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Leaving San Francisco: An Ode to the East Bay

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Fog races behind me as I hurdle over the Bay Bridge, a car full of belongings clanking around behind the driver’s seat of my 2015 Kia Soul, a car which has the capacity of a small SUV and the length of a sedan.

It’s incredible how much of my life has San Francisco twirled around in it. For one, this car was purchased to be able to park on the city’s narrow streets. I wanted something larger, something higher off the ground, something to protect me from the elements and make me feel cocooned. SMASH. A Zip-Loc bag filled with jewelry flies into the front seat from atop several pillows I shoved through the passenger-side door at the last minute.

Rings and costume jewelry from cheap online retailers exploded into my windshield, landing on the dashboard with an unsatisfying thud.

“This is the way the world ends. This is the way the world ends; not with a bang but a ching!”

I swerve into the left lane, clutching my pearls, literally.

In the distance, I can see a sign that says “Walnut Creek” and I breathe a sigh of relief. The city fades into the fog and the traffic clears. No more stop, just go.

The suburbs are underrated. As a kid who grew up in one near Cleveland, Ohio, I never really appreciated the convenience of things.

You can drive to the grocery store and park 10 feet away from the door. Your kid can walk to and from school and crossing guards help them along the way. You can teach your teen to drive in a school parking lot uninterrupted. You can play in the snow and run home before dark without the fear of foul play.

The suburbs are a privilege that I didn’t even know I had, something that so many aren’t fortunate enough to grow up in.

Downtown Walnut Creek via The Registry 

As a kid, I thought all of this was lame. I thought the big city was where I needed to be, in order to be “someone.” But what we forget is that we are “someone” regardless of location.

Now, as my car noir bumbles down the highway, I know that kid was wrong. The city, so beautiful and fragile, took me for what I was: a kid, and spit me back to a comfort zone I needed.

Moving in with my boyfriend in his two-bedroom suburban apartment is an adjustment from the in-law I shared with two other girls in Ingleside. With less than 800-square-feet, no kitchen, and nowhere to park. I found myself frustrated, smashed in, and fighting parking tickets every other day.

With some dark nights providing dangerous situations, and no room to store my growing obsession with cheap online clothing and makeup, I knew change needed to come. Thankfully, there was no change in rent.

After living in San Francisco for four years, I learned to loathe it at times. All the false promises of nightlife and adventure lulled me into a sense of longing. Instead, I got addiction and pain, overtime and frustration. I desired safety and kindness, happiness and love, and that is something San Francisco can never give me.

Although the East Bay is farther away and requires a BART ride, which is often unpleasant, it feels like a better place for me. There’s more green grass and places to park. I can drive to Safeway and park 10 feet away from the door. I can sleep easy without sirens racing through my brain. I feel better. I feel less like I’m on the edge of something I can’t describe.

Walnut Creek may be a place I can raise my family, and that makes me feel like an adult.

image from CBRE

With all the stress and strife and violence, an escape to the East is something many San Francisco citizens are considering. I went broke moving, but at least I have less anxiety about small spaces and security, about my car and my Muni troubles.

At least I have one less thing pushing me closer to the ground. For living situations in the city, we have to ask ourselves — is it worth it? Is the hype of living IN San Francisco worth the daily inconveniences and heartbreak? Does our cool card get revoked when we immigrate to the suburbs?

Do we lose our edge somewhere over the Bay Bridge?

The answer to all of these questions is: WHO CARES!?

Following your gut and getting out of a bad situation is never a bad thing, even if you think you’re losing your edge.

Sometimes the people you love, and the things you can let go of, all reside in one weekend’s worth of moving. Taking the plunge into a new situation can be hard, and it can have growing pains but in the end, when you lay next to the person you love, it all becomes worth it.

I’ll still see dear old San Francisco every day when I go to work. It’s a break-up, but it’s not forever. Maybe in time, the East Bay will frustrate me to the point of exit too, but one can only hope that somewhere out here in the golden west lies “home.”

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Tess F. Stevens

Tess F. Stevens

Hey, I'm Tess and I have been writing for a while now and love to explore new subjects, places, and people. I love punk music, RuPaul's Drag Race, stationery, fashion, and baseball. I hope that something I write here connects with you in some way. I host a podcast called "What You Didn't Know," with my father, who is also a journalist. You can find my writing in Where Magazine, here at BrokeAssStuart.com and on ABC7News.com.