Is Oakland for me?
September 3, 2014 9:04 AM   Subscribe

Phoenix doesn't seem to be working out. How about Oakland?

The relationship that was the subject of this post is treading water and I need to make a decision fairly quickly as to whether it should continue.

The situation is compounded by the fact that I’m also considering a relocation. I’m currently in Phoenix and my attraction to the place, after years of moving around the country, is nothing short of spiritual. I never get tired of the mountains, the sunsets, the awesome winters (and I can even tolerate a bit of the triple-digit temps in the summer.) Outside of that, in almost eight years of living here, I’ve managed to make not a single close friend. I know people. I have one or two “breakfast” friends, but no one I can call a true confidante. It’s made me painfully lonely considering that my boyfriend is an introvert who isn’t one for long-deep conversations. In addition, the job market here just sucks for the field that I’m interested in (government relations and public affairs).

My ask for the folks here is to help me with a city I’m considering: Oakland. I’ve chosen the city because of its diversity, climate, social activities and job opportunities. I love Phoenix but I’m really tired of being the only black woman almost everywhere I go. I am liberal and the redness of the state is starting to get to me. I don’t need or have a desire to live in “blackistan” so I’m not looking for a place where everyone is the same race as I am. I enjoy different cultures/foods/experiences. I have two fairly close friends who live in Oakland and don’t think I’d have too bad of a time meeting new people. I’m very outgoing and accustomed to doing new things on my own.

I’m worried, though, that I’ll feel an emptiness because of my attachment to Phoenix and I wonder if Oakland’s seeming lack of natural beauty will eventually get to me. I don’t necessarily know what the dating scene is like and that will eventually be important to me. I also wonder if perhaps I should give Phoenix more time. I've done all the recommended things to make friends (take classes, join meetups, etc.) and nothing. The black women I meet are churchy, married and/or have children which leaves little time for socializing. (None of those things apply to me.) Women of other races who are my age don't seem keen on developing friendships.

This is a big choice for me. I’m crying as I type this. I’m 44 and thought I had found home in Arizona (I’ve moved something like 6 times since 2000) and in my relationship but that doesn’t seem to be the case.
posted by nubianinthedesert to Human Relations (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure what kind of positions you have been looking into, but are there openings that would allow you to try out Oakland for six months or so? Short term contracts or temp jobs?
It won't necessarily give you much of an idea about how you would go making friends there (it takes me a while to cultivate friendships) but it should give you an idea whether you would feel comfortable there longer term, in terms of the environment etc.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 9:14 AM on September 3, 2014

Wait, are you talking about Oakland, California? Oakland has so much natural beauty. Can't speak to the dating scene but in general people in the Bay Area are really friendly and there are infinite meetups, activities, and social events. Hug.
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 9:35 AM on September 3, 2014 [7 favorites]

Yeah "lack of natural beauty" is a really weird thing to say about the Bay Area. Sure, downtown Oakland looks like a city, but the easy access to natural beauty is one of the best things about the Bay Area. This is not an issue that should be on your list.
posted by brainmouse at 10:01 AM on September 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

I lived off of Lake Merritt and it was gorgeous! I lived in Oakland AND Phoenix. I never felt safe in Phoenix to be honest. I lived in a very integrated community, South Mountain, so if you're not finding Black folks or Hispanics or Asians...that's on you because all my friends are still there.

It's harder to make friends when you're older, it just is.

Oakland is awesome!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:01 AM on September 3, 2014

Though many parts of Oakland are less pretty, the hills are beautiful (same goes for Berkeley, which is also often beautiful in the flatlands). I live in Oakland now and slightly prefer Berkeley in terms of natural beauty. Of course, it might be personal preference, but I feel a love for the landscape here similar to what you talk about for Phoenix. You'd also be a short drive from redwood forests, spectacular oceanfront hikes, and places like Yosemite. Please do visit if you can before making a decision, to get a better sense of how you like it.

That said, I'm not sure I would give up on Phoenix yet. What if you meet someone new with a built-in group of friends?
posted by three_red_balloons at 10:02 AM on September 3, 2014

I’m really tired of being the only black woman almost everywhere I go.

That's certainly not going to be a problem in Oakland. You're also going to find plenty of black women who are not churchy or not married. There's a thriving arts scene, a thriving small business scene, a growing hacker community, and a long-established activist community, all of which have a lot of diversity.

Which is not to say Oakland isn't somewhat segregated geographically or socially, but it's far less segregated than most of the rest of the country. Unless you're shopping in Montclair (a tony little village in the Oakland hills), you're unlikely to be the only black person almost anywhere in Oakland.

I wonder if Oakland’s seeming lack of natural beauty will eventually get to me

There's no lack of natural beauty in the Bay Area. The city includes industrial/light industrial waterfront, a park surrounding an estuarine lagoon (just finished a beautiful restoration project), lovely historic neighborhoods, and thousands of acres of open space in the parks along the ridgeline. Redwood forests and savanna grasslands await you, with fantastic views of the central valley to the east or the bay to the west.

Your professional chances are pretty good here, as well. There are federal and state agencies with offices here (although not as many as Sacramento), and the city governments are definitely hiring staff. San Francisco alone has 35,000 employees, after all.

I won't lie: the housing market sucks, and it's hella expensive to live here. But the weather's great, the food is awesome, there are plenty of interesting people to hang out with, and if you're an athlete there are far worse places to live.
posted by suelac at 10:41 AM on September 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

Chiming in with everyone else to say that natural beauty is one of the great things about the Bay Area in general, and Oakland in particular. If you have a car, you're basically never more than 20 minutes from someplace that looks like this.

One caveat on the diversity of the Bay Area and Oakland in particular though: while it's true that the city is very diverse, there's a shocking amount of social segregation, at least where African Americans are concerned. If you go out in Uptown on a Saturday night you'll see people of all races, but seeing mixed groups of friends is far less common.
posted by asterix at 11:26 AM on September 3, 2014

I spent 9 years in the bay area, and am now in Phoenix (for a few weeks visiting Mr. Nat, trying to get a meetup going..)

And yes, natural beauty is definitely present in Oakland. As are high housing prices (which I believe have gotten much worse in the 6 years since I've lived thereabouts). I agree with the idea of looking for a short term gig there to see how you like it, and maybe perusing craigslist to get a feel for the actual (ridiculous) cost of living.

I would also recommend considering a few other places- Colorado and New Mexico also have tons of natural beauty, and are more blue politically than Arizona. I grew up near Denver and I'd definitely say it's more diverse than Phoenix. It actually has winter, but a good portion of the Denver winter is brilliant sunny 50 or 60 degree days.
posted by nat at 11:55 AM on September 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Listen, if your options are being anything but straight, white, and male in Arizona or living in Oakland, take Oakland. I say that ignoring how awesome the cultural scene in the bay area is, how beautiful the coastline is, how amazing the mountains are, and how being surrounded by smart and interesting people makes it incredibly exciting to start your day.
posted by foodgeek at 12:16 PM on September 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

How you feel about Phoenix is how I feel about the East Bay. Every day I wake up and am surprised by how blessed I am to live here.

It's also amazed me how much of a difference it makes to be in a place with a few close friends already there. It makes it so much easier to meet new people, both because you meet their friends/get invited to their events, and also because the pressure is sort of off for making friends totally on your own.

The culture here is pretty amazing too: it's hard to describe, but the closest I can get is that there are critical masses of a bunch of different groups, and the only group that really has a majority is progressives, so people aren't really shocked by anything. This is so vastly different from my experience in places with a majority ethos where lightning swift judgment was imposed for stepping (or just being!) out of line. (Vignette to describe this: I wanted to telecommute more often in Chicago than I do here because I was expected to do some sort of conformist gender performance art every morning when I got dressed. Sometimes it was just too exhausting and disheartening to bear. Here, pretty much no one cares. So if I dress a particular way or actually do my makeup, I enjoy it because it's what I want and choose to do rather than having it foisted upon me.)

I also have heard (on good authority) that the job market for the type of field you are interested in is pretty strong here.

Finally, there was an undercurrent in your comment that resonated with me. (And I apologize in advance if I'm misreading or just projecting here.) It sounds like someone (an internal tape of someone from your past or an actual person) is telling you that you shouldn't do this: that you're "just running", or that if you were really a proper person you would be able to "make a go of it" where you are, or that you "should be settled by this age". It's all BS. Total BS. I got all of that same noise when I moved out here- I was expressly told by someone that I would fail and that they hoped I did fail. I prove them wrong every day. So can you. :) So you have one vote from me for crying it out all you need to, then drying those tears and starting to pack. It's awesome here.
posted by susiswimmer at 1:10 PM on September 3, 2014 [15 favorites]

The house and rent prices are no joke, but with good reason. I've lived in Oakland for a decade, in West Oakland, then by the lake, now in Longfellow. I've worked in SF the whole time, but I know that there is an enormous non-profit and public sector presence here and jobs seem plentiful.
posted by migurski at 4:25 PM on September 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

The natural beauty in an around Oakland is different than Phoenix, but there's plenty to look at and immerse yourself in. Oaklanders are cool to anyone who seems legit, and I think you could make friends here easily. There are tons of non-profits, too. Come check us out!
posted by oneirodynia at 10:30 PM on September 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Nthing that Oakland has amazing natural beauty, culture, heart, and diversity. I work in the field of gov't relations and public affairs, and can attest that there's a lot of job opportunities here -- the nonprofit sector is booming here (because nonprofits are priced out of SF, and it's close enough to Sacramento for occasional trips for state policy work -- I take the Capitol Corridor train 1/week and it's lovely).
posted by purplevelvet at 12:15 AM on September 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Thanks, everyone, for your answers. I talked all of this angst over with the man and we're trying to work some things out. One of the things I'd like to do is to find some of the "city-living activities" that I miss from being in a major metropolis and enjoying more of what I love so much about Arizona living. As a couple, we're going to do a better job of making time for one another. I'm also going to seek out some affinity groups (black women's book clubs, etc.) so I don't feel so entirely isolated here. Finally, I'm planning a trip to Oakland later this year and hope to get a better idea of what day-to-day living is like there. Thanks, again.
posted by nubianinthedesert at 9:07 AM on September 23, 2014

« Older Best tablet (or something else?) for academia...   |   How do I answer his question without giving away... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.