Recently, there’s been an abundance of attention around residents being “fed up” with San Francisco and several tragic acts of violence that have happened here recently. Given the myriad of issues the city faces, a number of people have left — either during or as we have come out of the COVID pandemic.
In the early days of the pandemic, I considered leaving, too. I was privileged to have a job that allowed me to work remotely, and I was far away from family on the East Coast. Though I enjoyed San Francisco, when I wrote my rent check each month, I felt the burden of the city’s high price tag and wondered if life would be “easier” elsewhere as a single woman.
Then, one day, as I walked the Panhandle, I approached two guitarists playing in the grass, with people from all walks of life stopping to listen, some sitting, others standing, all socially distanced, wearing smiles as their bodies flowed to the music. It was the San Francisco I’d grown to love: intimate, creative, open.
I lived in New York City for a decade before I moved to San Francisco knowing only two people in the Bay Area. While I initially compared the two cities, once I let go that Muni was never going to be the New York City subway system and accepted that finding late-night food took more effort, my appreciation for the soul of San Francisco became evident.
I actually knew and hung out with my neighbors. I’d close down restaurants sharing stories with the bartenders or owners, often making friends along the way. I took stand-up improv and pottery classes. I lived near the Haight and felt its history all around me. And when I first drove across the Golden Gate Bridge heading north, my body could feel the bridge’s majestic strength.
I thought, “This is home. I’m not going anywhere.”
I wanted to support — and keep building community — instead of running away. And I was privileged to be able to do so given my circumstances. I ordered books for curbside pick up from the Booksmith. I sat bundled up outside at the Page or Madrone, nursing a beer as Karl rolled in, making small talk with fellow bar patrons. I practiced yoga virtually nearly everyday with Yoga Garden (now Folk). I took other virtual classes, like candle making with Workshop SF and writing classes with the Writing Salon and organized virtual writing groups at the end of courses. I walked along Ocean Beach offering “hellos” to strangers. I continued to walk loops around the Panhandle.
When I first moved here, an old-timer described San Francisco to me as “provincial,” which I find to be endearing and true in the best ways. There’s space to breathe here and an intangible spirit — of curiosity, experimentation and love — that is allowed to grow here into whatever version of yourself you’re growing into.
Yes, there is a lot that is broken in this city — and in this country. My family and friends in New York City are experiencing increased homelessness, violence and fears of being in a harder cycle that all urban cities go through. Sometimes these challenges feel insurmountable. Our government must do a better job finding workable solutions to address homelessness, affordable housing and urban violence. Every resident deserves to feel — and be — safe and protected. You shouldn’t have to make a six-figure salary to live here comfortably. Companies and nonprofits also have roles to play in supporting our communities.
I often ask myself, what’s the role I play in all of this? What can I do?
I care about community and neighbors and contribute whenever I can. I encourage younger generations to engage in service and tell them nonprofit organizations, such as Coro, do amazing work. I volunteer with Girls on the Run, a nonprofit that teaches elementary and middle-school girls fundamentals of self-esteem and supports them in training for a 5-kilometer run. Supporting local businesses is especially important to me, too, so I get my manicures at the Nail Hall, a female-run business in the Mission.
I’ve taken painting classes at Root Division and supported local artists through venues like SoFar Sounds.
Much of this is about reconnecting with human beings and supporting community. I became attached to my phone during the pandemic, so now I intentionally pull myself away from it walking the city’s streets, noticing the purples, pinks, blues and grays of our houses, and many skies. Instead of scrolling while waiting in line, I stand and wait — sometimes I make eye contact with someone and say, “hi.” Sometimes there’s a short conversation about how good all this rain was — and how it’s nice to see the sun again.
Will I stay here forever? I do not know. Life is uncertain. But whether you’re a San Francisco native or a relative newbie like myself, I believe every day we get to choose how we will be the heartbeat of this magnificent city.
Lindy Mockovak is a social impact professional originally from Alexandria, Va. She’s lived in Washington, D.C.; New York City; Nairobi, Kenya; Kigali, Rwanda; and in NoPa and the Lower Haight neighborhoods for nearly six years.