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Is The Feeling Of Belonging Short-Lived in The Bay?

Updated: Dec 29, 2022 19:02
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“Do I belong here?” – a question I’ve heard and felt more times than I can count. We ask ourselves; “Can I afford it here?” “Can I find a community here?” “Is there anything else left?” – and – “Has everyone left?”

For all of those who have left the Bay Area, many of us have stayed despite sometimes longing to leave. It’s the feeling of belonging that keeps us here and it’s the lack of that same feeling of that pulls us away. Once we feel we no longer belong, the tie to The Bay is broken and we flee.

Broke Ass Stuart Team at the Vallejo Stairs

The Broke-Ass Stuart team stands at the Vallejo Stairs – photo by Vita Hewitt

To me, the feeling that we belong is more tied to micro-interactions and small precious moments that compound to create a feeling that we wouldn’t dare want to leave. Do you feel this way, too?
Some of my own
micro-moments of Bay Area beauty that help me feel like I belong here:

  • The feeling of the wind on my face when I’m taking a ferry across the bay
  • Hiking through the fog in the redwoods
  • The collective relaxation you feel with dozens of other people during a sound bath in Golden Gate Park
  • The smiles you share when participating in a Bike Party
  • Unified clapping after the end of a great movie at Grand Lake Theatre
  • Seeing that first star appear in the sky while I listen to a show at The Greek Theatre
  • Dinner in my backyard on a warm East Bay afternoon.
  • Bumping into a friend on MUNI or BART that you haven’t seen in a while.

In contrast, the inability to achieve those macro-goals is seemingly what keeps us wondering if this is the place for us. Some example of this macro-goals which pull us away from The Bay:

  • Housing
  • Cost of living
  • Loss of a larger community or family living too far away

One example of this was when we reported on the American Steel artists losing the space where they felt like they belonged – where they had a network of other artists that felt like family to many. The loss of this space had many people feeling like the Bay Area was sending a message that they didn’t belong here anymore.

This year, we saw plenty of stories within The Bay that indicate how hard it is to stay hopeful here some days. The struggle to make space for your life to thrive in The Bay Area is real. It feels especially hard to achieve larger life goals when there are so many things happening around us all the time. It’s hard to feel like we’re going around in circles at the speed of light. Those micro-moments that keep glimmers of hope seem to be less and less frequent as we see more and more people leaving.

However, for every story that reminded us that we might not belong here anymore, there were plenty that showed how strong and vibrant our community is. How we’re finding ways to build belonging through connection.

Few & Far Women had an epic anniversary event this year at The Napa Ruins

Moments we saw communities creating space where they belong:

Throughout this year, although every story we’ve written here on Broke-Ass Stuart has been thematically different, the feeling of belonging connects many of them.

Communities Are Continuing to Unite:

Multiple non-profits, such as the employees at Glide, have started to create unions to create a stronger collective voice. Meanwhile, Oakland Cannery residents facing off against environmental issues was a fight to stay safe where they all belonged.

New Spaces For Artists:

Communities are blossoming around The Bay, like Seaport Studios, where artists are creating more permanent spaces for creativity to thrive.

community gathering in the warehouse space

It’s all about community at Seaport Studios: group meeting with the artists and makers

Beloved Spaces Continue To Support Artists:

Last month, I featured a small San Francisco gallery (Studio Gallery) that has been around for nearly 20 years. They have brought together 200+ artists from all over The Bay to create a show called “tiny” featuring hundreds of small works of art.

Few & Far Women had an epic anniversary event bringing women from all over the world together for a weekend of creating murals. There is also The Crucible, a beloved art school that has been bringing artists together and supporting their Oakland community for years.

People are Creating Connections:

And we saw artists building connections between people through one Alameda resident creating moments of connection with their Love Letter mailboxes.

Welding Classes at The Crucible

Next year, I hope we see more and more of these types of connection and community building. It’s stories like these that help build more and more of those micro-moments I talked about which make us feel like there’s no better place than where we are right here. Still, with the layoffs all around us, housing still being so expensive and so many favorite places always closing down (like Starline’s recent announcement) – is any feeling we have that we belong here doomed?

I’m curious… why do you stay?
What keeps you here, even when things get hard?
Or do you sometimes feel like you no longer belong?

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Katy Atchison

Katy Atchison

Katy is a professional smiling machine raised in The Bay Area since the age of 3. While other kids were attending summer camp & soccer practice, she was raised selling wares at craft shows with her working artist parents and spent vacations in a small 1920s Montana log cabin. This has all given her a unique perspective on the ever-changing texture of San Francisco and the Greater Bay Area. Currently a blend of all that is The Bay Area - she's a web designer at a tech-company, artist and DIY teacher.

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