By Danny Sellers
The Coldest Summer in San Francisco: Was It Worth It?
To no surprise, while living in San Francisco, I worked in the tech industry. I specifically worked in sales in a pretty common role--sales development representative. My task was to spark initial interest and organizational problems that my company could solve. It's typically an entry level position that gives you the foundation to pursue a career in sales or even outbound marketing. I learned a lot.
I genuinely hated it. Now this really isn't meant to be the most pleasant gig. You’re set up to put in a lot of leg work for the first year or two, then move into a closing role which is typically a lot less stressful (depending on territory and business segment). I saw my seniors--who were supposed to be living the good life--still not happy after multiple promotions. There were a lot of sarcastic “happy to be here” on Mondays. In my first job selling insurance, people who were a few years into it really loved it. They were genuinely happy.
San Francisco is extremely expensive. It’s the most expensive city in America - with a comfortable cost of living at $119,570 and a average home cost at $820,000. San Francisco has been severely gentrified in the recent decade, pushing many middle and lower class families out of the city altogether. Not only is the city becoming over populated, but surrounding cities like Oakland and Berkeley are also becoming more and more expensive due to demand for reasonable housing outside of San Francisco. I paid $1,795 for my studio apartment, which was a lot for a young professional. Even young people with 2-4 roommates and shared bathrooms would pay anywhere from $1,300-$1,500 all day long. With no utilities or parking included.
I never really thought working with white people would be a problem or hurdle. For the majority of my life, I lived in predominantly white neighborhoods. I went to a PWI. SF was different. While I made many good, hopefully lifelong friends in SF, it was very hard to work there culturally. Me, a guy named Danny, that went to all white schools felt like I might as well been Farrakhan at work some days. Due to the entry level nature of my role, many of my peers were in their mid 20's on average. A lot were natives of the bay area or Southern California. Many were second generation tech professionals and if you're good at math, beneficiaries of the “.Com” boom. While I was worried about making rent my first couple months before commission checks set in, they were planning Lake Tahoe trips to their vacation homes.
Many of these people had never been around black people. Many went to high school in wealthy districts, college at large PWI’s, and only consistent POC they interacted with growing up was their maid/nanny. By no means are all of these people racist or anything like that, but in a somewhat innocent sense, they were ignorant to anything outside of their bubble or lifestyle. Things like police shootings, political events and racial issues often went unnoticed. I felt out of place because the people I worked with knew nothing that was happening in my world. So beyond my 4-5 co-workers that became good friends, I might as well have worn red to an all white party.
$6.00 coffees, $9.00 Chipotle Burritos and $4.75 5-minute Uber Pool rides all made this the Coldest Summer in San Francisco. (Well 60 degree weather literally made it the coldest summer). But I have zero regrets about going to San Francisco. While I could sit here and complain for 4 more posts about how uncomfortable my time was there, it was truly a life changing experience. I think about how I felt the days before I boarded the plane to SF. I was terrified. I knew that my ambition was years ahead of my confidence. I knew that I wanted something more, but wasn’t sure that I was good enough or able to get it. Now I look at myself as a totally different person. Not only have I been exposed to a totally different culture and learned solid skills in my 9-5, but I also feel as though my confidence now matches my ambition. To the point where I feel like as long as I can feed myself, I can monetize anything I put my mind to. Personal success starts with self validation.
Making it a year in the most expensive city in the country, knowing no one, never stepping foot in before with barely any money is life changing. All I can tell you is pushing myself beyond reasonable thinking is my theme for the next few years. Young people need to understand that taking Ls right now is going to be so small in the grand scheme of things. This is bigger than a few blog posts, Instagram quotes, and tweets. I’m working when nobody's watching. When snapchat hasn’t been opened. When there’s only time for 4-5 hours of sleep before a 11-12 hour work day. If you never learn anything else from me, know that happiness can’t be built from anyone else or any external thing. Only you. If you like sitting at a desk all day, keep at it. If you like making an entry level salary with marginal bonuses every couple years, good for you. But if you’re annoyed with your life right now and hate waking up on Monday, put something into action to change it. Don’t go to happy hour, bitch about life then watch 8 Netflix shows back to back when you get home.
Photo Credit: Danny Sellers