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I left my heart in San Francisco

Muni's picture

Every time someone at Bryn Mawr asks me where I’m from, I get excited. I alway smile as a sense of pride and gratitude wash over me, but say “I’m from San Francisco,” as if it’s no big deal. It is a big deal, though. I’ve been told countless times that I’ve lived in a bubble my whole life, and I believe it. San Francisco and the whole Bay Area have a vibrant and accepting culture, but unlike a lot of bigger cities, San Francisco tends to be more relaxed and happy. Besides its attractions like the Golden Gate Bridge, it boasts the highest minimum wage in the country, and is one of the leading cities in environmentalism in the U.S. It’s a haven for every type of person imaginable.

Although I didn’t always take advantage of all San Francisco had to offer, there was something exciting about having everything I could want within reach. I took everything the city offered for granted: food trucks with obscure fusion foods; the Haight Ashbury with its thrift stores, hipsters, and hippies; milk tea and boba in The Sunset; people(intoxicated or otherwise) talking about who-knows-what to no one; compost bins and 3 different types of recycling everywhere I went; Taquerias in The Mission; flyers telling me to go vegan; and many more.

As a younger child, I explored the city’s playgrounds, and the restaurants in my neighborhood. As I got older, I got more independent. I started taking BART, the rapid transit system, by myself in 7th grade. After school, I’d walk a few blocks to the station, then take the train to a stop around a mile away from my dad’s office downtown. I’d walk the rest of the way with my rolling backpack. I learned how to take the 43 bus to my church, and the N-Judah and the J-Church to my friend’s house. When high school started, I took the bus and the train to school and back. I never learned how to drive, but I could get pretty much anywhere by bus or train or a combination of the two.  

Despite everything wonderful about the city, I sometimes felt trapped by my routine. This was easily remedied by a quick trip to get food or an outing to the beach with my friends, but I think that it’s an example of something that happens often in big cities--people get concerned with efficiency. They’re in a rush because they know exactly where they’re going. It’s actually quite similar to my dad’s weekly run to Trader Joe’s. He knows that store like the back of his hand, and every week knows exactly what he’s getting. He goes at a time when it’s mostly full of expert shoppers(who are just as advanced in the art of not going off list) but occasionally he runs into people meandering the aisles, appreciating the frozen goods and blocking the way. It reminds me of how local New Yorkers describe tourists. If Trader Joe’s was a city, I would probably be someone more like my dad. But sometimes, I like to walk slowly and appreciate the beauty of the city. One of the reasons I prefer San Francisco over bigger cities is because not everyone is in a rush. The city mindset discussed in Simmel’s The Metropolis and Mental Life is toned down. 

Part of my relationship with the city is my relationship without it--that is, my relationship with the country, the wide open spaces. I am a combination of city girl and nature lover, so however much I love the city, I need time away from it. I spend most of my summers in Point Reyes national seashore, just north of San Francisco, but during the school year, the city’s parks and beaches sufficed. In a way, though, those more secluded places also count as the city. They’re the outskirts, and they’re full of the city’s energy, just without the metal and concrete. 

Trying to pinpoint just what I love about the San Francisco, and cities in general, is hard, but I think that the thrill of it is a huge part. I enjoy the adventure of scoping out a new bus route, and the satisfaction of independently getting where I need to go, however terrifying the trip was. The city always has something that defies my expectations. There are so many surprises and secrets that each city holds, and I’m eager to explore a new place and see where it takes me.

Image taken by my friend Mira.