Leaving Neverland

Reflecting on life in the Bay Area

Reflecting on life in Neverland

One month ago I crammed my Subaru to the rafters and Dos Gatos Locos and I left “Neverland”.

(Aside: I frequently refer to the Bay Area—and San Francisco in particular—as Neverland, because it always has been a place that allowed for play and experimentation, no matter what your age or background. Up until a few years ago the “Neverland” aspect of life in the Bay Area was benign: There was a sort of “take a penny, leave a penny” community spirit. Neverland started to become malignant a couple of decades ago, as dot-com money came in and dispassionately began wiping out communities and the security that comes with community, and worsened considerably over the last ten years.)

So anyway, I started to write about leaving Neverland about a year ago.

Check that.

I’m pretty sure that I began writing about this four or five years ago. Because I knew then that I had stayed at that party for too long, but I was so emotionally paralyzed that I couldn’t even think of moving. Hell, the thought of even going to the grocery store could send me into a full-on stress meltdown.

But even a year ago, when I tried again to write about leaving the Bay Area, I just…couldn’t. And it was frustrating because I had visions of this E-P-I-C journal/blog. But it just wasn’t happening.

Sans the epic-inspirational-internet-sensation journal, I started making my way across the country. The first three days of the trip provided plenty of time for me to bounce around against all of the surfaces of my mind, while I drove. Somewhere between Amarillo, TX and the Oklahoma border, I realized that the reason why I couldn’t write about the process of “conscious uncoupling” from the Bay Area is because I need distance.

Miles and time.

So now I’m good on the miles part, but the time? Hrmmmmm…

I’ve made it a priority of my yoga and meditation practice to leave enough space to process the experience of living in the Bay Area, with the understanding that this is a big job. I was there for more than 24 years: the longest that I’ve lived anywhere in my life.

It was never easy, especially since I don’t come with the backing of a trust fund or a six-figure tech job. I did make a life there, though. I began collecting those pieces of myself that I had dropped, like breadcrumbs, throughout my childhood and young adulthood and I started to form MY life. But the stress of trying to keep a roof over my head in one of the most expensive housing markets in the world eventually suffocated the fire I had built. All of those pieces were still there, only now they were buried under layer upon layer of protective anger, which grew worse over the last several years in the Bay Area.

Around the time of the Great Recession about a decade ago, the atmosphere in the Bay Area thickened with a hostile stench, like sewer gas in San Francisco. Just like there are corners of San Francisco that don’t smell like sewer gas, there are pockets of human kindness (and I certainly tried my best to keep that part of myself in the light). But it’s hard to feel anything other than anger towards an area when every day I saw working people who were homeless (the lucky ones at least had a car they could sleep in), in a city that criminalized being broke. A place so malignant with a sense of entitlement that tech bros wrote open letters to the mayor bitching about homeless people.

So, yeah. Safe to say these first weeks away from the Bay Area will be spent peeling away more of those layers of anger. Those layers will go in one stack. There will be other stacks: for the great friends I made there, the fun times, the heartaches, the art, the education.

All of it was necessary for me to get here.

And as I shed the layers that stifled me, those important pieces of myself will breathe again, and that oxygen will fuel the fire from which my creativity and brilliance will rise.

To be continued…

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4 Responses

  1. Corinne says:

    This is brilliant and insightful. I can relate to the need for physical and emotional distance in order to process – I’ve been working on an essay about my California life in my head for over a year, but it’s still not there yet. Way too loaded. Here’s to getting through all those layers with grace.

    • victoria says:

      Thank you, Corinne. Writing definitely helps me with the processing. It will be interesting to revisit this piece a few months–or years–down the road to see how things evolve.

  2. Tamara says:

    Vic, as Corinne said, this is so insightful. Distance often gives us the space to peel back the layers that are/were woven into the fabric of the place(s) from our past. The place is really only a piece, really it’s about who we were or weren’t in that place. I know after I moved from the Bay to the OC, I had a lot to process, to reconcile, to say goodbye to, and to forgive. After 5 years here, I thought I’d sorted through it all; that is until we moved back and it hit me like a ton of bricks. For only coming back and being in the mental place I was in (one in which I was ready and willing to confront my past) did I truly realize how much more to go I had. And how many memories, pain, loss, expectations, hope etc I still had there. The Bay is a bubble and going far away, especially to NC which is vastly different in nearly every way, certainly gives you perspective. So proud of you and your journey. Keep writing and asking the hard questions. Xoxox

    • victoria says:

      Thank you, Tam. I’m blessed, SO blessed, to have amazing people like you and Corinne in my corner, supporting me but keeping me honest as well. Love you both! ????????????????