I didn’t know I was in love with San Francisco until I landed back in SFO from New York. On the way back on the 101, you get a great view of the San Francisco skyline as you come over the hill near Bayview. Somewhere inside of my chest, I had a stirring. Some might call it an emotion. And it forced a smile to thin my lips. I was home.
SF, at first glance, is small, and dirty, and full of hipsters and tech assholes and people who know better than you. But upon exposure, almost a decade of the Bay Area, SF can give you a lifetime of laughter, mind-opening experiences, and wealth.
It’s a mere 7 miles by 7 miles, with every neighborhood its own microcosm of culture, class, and weather. I’ve lived in five different neighborhoods in SF, and each time it felt like I moved to a different city. You might overhear something like, “I didn’t know they let stuck-up bitches out of the Marina” in the Haight, or something like, “My startup is about renting poodles to people who want a pet for only a few hours at a time, and we just got oversubscribed in our seed round,” in SOMA. You could be sun-tanning in Dolores Park and freezing your ass off in the Sunset. A massage in Lower Pacific Heights ends differently than a massage in the Financial District and ends extremely differently from a massage in the Castro. It’s important to know what you’re getting yourself into.
I had only seen one homeless person in my life before I came to SF. Where I’m from, the whole town knew our homeless man, and we named him Bicycle Bob (which wasn't even his name), because he was also the only person in the whole town who didn’t have a car. In SF, owning a car is a liability, bicycles, e-scooters, and One Wheels are all the rave, and there are far too many homeless for you to try to name them all. Whenever you go to a movie in San Francisco, you’ll see a big notice that informs you that the city of San Francisco is dedicated to achieving 0 waste, which is only possible because of the copious amount of homeless people digging in the trash to recycle everything they can for change.
The average price for a 1 bedroom apartment where I’m from is about $500, which is a little less than the $3800 I was paying for a smaller apartment in Russian Hill. Then again, my already good salary tripled since I moved to SF. But what does a high salary mean in one of the most expensive places in the country?
It means that the rest of the country is cheap! Visiting the rest of the country (or even the world) is like spending play money. Seattle, Portland, Tahoe, Barcelona, Madrid, Sofia even Vegas and Paris barely hurts the billfold. Thinking about where I was born is sometimes frightening to consider that it would’ve taken me 15 years (or longer) to see all the places I’ve seen in 5 by living and working in SF.
It’s nonsense to think that just anyone can move to SF and start living like a king. The trick is to work in tech. If you say that you’re a software engineer, welcome to 6 figures. If you actually have a degree in Computer Science, welcome to having to change your phone number because of the 5 to 10 recruiters that will call you daily to encourage you to accept your $150k+ salary at a hot new startup. If you actually work at a hot new startup that manages to become successful, well let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Sometimes when you’re working at your hot new startup, you’ll forget that you’re a human being. You are defined by how much code you write, learning the tricks that will make you a [insert programming language] ninja, and getting out as many features as you can before your caffeine and sugar highs cause you to crash. A normal 40 hour-a-week job can easily turn into 100. You’ll spend nights and weekends at the office, and you might sleep at your desk, and you might take your computer with you to European beaches so you can bang out some code while ‘relaxing.’
After a while, you’ll burn out, and you’ll take a breather. SF offers bars on every street with strong beer that will guarantee that you are drunk enough to make some fine mistakes you’ll regret. SF offers people marching down the street in assless leather, intoxicated people in costumes running a marathon, cultural and musical festivals, airshows that cause at least 5 domesticated animal deaths per year, Critical Mass assholes on bicycles who think they own the road, and more.
After that, you will question what you want to do with your life. You’re so open-minded now but confused because of all the possibilities life has to offer. Your friends will only confuse you further because they have great ideas that they are pursuing, ideas that you would like to pursue yourself. You’ll want to start your own company, work for a mind-blowing startup, buy real estate, travel the world, or write a book detailing all your adventures. You’re pulled in so many different directions that you’ll learn the number one most useful skill in SF - how to say no to an opportunity (or at least focus on one at a time).
If I were walking down the sidewalk and I bumped into SF, it would bash me in the head with a server, smash a Mission burrito in my face, pour a cold brew down my throat, ask me if I microdose, and pay me an exorbitant amount of money via my Cash App on L2 Ethereum before it skipped off with a sound recording of my pinned tweet for its Clubhouse.
Thanks San Francisco, for a good time.