Standing one week in between the city of my dreams and an island of mystery, this is an ode to San Francisco, the city I have loved.
I fell for you the first moment I touched your rain-kissed city streets, soaked in your seaside sunshine, and tasted your crisp ocean air. Something deep within me remembered you.
I remembered the wind howling as my great grandparents sailed across the Pacific Ocean towards you. I remembered the newfound hope they felt when they saw you. Courageously leaving everything they knew in China for an unknown but promising life here.
Growing up in Arizona I always wondered why artists sang so many songs about Cali. Californians who would visit would have this air about them like, "this is cool but you don't even know."
I remember writing in my diary in middle school about my first trip to San Francisco Chinatown where I was so excited to meet my "asian homies".
Imagine my surprise when I did make it to Chinatown and I didn't fit in. I realized how ABC - American Born Chinese I was.
That didn't stop me.
I loved the culture, the food, the creativity, the treasure-hunting, the exploring, the art, the diversity. I couldn't put it into words but I could feel the vibration.
In college I was clear I would move here. I wanted to do fashion design and saw SF as the spot. Any opportunity to be here, I came. But after one Spring Break trip and a series of unsuccessful interviews, I realized it would take more than a lofty dream to make it here. So I deferred my dream and spent three years focusing my efforts on making a difference in my own local community, Phoenix.
Then in May 2014, a job opportunity fell through and I had space to dream again.
My wise mentor said, "Isn't this exciting? You get to pursue your dream of living in the Bay Area."
I remember exactly where I was and how my heart felt when she said that.
It was as if my future self pointed her finger directly at the center of my being and said, "GO."
For the next 3 months, I worked 80 hrs a week to save money for the voyage. I didn't even have a job lined up but I was hellbent on making it happen. My hustle paid off, just before I made the leap, an amazing opportunity in SF came through.
Today, I step outside on Bush Street and Webster in Lower Pac Heights for a run. The sun is shining, wind is whispering, the rain has momentarily subsided. I smell the sweet sea breezes and feel the crisp ocean air as if for the first time.
And I wonder, why am I leaving this place? Off to Southeast Asia for the next several months to chase a wild unknown adventure, to find some uncovered part of me. While Asia is an alluring vision, why would I release this longtime dream?
I made it.
But that's the thing, you can't hold a dream in your hand. This was never MY city, this magical place is for Artists, Activists, Futurists, Lovers of all forms to find sanctuary. Some for a short time while others until the day they die. After being here for the last three years, I can see that SF is a sanctuary fighting for its soul. SF is the most expensive city in America but it isn't immune to real suffering: privilege, prejudice, and gentrification threaten the very culture we are all enchanted by. But SF is rooted. It was fashioned by love, founded in justice, and it will survive.
San Francisco is a survivor. A beautiful one at that.
And so I soak her in, I receive her majesty. I accept her suffering. I cherish her resilience. I celebrate her optimism. I feel for and fight for her existence. I honor the hope she has given so many immigrants and dreamers like me.
Thank you, San Francisco, no matter where I grow, I will forever love, believe in, and dream of you.
Kelsey Lotus Wong