5 Things I Learned in San Francisco

I’m going back to New York tomorrow night! Of course I’m not actually going home, I’m just returning for one week to attend my two graduation ceremonies so I can wear those purple NYU robes, and also see my parents. But no doubt I’ll have a lot of questions from my friends about how life has been, and I’ll want to share with them the 5 things I learned in my two months out here.

#1. How to Enjoy a Calmer Life

Not my street, but this is my neighborhood by the sea

After living in Manhattan for so long I really could not picture myself living in the suburbs. When I first started looking for housing I really wanted to live in a downtown apartment to make the transition easier, but I couldn’t afford it and thus chose a house way out near the Pacific Ocean. So now I live in a cute little colorful house with a backyard and a greenhouse. In my first week I got so scared at night because it’s so dark out, and the sound of nature in the silence freaked me out. I locked my landlords/roommates out one night because I didn’t know they’d be home from their trip, and I had bolted both the front and back doors.

The top of Lombard Street, probably the most expensive housing in the world

But now that I’m more used to it, I don’t feel terrified or out of touch from civilization. San Francisco is small, so it doesn’t take me that long to get to more lively places. I save about $500 on rent! However, I’m still trying to get used to the fact that everything closes around 9PM. I had to bid nightlife farewell (getting boba or ice cream at 10PM is one of my favorite things to do in New York). I try not to stay out too late because the city gets pretty sketchy (pot is legal here) and my neighborhood gets very empty.

I’m not running from place to place 24/7, and that’s okay.

#2. How to Save the Environment

The painted ladies in front of the skyline

Plastic bags and plastic bottles are both banned here. I had taken them for granted back in New York – my storage closet was filled with plastic bags to be used for trash, and my recycling bin was filled with bottles of every kind of drink. I thought I was doing a great job reusing and recycling, but what would it look like if I cut out my plastic footprint altogether?

Many times I would forget to bring one of my fabric shopping bags when buying groceries. I could pay 10 cents to get a plastic bag, but why would I do that? I have shoved my backpack to the brim with items before. Picture carrying that up a hill and struggling.

Pier 7 and the Transamerica building

As for plastic bottles, first I forced myself to detox from sugar. That means if I craved sugar, I would peel myself an orange or slice an apple, then pour filtered water into a glass cup to mimic the taste of sugary drinks. I refrained from buying junk food altogether. Though I can’t exactly say I eat healthier, I’ve cut down my sugary drink intake to once a week max. And I’ve stopped buying bottled water, unless I need a water bottle. I’ve switched to glass bottles if possible, since I’m not a fan of traditional water bottles because they are so hard to wash. I don’t have a dishwasher.

Funny cable car style bus

Speaking of machines, my house also doesn’t have a working dryer. I’ve had to learn how to hang dry my clothes, my sheets, etc. I’m so used to washing something then shoving it into a dryer, that I’ve taken for granted how much of a workout it is to carry a bin of wet clothes up the stairs and hanging each item. When I first washed my sheets I also didn’t know how to hang it in our little greenhouse space and they became wrinkled. Ahh!

Golden Gate Bridge from the other side of the Bay

I don’t mind hang drying my clothes. The climate in California is a lot drier so clothes don’t ever stay wet for too long, and it’s better for the environment! The only downside is that I don’t have a lot of clothes and I have to do this every week or I’d run out of everything. Fitting laundry into my schedule isn’t always convenient.

#3. How to Find the Job I Need

Lyft’s HQ is totally my color (just kidding)

I know my life is at a slower pace here, but I’ve still been incredibly busy searching for a job. So far, I’ve only been interviewed for developer positions and even an engineering one I wasn’t really qualified for at a big company. Even though they offered to pay me really really well, I’m not very happy with the positions. I think design is still my passion, and code is just something I do to complement that. I like being able to code and control my own projects, but I don’t like being responsible for making sure everything runs and fixing bugs and guaranteeing backup. I’ve switched to looking for design positions for less pay, and it hasn’t been a breeze because there are so many design directions I could go and so many different startups. I am just starting my 3rd month of job searching now.

However, at conferences and events I’ve attended I learned that the approach I took to finding a job in my first month was wrong. I was doing exactly what I did to land my previous two jobs, which was applying online and hoping for magic to happen. I got lucky in one of my jobs, and not so lucky in the other one. Everyone in San Francisco has been telling me to search hiring managers and recruiters, and directly send them emails. It won’t always work, but you never know some people will respond well to it.

Also, never settle for a job. That’s a lesson I’m learning constantly.

#4. How to Make Friends and Network

One of my new friends and I

The tough thing about my friends in New York is that I didn’t make them by loving them, but by really needing them during two devastating relationships in my life. I’ve been rude, I’ve been annoying, and I’ve been difficult. Yet, they continued to value my humanity and taught me how to love them back. Moving to a city where I didn’t know anybody challenged me to find out if I’ve really learned how to build deep connections and friendships with people. And because I don’t have friends to cry to here, it revealed if I have truly healed emotionally.

I’ve been attending a church and made a lot of friends. Everyone has been saying to me “Olivia you’re so brave,” or “Olivia you got connected so quickly” but I don’t think I should get any of that credit. I don’t own the ability to be bold, and it’s definitely terrifying when all eyes are on you and you don’t know what they expect. Also, the friends I have here are way older than me, and that’s scary because I’m so used to being the big sister in New York (though cared for by her little friends). But I just officially joined the church! I’m now part of the welcoming community that greets people with smiles, and also the nerd web team, of course.

His name is Archie and he has the most beautiful eyes. He belongs to a guy at church whose name I forgot … #fail

Of course “making friends at church” doesn’t prove my emotional health. In fact, my faith tells us we have to make friends who DON’T go to church to really test how much we are rooted in our own faith but also want to care for those who don’t share it. Back in New York I wasn’t healthy enough to venture out of my community because I could only feel safe with my closest friends. Being out here searching for a job requires networking, and that means meeting professionals who are way better at their jobs than me and not feel small. I’ve been able to meet a lot of women at tech conferences and ask them about their careers, life stories, etc. I got dinner last night with two ladies I met and rounded up at a tech event!

It’s really important to network your way towards a job too. You never know when you’ll meet someone who can give you a good referral or send your resume/portfolio to the right person. Did you know most positions are filled internally?


View from the Twin Peaks!

Boy oh BOY is this the last item on my list and the grandest! If you guys didn’t know, San Francisco is mad hilly, and there isn’t underground transportation except in downtown. The trains and buses run up and down and up and down and up and down and I get so sick. Lyft (or Uber if you must) is super cheap here if you split your ride with someone, and I’ve spoiled myself by taking $4 Lyfts when I need to be somewhere in a hurry.

However, nothing beats being able to drive your own car. Being a New Yorker of 11 years I could not drive to save my life (literally), especially since I stopped trying to learn how after my arm injury in 2013. It’s actually more normal to not know how to drive in New York, as I’ve explained to my friends here when I told them I was taking driving lessons. I’ve had 20 hours of lessons so far and I think I’ve nailed down everything. My instructor says I just need a bit more practice before taking my road test.

The Twin Peaks is the highest point in San Francisco, and not hike-able as I had wished for. I finally was allowed to drive up while battling my worst fear of the car sliding down the hill, which if you’ve seen Princess Diaries, filmed in San Francisco, is likely to happen just about everywhere.

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7 Comments to "5 Things I Learned in San Francisco"

Amy wrote on 13th May 2017 at 8:13 AM

It’s great that you’ve learned so much in just a few months! I can’t believe San Francisco is so different, that must be so weird!

I live near a city, but not somewhere nearly as lively as New York. I definitely can’t imagine being able to walk around by myself at night. I’d definitely be scared to do that here!

I can’t believe plastic bottles and bags are banned! We have to pay for plastic bags here, but I don’t think there are any restrictions on plastic bottles. I buy a pack of bottled water every week, which is really bad. I’m the same as you though, I find re-usable bottles really hard to wash properly.

It’s great that you’re making lots of new friends. I think it definitely helps to know people wherever you are. Connections are so important, both for social and career reasons!

Good luck finding a job. Glad you’re enjoying San Francisco so far!


Tara wrote on 14th May 2017 at 5:31 AM

During my Sokcho trip, I stayed in the countryside by the sea, and it was a good change of pace, I realised. However, I think I’d go nuts if I had to live in a peaceful place 24/7. I definitely prefer the city over the more rural places.

Korean stores make you pay for the plastic bags, so I’ve been trying to get into the habit of bringing my own bags when I go there, but sometimes I forget or it’s a spontaneous trip, so then I fork over the money for the bags.

Seems like you’re doing well with networking and making friends. I am trying to imagine how well I’d handled moving somewhere I don’t know anybody. I don’t think I’ll handle that very well. Thank goodness for online friends! And good luck with the job hunt. I hope you’ll land something that you will love doing with a decent pay.

And driving. Yeah, I don’t drive, and I don’t see the need to do so in Seoul. I also have horrible depth perception, and I start panicking when I’m in a car and thinking I’m about to hit something or another car comes my way, and I think we’re going to collide. Yeah. I think I’m better off not driving . . . kudos to you for doing well on re-learning your skills!


Michelle wrote on 16th May 2017 at 8:49 PM

Glad you learned so much!


Brandy wrote on 16th May 2017 at 11:41 PM

After living in New York for most of my life, I probably wouldn’t find any need to learn how to drive either, but I live in the suburbs of Delaware, so driving is basically an essential. I’m not a big fan of driving though.

San Fran has always been on my bucket list of places to visit. It’s so colorful and fun. Your photos are making my lust increase!


Cristina wrote on 28th May 2017 at 2:44 PM

Seems like moving from New York to San Francisco was a really big transition for you. I am sure you will manage to adapt and learn all the secrets of living in SF. Also, you will make friends outside your church, just give it some time <3


Cindy wrote on 3rd June 2017 at 1:59 AM

Aw, man, as I was scrolling through this post, so much of it felt instantly familiar to me (I too was in New York for college and ended up moving to SF right after). That’s so interesting that you’re closer to the oceanside and with a car; those there are already some big changes! Bravo on getting better on the driving front, especially in a city like San Francisco! I too saw the Princess Diaries and that driving scene permanently intimidated me about driving anywhere with more than a 15-degree incline.


Liv Reply:

Wowww! That’s awesome! Hahaha now that I know how to drive on an incline I’m less terrified.


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