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Experiences

“I Live in *South* SF” – Life As A Suburban Kid

“Hi, where do you live?”

“I’m from South San Francisco.”

“Where’s that…? Is that in the city?”

This is how the conversation goes every time I’m asked the question, “where do you live?” In grammar school, I’ve never really had to answer that question. My grammar school was in Daly City, the neighboring city of South San Francisco. Everyone in middle school was either from Daly City or South SF. But going into high school and especially college, my little suburban city was becoming more and more foreign.

Growing up in a suburban area and at the foot of the San Bruno Mountains meant that my parents were overprotective of my younger brother and me. I never learned how to ride a bike, because where would I even go? I was never allowed to walk alone, even if it was a safe and quiet area. The only sleepovers I’ve had my entire life were at my cousin’s place just 15 minutes away. If I was going to hang out with school friends, my parents had to contact the other parents and ensure one parent stayed with us (which technically wasn’t a big problem because everyone else got along since we were all Filipino).

Receiving an acceptance letter to the high school Sacred Heart Cathedral, just 2 miles away from the University of San Francisco, made me literally jump in joy. I was excited that I got accepted into my top choice, and it also meant that I would be studying in the heart of beautiful San Francisco. It didn’t take long to make friends, which was great, but one problem arose: everyone lived in the city. Everyone took the Muni to and from school. They knew how to handle themselves alone in the city. 

It wasn’t long before my best friend asked me to hang out somewhere in the city, adding to my worry. I grew up in fear of asking my parents to hang out with friends because they would drill me with questions and lecture me about going out into public, even before the pandemic. So naturally, out of embarrassment, I made up a stupid excuse that I wasn’t available. However, asking me to hang out became frequent and I eventually had to spill the beans to my parents – and you guessed it, they said no.

It wasn’t until the second semester of my freshman year that I was finally allowed to hang out in public with friends. Maybe it was because my parents thought that I had spent enough time in the city for school or that I would be hanging out with multiple people instead of just my best friend. But I was overjoyed that I would be hanging out with new friends in a new area without any parents. Of course, I had tons of fun!

Sadly, it really was too good to be true. Over the recent years, San Francisco has had an increase in homelessness, is still facing the pandemic, and has become a strong player in social justice issues like the Black Lives Matter movement and AAPI (Asian American Pacific Islander) hate crimes. On top of that, SF is becoming known as one of the dirtiest cities in the country and the crime rate has only increased over the years. It was getting a little more difficult to convince my parents to head out with friends and it’s still a little difficult. Even my friends who live in the city, and friends living in the dorms at USF, agree that SF can be dangerous and scary, especially at night, at this point, pepper spray has become an additional and necessary accessory to most SF residents. 

However, I’m lucky that my parents are letting me hang out at all. I’m grateful to have been allowed to move onto campus and into the dorms this semester. I’m thankful my parents provided for, protected and nurtured my younger brother and me, but I’m growing up to be my own person and be more independent. I am able to prove that I could handle myself outside of the home. Slowly but surely, I’m breaking out of that suburban girl shell and facing whatever life throws at me, from navigating the city by myself to dealing with communal showers.

If I learned anything, it’s to be persistent. Push through, no matter how tough it is. If you want something, work for it, and don’t be afraid to speak up. 

Ally (she/they/he) is a design major and advertising minor at the University of San Francisco. In her free time, they like watching cartoons and anime, playing video games, drawing, singing, and playing piano. Some other interests include Marvel, Star Wars, and well you guessed it, Disney and Pixar. She's been in the Bay Area, specifically South SF, her entire life and loves adventuring out into the city
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