I’ve beat myself up over this. I’ve lost sleep over this. I thought you, of all places, would give me purpose and a sense of belonging. When others have failed to find their place in this world, they have surely found it within you. I’ve seen people thrive with your endless possibilities and build a life they wear with a badge of honor. I’ve seen misfits and artists and musicians emerge with a clearer understanding of their creative visions. It was you, San Francisco, who stole all their hearts.
I was ready for you to steal mine, too.
I should have been better prepared for a turbulent landing, but all I really brought in case of an emergency was the crystal around my neck that a friend gave me for protection. Instead, I arrived with a false sense of pride for all I had accomplished in my short life. I was quickly torn apart, chewed to bits, and spit out like drips from a cocaine binge during Santa Con.
I got close to the flames under the guise of warmth and instead, I was burned to a point beyond recognition. Not only did you break my spirit, but you warped my understanding of beauty and worth and intelligence and success.
There’s no room for Anthropologists or Primatologists or Conservationists in your concrete jungle. If one doesn’t eat, sleep, breathe, drink, or bathe in tech and finance, they’re about as respected as the barista you’ve never once bothered to make eye contact with because you’re too busy to look up from your phone. (I know because I was her, too.)
Your kum ba yah was merely a facade for silver spoon entitlement and petty belittlement — see also: alienation, gentrification, appropriation, exploitation.
Your whiteness shines brighter than that silver monstrosity plaguing the skyline while snubbing its nose at your own mediocracy. As if you needed 61 more ways to distance yourself from the very people — the artists, the musicians, the poets, the creatives — who singlehandedly built your reputation. The very beings who set you on the map are now the transients you wish would get off of your streets already. There’s no room for diversity or equality at your table anymore. There were 1.1 billion ways you could have revived the city to its former glory and instead you wasted it all in a dick measuring contest.
I’m partly to blame for our timely unraveling. That’s something I’ve learned since we parted ways earlier this year. I share in our failure. As much as I’d like to put this on you, I was apart of the problem, too.
I valued life experience over skillset and that left me without the proper tools to fix the clog in my pipeline. I abandoned my education to chase primates in the rainforest, but no one wants to see that on your resume because proof of completing a college degree is more important than following your well-rehearsed dreams. I owned a business, sure, but an entertainment company is laughable when compared to the million dollar startup that barely entertained the idea of my employment.
Everything I was most proud of in my life was scrutinized under your harsh and hostile eyes. Trying my best was never going to be good enough because at the end of the day, what defines your place is the salary you make. I was willing to buy into your rat race if it meant finding somewhere I belonged. I abandoned my values to adhere to yours and still, it wasn’t enough.
Why not me? Why wasn’t I enough for you? I was so desperate for the love you’ve shown so many others. What could I have done differently to make things right between us?
I know my opinion of you is an unfavorable one. One that likely isn’t shared by the majority who currently call you home. But my opinion is a valid one. Validated by the hundreds of nights I cried myself to sleep because of your harshness. Validated by the panic attacks and feelings of helplessness that I never experienced until living at your mercy. Validated by all the times I found myself counting pennies, but barely having enough to make it to work just to be battered and disrespected by your treasured millennial elite. Valid because in my struggle, I was actually one of the lucky ones. Because at least in my whiteness, I was able to blend in enough to escape the darkness of your hostility, though it was hardly long enough to catch my breath.
You’re like an abusive lover who strategically leaves bruises and scars in less visible places because maybe then your brutality will never be found out. In your constant shadow, I almost forgot what it means to be alive. I almost lost my will to live. I barely escaped with my sanity and I’ve been slowly putting my life back together again, piece by piece by battered piece.
It doesn’t get any better than San Francisco, you said, but somehow I discovered a better life beyond your tormented walls. I would dig the same hole I found myself in a million more times knowing, now, where the tunnel eventually leads. I was afraid to move on to something else with a similar promise of kindness and opportunity. I distrusted the potential to love something new, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I’m still undoing the damage you have done. It’s taken a lot of patience and significant self-care, but I’ve removed the thorns that penetrated through to the soul which allowed devastation and failure to seep in and coat every fiber of my being. The cracks you left when you hammered away at my confidence have been filled with the love and tenderness of another.
I’m with someone who is tender to just about everyone who appears on their doorstep. Someone who smiles at strangers and says hello in the streets because life is beautiful and why would you ignore the world around you when all we want is to feel like we belong. Someone who doesn’t hide under the guise of acceptance and belonging. Where the melody in the streets is the sound of a hundred cultures speaking simultaneously at once and the harmony has always been the peace that exists so perfectly between them. This is the kind of life I expected to have with you. And though I still love you in a strange way, this new chapter has redefined what love was always meant to be. Something powerful and moving. Something that carries you forward in your darker moments because the radiance we feel in our state of unfiltered joy is worth the temporary struggle of navigating these new experiences.
My heart is full. My creativity rejuvenated. My passions restored. For the first time in a long, long time I finally believe in myself. I recognize my inner voice. I trust my intelligence and goddammit, I am beautiful. Above all else, I finally know (and believe in) my worth.
I am worthy of this life we continue to build and the success that we’ve both experienced since running into new arms. Somewhere along the line, you convinced me I didn’t deserve a happiness such as this. Not every day is a perfect one, but this is about as perfect as I ever hoped my life could be.
Turns out it wasn’t me after all.
It was you, San Francisco.
It was always you.