My Love/Hate Relationship With The Bay
Dear Bay Area,
It pains me to say this, but I’m not sure what to make of our relationship after all these years. You’ve seen me at my worst, yet you continue inspiring me to do better. There are days I’m sick of you and days that I can’t imagine life without you. To this day, I wake up every morning loving how your velvet sun caresses my face at 8 am, letting me know it’s time to get the day started.
However, by the afternoon, the feeling of disgust fills my soul as I walk past makeshift shacks constructed out of discarded pallets, tarps, and shopping carts now home to our brothers and sisters you’ve tossed on the streets begging for food to eat. How can you be so lovable and despicable at the same time?
I find myself conflicted.
It never used to be like this.
What happened to the place I call home?
How can a region so beautiful and awe-inspiring with its emerald and gold hills to its deep blue oceans and vibrant cities simultaneously be so alive and dead?
It’s like being stuck in Charles Dickens’s novel “The Tale of Two Cities.” I dunno, but home isn’t feeling like home anymore. At least not like I remember it. Between the raging fires, endless droughts, polluted beaches, trash-filled blocks, and crime-infested neighborhoods, we are rapidly seeing the decay of The Bay, and it’s breaking my heart. It pains me because I love it so much. How can you not? There’s no other place in the world quite like it.
The Bay Area is the perfect blend of nature, diversity, activism, expression, and innovation. An exquisitely seasoned gumbo, if you will, with us all adding our special seasoning to the pot. Or, at least, it was.
Don’t get me wrong. These elements are still here; however, the flavors that made my hometown unique are fading away, whether we want to realize it or not. The natives who made this area what it was/is have been steadily pushed out over the last decade, only to be replaced with gentrifiers who look at it as nothing more than a trendy city to live in with no real ties to the area or its people—lured here by the temptations of a high-paying job at some new startup that just popped up. Neighborhood mom-and-pop stores and entrenched nonprofits are being torn down to make room for yet another over-hyped coffee shop and another high-priced highrise. Selfish landlords and greedy CEOs take full advantage of what they deem “opportunities” to cash in while leaving the locals on the streets. Many of us working full-time “good-paying jobs” are living paycheck to paycheck, barely making ends meet, and taking on under-the-table gigs or side jobs to survive one more month.
This is just a sliver of what’s going on at home.
So yeah, it hurts. This used to be a place where artists like Maya Angelou, Robin Williams, Danny Glover, Tupac Shakur, and a host of others could develop their crafts and connect with other gifted individuals in creative spaces. A home base where the Black Panther party could organize and connect with the community to implement programs and provide resources to help the people who needed it most, leading to real and impactful changes in our cities. A land of opportunity where folks could migrate to escape much more abrasive hate-fueled and less inclusive areas in the U.S. and worldwide, especially for minorities and the LGBTQ community.
This is why I love The Bay. It’s a cosmopolitan where you are free to be you and link with like-minded folks on the same wavelength as you. The Bay Area celebrates the outcasts and the dreamers.
Well, at least it used to.
There are days I know in my soul that The Bay is right where I’m supposed to be—surrounded by my tribe of a few close friends who have been with me through all the different phases as I continue on my journey of growth and discovery.
On other days I question why am I still here? Struggling to keep up with sky-high rents, inequality, and poverty. The mere toll of having to survive, let alone thrive with everything that’s going on daily, is stressful. It seems like I’m trapped in stagnation along with everyone else who is a part of this Bay Area bubble. (Til this day, us Bay Area natives have a strange tendency to claim ownership of The Bay. Truth be told, none of us own it.) For every two steps we take forward, the current financial climate forces us to take two steps back. Always landing right in the same spot year after year.
On numerous occasions, family and friends have tried to convince me to follow them from The Bay to Texas, Nevada, and the Carolinas. I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you that I have seriously considered it. God knows it’s a full-time hustle just trying to maintain a life here. Having a side hustle and starting your own business or even going back to college to further your career is a luxury many people just don’t have. The Bay Area requires all your two most valuable resources just to stay afloat: time and money.
I don’t know. Maybe The Bay is not for me anymore.
Maybe I’m holding on to an illusion of what was instead of what is. Maybe I am blaming my hometown for holding me back. Maybe I just need to experience something different.
I have yet to figure that part out.
However, it seems like I’m constantly fighting for The Bay to love me and give me a chance to show them what I’ve got, but The Bay doesn’t love me back and, honestly, couldn’t care less about me.
The more I want to stay, the more my home pushes me away. It’s like being in a dysfunctional relationship that I know is not good for me, but I keep running back, trying to prove to them I’m worthy.
Why do I let the Bay Area keep playing with my emotions?
The way the wind whispers in my ears as I hike through the Hayward hills. The spectrum of faces I see whenever I hit Oakland’s First Fridays. The hustler’s spirit that embodies small business owners to keep pushing. The way we come together and protest against social injustice. This place is intoxicating and fills my soul with life while at the same time draining it.
Deep down, I know things could be much better for us as Bay Area natives.
I know life’s not fair, but it shouldn’t have to be this damn difficult to stay and grow in the place we call home. At some point, something’s got to give, and it’s going to take much more than thoughts and prayers. It is going to take community building and organization to take back the place we call home.
To paraphrase a line from the critically acclaimed film ‘The Last Black Man in San Francisco,’ you don’t get to hate The Bay. You don’t get to hate it unless you love it.
So, whether I choose to stay or pack my shit and go, The Bay Area will always be my first love.
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