Similar to the earthquake prone ground underneath us, the foundation of human connection here can be unstable. When I moved here, I had one friend. She was a friend from college, and while I didn’t hang with her a lot, she was a huge support. She gave me a place to live, got me a job and provided a source of friendship and trust. Soon after I moved, she disappeared. Like a cloud of smoke, she vanished, as well as her help and support.
Shortly after I was abandoned by my friend for a cliquey group of ravers, I was really, really alone. So I did what anyone would do in that situation; focus on what you DO have. All that was left was my job, so I spent a great deal of time at work. As a result, I was invited to meetups, company happy hours and parties. While I had things to do, I still didn’t really have anyone to go with.
One night after work, my boss invited me to a holiday party at a popular startup. He was super late, and I didn’t know anyone, so I sat on the couch, feeling like an outsider. Normally, I am super outgoing and can talk to anyone about anything. But something about this party felt different. There was a social barrier to entry, in that no one was inclusive unless you knew someone they knew; like a real-life Facebook.
All of a sudden, someone finally talked to me. To this day, It is still one of the most serendipitous moments I think I have ever had in The City. “Hey, you hating this party as much as me,” he said. “These people kinda suck.” What a relief! We were in the same boat. As we got to talking, we realized we had so much in common. It was actually very strange. We both grew up in Cleveland, both played ice hockey, both loved deli food; I finally met someone who I could relate with.
We quickly decided to leave to hit up another party across town. What exactly was I about to walk into? Looking back, I made a few rookie mistakes: (1) I didn’t get dressed up, at all, (2) I didn’t eat dinner, (3) This guy was still a total stranger to me.
As we walked into the party, I felt almost as awkward as I did at the last one, until this guy started introducing me to his friends. With that layer of social pressure waived, I finally felt comfortable just being myself. I guess I had met the “right” people at this party, and was unofficially adopted into what I now know of as the social tech scene of startup land.
I just had coffee with a girl who moved here from abroad, like myself. She has not broken through. She needs to find a job, a place to live and friends. I recounted the story I just told you and wanted to give her everything I didn’t have. I explained to her basically a TL;DR version of the articles I have written, from social interaction to the startup scene and our habits. Though everyone gets a little worn and pissed off about things, we are the most expressive people I have ever been around outside of NYC.
There were many stories I could have told her about how hard it is to be accepted, but instead I told her I would be her friend, and would be there for whatever she needed. I’m not tooting my own horn here, I am trying to convey that there is good-naturedness in this city. Someone did it for me, so I would do it for her, since she was having a hard time. Everything was new and she had no compass. If anything, I needed to pay it forward. At the end of the day, it may not matter if you say “good morning” or are entitled. What does matter is being open. San Francisco people may seem hard on the outside but is really warm once you break through.
With a background in journalism, Melissa Eisenberg has been working in the tech industry for eight years, currently leading the SF FashTech community.