I could never admit this to anyone, so I might as well admit it to you. I am fiercely a Bay Area native, yet I have never left this place. I guess there’s something about leaving one’s home that is emblematic of this generation’s definition of “finding yourself.” Leaving home is an act of bravery, yet it is one in which I never participated. I have always been jealous of people who absconded to New York or Los Angeles, who pack their bags to see what lies in the great beyond. I have always been jealous, but in recent years I have been able to quash my jealousy with the self assurance of knowing that staying in the Bay Area ultimately is working out. I don’t have to leave; I have already arrived somewhere new by staying put this entire time.
But that’s not what I’m afraid to admit; that is what is easy to admit, because it makes me feel better about the thing I fear the most. The real reason I have never left is because I have been to afraid. I have been afraid to go somewhere new, where I know no one, or at least not a lot of people. I have been afraid to go somewhere new and hope for the best. I have been afraid to start over, to meet new people. I have been afraid to fail and to be alone. I have been afraid of what is out there, where there are no familiar faces. Because I am afraid that as a woman, the world would only rip me apart for showing up somewhere else by myself. The world would see me alone, and with teeth bared in an ungodly grin, it would chew me up. I have been afraid of the men who would be waiting for me out there, who would take me and take advantage of me, because I did not know that I possessed the personal strength to know better, to be smarter, and be faster than the rest of them. Nobody had ever told me that I was tough enough to make it, so I never even tried. But now I know, and now I wonder if it’s too late to try something new.
As a feminist, dealing with my own fear of being stultified by societal pressures that told me I could never venture out into the world alone and make it is a symptom that so many women have to deal with, too. The world says, “How are you going to make it if you don’t have a job?” instead of, “You can do it. I believe in you.” The world says, “You are naive, and you will be taken advantage of,” instead of, “You are quick and clever, but watch out for snakes and failure.” The world says, “If you fall once, you will never get back up again, because you are a woman and you are weak,” instead of, “It is possible to stand back up.”
I have never been cursed the reality that my home is a prison and I need to escape, but a lot of people are, and a lot of people can’t leave because they don’t know how. For the people who do leave, it seems like, for a long time, the Bay Area was a good place to come to have a new home. Unfortunately, I don’t if that’s true anymore, because the animosity around the culture clash and rising rents makes it so that no one is welcome here anymore and no one is home. People will be going back to where they came from, which will be considered a marked defeat, but some of us will have nowhere to go back to at all. We are all taking calculated risks in this world together, but not everyone can come out on top. And women most of all.