I drove up to San Francisco on Aug. 15, 2016, crying intermittently throughout the six-hour trip. My mom, who was in the car with me, was a good sport about it, letting me feel sorry for myself that I was yet again leaving my friends, family and summer fling in Southern California.
Eventually we made our way down the jammed streets of Downtown San Francisco, arriving at my apartment on the edge of Hayes Valley and The Mission. The gray sky taunted me, as if to remind me how far I was from my sun-drenched home. As I stepped out of the car, the wind whipped my ponytail into my face, making the hairs on my uncovered arms stand straight up.
Even though I was moving to the bay for UC Berkeley, I was adamant about living in San Francisco. I had tried living on college campuses in Evanston, a suburb of Chicago, and Claremont, a suburb of Los Angeles. I spent most of my time there concocting plans to get into the city (a city, whatever city). This time, in my cozy studio, I’d get to be where I wanted to be and commute for school.
This turned out to be the right decision but also the most annoying, poorly thought out decision. Allow me to explain.
On a typical weekend, I get to go to a music venue to support a (usually Los Angeles-based) band, walk through various political demonstrations that start at Civic Center a few blocks from my apartment, eat at my favorite cheap Burmese place where the mean, elderly chef cooks food with malice you can taste and then spend an evening meandering up and down Polk Street, always thinking I’ll find somewhere new to hang out and always settling on my favorite bar with water beds instead of chairs.
I moved to San Francisco thinking I’d somehow make a ton of friends and have my own social life beyond the Berkeley Bubble. To date, I only have two close friends, one being my boyfriend, and a smattering of acquaintances that I see on occasion. This was certainly not the social set-up I had in mind, but I’ve made it work.
Another challenge is the city itself. Back at Northwestern and Claremont McKenna, I wanted to escape to Chicago and Los Angeles because I liked those cities. I had larger social circles, holdouts from high school and near or distant relatives. I hate to say it — okay, I love to say it — but I hate San Francisco.
It’s an obnoxiously expensive city made expensive by the oftentimes obnoxious, pompous tech workers. Alas, it’s a city plagued by bro culture. Take, for example, the startup guy who lives on my floor and has raised nearly $1 million for his marketing app. I know that because — duh — he’s told me repeatedly and without prompting on several occasions.
The fact is, as a student I garner little to no respect in young urban professional land. A fact, you might guess, that frustrates me to no end. Instead of interest, I garner quixotic stares when I tell my tech-oriented neighbors that I’m studying journalism and media, two fields they could not care less about.
Despite my diffused disdain for San Francisco, I think my choice to live in the city has served me well. I like the anonymity of city living, the feeling that I could stay holed up in my apartment or walk six miles throughout the city, either way remaining in my own head.
And despite my preference for living in San Francisco, I like UC Berkeley.
I liked my classes, particularly Jill Bakehorn’s sexual cultures class that challenged my hegemonic perception of sexual orientation. I also took a particular liking to William Turner’s First Amendment class, in which I learned about the freedom of speech through the lens of various Supreme Court cases.
I also found my niche in the news world, working for KALX as a news reporter and (shocker) at The Daily Californian as a columnist. All the time I spent over the last three years pining for career inspiration paid off. Now I do what I like and I do it with ease.
I even made friends with a few politically minded, sharp-tongued women who I can happily call on for emotional support or vitriolic comments on our current state of affairs.
I do hate the slow-moving, call-another-time, call-another-number, wait-in-that-line-not-this-line, have-you-checked-online Cal administration, but that is an article (a book, really) for another time.
The Bay Area is the final stop for me on this wild goose chase I’ve called college. It’s not perfect, but I’m going to stick it out or I’m going to die trying.
Samantha writes the Friday column on undergraduate myths. Contact her at [email protected].