In the past year, San Franciscans have fallen into one of two camps: those that say everyone is leaving, and those who believe that the mass exodus hype is just that. Hype.
I fall into the former group. As someone who recently moved out of her San Francisco apartment without the intention of going back — and who can easily think of nearly 10 close friends who have done the same since March of 2020 or are in the midst of this transition themselves — this is a hard one for me to believe otherwise. Could it be a familiarity bias? Perhaps. But when you consider that 2020 rents were down nearly 30% YoY and office vacancy rates spiked over 10% to a 17% high, it does seem like people have made the permanent decision to leave the Bay Area, at least for the mid-term future.
I’ve been sitting on a variety of half-baked Medium articles for months, and now seems like a good time to start sharing as I start my next step. Today we’ll start with my favorite, a lighthearted compilation inspired by Christina Najjar’s rich mom series (if you know you know, if you don’t I’d advise to just keep on reading).
So, you’re leaving SF. What does your next city say about you?
You’re annoyed you were swindled by the Bay being “chill” with “good work-life balance” and a “super fun daytime scene.” The outdoor activities were all that lived up to expectations. You think Denver is everything that San Francisco pretends to be (minus the ocean), but there’s a small part of you that fears you will feel claustrophobic being landlocked. You’re a Midwesterner who kind of misses Chicago, but whose ego won’t let you go back to Chicago. You cannot fathom learning how to put makeup on again after a year of lockdown.
You are either striving to be an entrepreneur-wellness influencer hybrid or are starved for some form of social scene that does not revolve entirely around work. Secretly you envision yourself becoming the king or queen of LA’s “intimate” startup culture, which is alarmingly attainable to you relative to San Francisco. You say you’re excited to save money and while you’re not fooling anyone but yourself with that one, you’ll keep it up for as long as you keep enjoying matcha. You think that since you commuted down to the South Bay every day for 2 years, LA traffic won’t phase you. That it won’t be a big deal. You’re wrong.
You enjoy being outside, but nature does not really do it for you. You like to think of yourself as unique and eclectic even though a solid 85% of your thoughts mirror those of your peers (deep down you know that, and it’s an eternal disappointment). You have a dream of moving to Austin and helping to turn Texas blue. You roll your eyes at the frat stars at Lake Travis but subconsciously you know you will soon join them. You like shiny things.
You are looking forward to even more deeply embodying the meme of a hipster who idolizes craft beer and $6 pour overs. You think the Bay Area limits your weird, and a thread connects your soul to the PNW mystique even though you’ve only been to Portland once for a long weekend. You truly do love the outdoors and want to be around people who feel the same on a level that surpasses including an obligatory nature photo in their Hinge profile. You are an even-keeled person. You are making the conscious decision to move to a place with many of the same problems as SF, with the added bonus of worse weather. Congratulations.
You initially fled New York after spending 2+ years there post-grad, when you realized you didn’t really enjoy staying out past midnight more than once per quarter. But after a year of making banana bread and rotting in your sweats, you’re craving New York’s energy like you’re 22 again, and there’s a whisper deep inside telling you to do it. You are someone who romanticizes your exes, even the ones who never really were a healthy relationship in the first place, and laughs at yourself when you knowingly make a self-destructive decision (because self deprecation is the most elite form of humor, of course). You know how to act and get things done, and a return to the east coast seems like the best way to embrace your ability to thrive with a full plate.
Your opinions change minute-by-minute based on what appears in your Twitter feed. Each time you went to a Barry’s class pre-Covid you’d secretly hope to find Keith Rabois. You are burned out, and the concept of relocating to Miami gives you life. You have publicly shamed irresponsible Covid activities for 11 months now, but you cannot wait to act as though you’ve been lobotomized immediately upon arrival and spend $200 to attend a pool party at a South Beach hotel. You value interpersonal relationships over work.
“Testing different cities for a few months”
You have an illogical amount of guilt over leaving your SF friends behind and framing things this way was a less awkward goodbye. You’re terrified of making mistakes, even though you know any decision can be concluded an error if you think about it for too long. You think this will be a growth experience for you, but you know you can only take so much uncertainty before you crawl back to the Bay Area or commit to a lease elsewhere. You love sharing what your therapist told you with your Uber drivers.
Indefinite van / nomad life
Distinct from the above in that you, ironically, are committing to long-term non-commitment. You’re not not on the brink of a mental break. You, my friend, should have left San Francisco long ago.
Staying in San Francisco
You call San Francisco The City and don’t understand why it makes your friends from New York angry. SaaS is life. You feel bullied either by your investors or family to remain in the Bay Area, and you bought an apartment at the peak of the market in 2019 that you cannot justify leaving. You still think you understand something about bitcoin that no one else does.