t the industry I dreamed of entering, living in a city where almost everyone works in tech just wasn’t for me. Where the conversations overheard in the line at the grocery store or in Lyfts or at bars even [*facepalm*] were about building apps, or raising funding, or coding languages….literally oh my god I don’t care- not for your Patagonias, not for your Allbirds, not for any of it.
This last one is a little harder to explain, but I’ll do my best. As the hub of the Silicon Valley, two things are strikingly clear to me: when compared to an average American city, the level of wealth here is significantly higher and your residents are more tech savvy. And what this creates, in my opinion, is a city where people don’t interact with each other. If you can UberEats your dinner, Lyft to every outing, have your groceries and/or laundry delivered straight to your door, then essentially what happens is you’re cutting out everyday interactions- the ones that might get you proximate to people unlike you. At a certain point, I deliberately started taking your [crappy] public transportation system and walking way more [uphill might I add] just for the pure sake of being around normal everyday SF residents and feeling like I was a part of a real city.
In the end, I’d do it all again. Because never would I, a daughter to two Guyanese immigrants from deep Brooklyn [yeah the parts that are becoming trendy now], have ever thought that I would pack up and leave NYC to move to the West Coast, much less to work for a tech company. The experiences that I’ve had and the people that I’ve met I’ll carry with me always.
So no, I don’t hate you, San Francisco. You’re just not made for me.
As for New York, I’m so excited to return to my family, high school friends, and college friends, but in many ways this is a new chapter for me. This is the first time I’m going to live in New York as an adult- in my own place (not my parents’), with my own income, and above the age of 21. So to me, this feels like a beginning, and I’m so very excited to see where this chapter goes.
This post was in collaboration with ModCloth. All styling and content are my own. Thank you for supporting leave a little sparkle.