I left my heart in San Francisco, but I hella love Oakland.
Let’s start with honesty. I am not a native born San Franciscan. I was born in the wonderful state of New Joisy. I lived in New Jersey until I was 10 years young. I lived in a 5 bedroom, 3 bathroom, 3 story house in the countryside on 2.5 acres of land. I lived across the street from a farm and I had a pretty happy go lucky childhood. My dad is a computer science engineer, so I’m sure you can guess what happened next.
My dad got a job in San Francisco.
In a matter of two weeks notice, I had two suitcases packed, all of our belongings sold, the house painted over, and I was on a plane to the bay area. Our first place we moved into was a 1 bedroom in law apartment located in the Sunset district. I slept in the living room on a cot for the first 6 months of living in the city. I f*cking hated it. I left all my friends, I moved into a tiny apartment after living on a huge property, and I never lived in a city before.
I was absolutely terrified.
One hilarious memory I will never forget is the first time I went to a Chinese restaurant in San Francisco. Now I’m used to going to all you can eat Chinese buffets and Panda Express. New Jersey is not known for the great variety of ethnic food. After walking down Irving street and seeing the dead ducks hanging in the windows (which still creeps me out) we go into an authentic Chinese restaurant. We are ordering our Chinese food, now mind you I have never seen a menu like this before, and this old asian woman across the way is getting her order placed down in front of her. Long and behold it was some kind of bird’s brain! I assumed it was a chicken’s brain, well at least that’s what I told myself what it was. She was licking her tongue and was super excited to eat it. And in that moment I thought to myself, where the hell did I just move to?!
Well guess what, it didn’t take long for me to fall in love with this city.
San Francisco opened a whole new world of discovery. I had a lot of my “firsts” in SF. I ate sushi for the first time. I took public transportation by myself for the first time. I experienced my first indian summer.
I had my first kiss.
It was in Castro district on Halloween night. Back in the day, the Castro used to host a huge block party every Halloween. It got shut down permanently because people always seem to ruin great things.
My mom and I went to the Haight Street to put together Halloween costumes before the event. We went to Piedmont on Haight Street. If you never been there, well it’s the most fabulous and colorful costume shop you can find on Haight Street. I put together a fabulous Disco Queen outfit (how surprising) and my mom put together an extravagant Bee costume. She spent way too much money and we left ridiculously good looking.
On Halloween night in the Castro we were celebrities. Everyone wanting to take our pictures, dressed up to the nines, and it was so much fun. Somehow I got separated from my mom, maybe it was on purpose. I went into the crowd of people dancing and danced the night away. It didn’t take long to find a cutie in the crowd who came over and started to dance with me. Long and behold that dance turned into my first kiss. Well it would have been fine, but the party was recording the crowd live and streaming it on a huge projector on the stage where the DJ was performing. Long and behold my first kiss, with a stranger, was broadcasted to a crowd of thousands. One of them being my mother. It didn’t take long to hear her screaming “JESSICA WHERE THE HELL ARE YOU AND WHO THE HELL ARE YOU KISSING?!”
Well you grow up fast when you grow up in the city.
Maybe it’s because your around so many people. Maybe it’s because you have more freedom with transportation as a minor. Maybe because it’s easy to get a fake ID. But it’s definitely not your typical suburbia high school experience. Most of my friends started “experimenting” end of junior high/freshman year. I smoked pot for the first time at the park next to my High School when I was 15. I lost my virginity at age 15. I’m surprised I graduated high school on time, but I was done with high school at age 17. I’m an August baby, so I was always younger. I had a fake ID when I was under 18 to go to 18+ events and the ID turned 21 when I turned 18, so it worked out great. Most of my friends are about 5 years older to me, to this day. I always hung out with an older crowd. Honestly because I felt older. I experienced so much when I was young, I grew up fast.
The adventures I had in the city when I was teenager were extraordinary. Getting caught with 40 oz in Golden Gate Park by the cops and running away. Pretty much living at Dolores Park with my best friends. Going to concerts, shows, and raves. Being wild, young, and free. I always remember my friends would say, enjoy living at your parents while they pay everything for you because once you’re on your own it’s a lot harder. And yes, being a young adult is much harder.
But adulthood was unavoidable, and the journey to the east bay arrived.
I was 20 years old when I moved out. I moved to Emeryville because that’s where I was attending college. Didn’t stay there for too long because I had a crazy roommate situation, which is a story for another time. I then moved to my first place in Oakland, in Fruitvale. I lived with my partner, and 3 other roommates. The house was adorable and comfortable. The backyard had a ton of fruit trees. I remember my mom saying, “Is that why they call it Fruitvale?”. I lived there for a year. I moved to San Leandro for a year. And then back to Oakland which I currently reside in for the past three years. And let me tell you,
I hella love Oakland.
I’ve only been living in the area for about 5 years, but I have discovered so much. And the fun part is that I am still discovering. First of all when you live in the city, you can never see the city skyline but you can get that wonderful view from Oakland. The cultural here is absolutely amazing. People are so scared of Oakland, because of all the crime, which exists I will not deny that, but there is a lot of love that should be talked about.
Like my neighborhood for example. It’s called “Quiet Village” because we are a little tucked in the corner neighborhood right between Hegenburger and 98th avenue, next to 880. A lot of families own houses on the block, and everyone looks out for each other. I have never experienced that in SF. People are separate and to themselves in SF, I never felt that way in Oakland.
It feels nice to be part of a bigger family.
I recently started dog walking as a part time gig to make some extra funds. The other day I walked in a run down area of West Oakland. I was extremely hesitant at first, but every person I passed by said a friendly hello followed by a how are you doing to me. I noticed how friends and family were reacting towards each other as well. Everyone was hella nice! It was so amazing to see that. I think it’s important we focus on the positivity that people bring to each other. You watch the news and everything is focused on terrorism and murders. It makes society fear the world, which we shouldn’t be feeling. I believe you should always be aware of your surroundings, and be cautious of your environment, but you shouldn’t be walking into the world scared.
You can live in fear, but you are not truly living.
Something bad happened to me in Oakland. Like really bad. I was assaulted by a homeless man at Coliseum Bart. I was exiting bart and heard the man coming towards me. I was trying to pass him quickly, but he ran in front of me. He then punched me in the stomach and then ran away to the Bart station tracks. I was in such shock I didn’t know what to do at that moment. Luckily he didn’t punch me with a knife. I went to the bart employee and made a police report. The cops came and arrested him. He definitely was not in the right mind space. This incident really shook me up and really opened my eyes. I was just the unlucky person walking at the wrong place at the wrong time. Even though something like this happened to me, I do not live in fear. I still use the coliseum bart by myself. I am just a lot more aware of my surroundings. Bad things can happen to you, but they should not define how you live your life.
You define each step you take.
Since we mentioned the Coliseum, you know what that means? WARRIORS!!! The NBA champions. Now I will be the first to admit, I am not a sports guru. I do however love the spirit of it and what it brings out of people. I went to my first Warriors game last fall and let me tell you, it was so much fun! I went with my best friends, had a great view, and just loved the spirit of everyone at the game. Even if you aren’t really into sports, if you are around that many people who love it, you will instantly love it too. That is an extraordinary feeling. Feeling the excitement and happiness of the crowd. Thousands of people screaming and cheering.
The unity of happiness is an incredible experience.
So on my final note of my transition from San Francisco to Oakland, I feel blessed to have experience both cities. There are days I really miss living in San Francisco and living the city life, but in reality I am only a 20 minute bart ride away. I have my moms place to go visit and a lot of friends as well. As far as the current city I live in, I have so many more adventures to explore in Oakland and I can’t wait to see where life takes me. And who knows,