I just gotta be MEEE!!!! Oh, but wait, who am I?
January 17, 2007 4:08 PM   Subscribe

Hello there Bay Area worker bees... care to help a girl trying to reinvent herself (yet again)? I need to find my niche here, but I feel a little lost sometimes. If I pour my heart out, can you share your local insights with me & maybe point me in some good new directions? I thank you profusely in advance for your help. There is much, much...

I may be opening up too much here, but nothing ventured nothing gained, right? Here goes...

I'm very much a native Southern Californian (my family came there in 1909, it's not my fault). I needed a change, so I jumped at the chance when I was recruited up here for work. It hasn't been as easy of a transition as I'd expected though. It almost feels like I need to learn entirely new social/professional skills because of the differences in culture. Also, unfortunately I've learned that some people here are almost hostile upon discovering I moved from Los Angeles. (My mechanic actually said to me: "We won't hold that against you. You're in God's country now...") I like who I am and I'm proud of my Southern California heritage so at first that bothered me: I'll confess I felt unnecessarily judged & a bit defensive. But now I'm just trying to get over it & find my happy niche. Sometimes I feel like I'm at a loss though, so this is why I am begging for advice from the hive mind.

I need advice in 3 areas:

1) RESURRECTING MY NIGHT JOB. As some of you know, I'm a professional singer, specializing in classic jazz vocals. In LA I performed regularly and when I got up here I was all gung ho to perform. Got involved in the Stanford Jazz Workshops at the Berkeley School of Jazz, but then I ran out of steam. The professional jazz/musician community didn't seem to be as strong or supportive of eachother here... so I got frustrated & lost my spirit a little because I felt out of my element, I guess. Other than sitting in or doing occasional jam sessions, in the last few years the only professional gigs I've had have been ones I commuted down South for. I've done nothing here, and I'm upset with myself for that. I live here and I need to get off my rear and get adjusted & find my niche. So I would love to hear suggestions of clubs or opportunities or even other musicians that you all think would be a good fit for what I do, because I miss collaborating with other musicians and being hired to entertain people. Desperately. When I'm not making music regularly, it's like a part of me is missing. It's something I've worked hard at and I love. I need to find my musical momentum again.

2) REINVENTING MY DAY JOB. I'm a graphic designer/art director with 15 years of very high profile experience (Disney, Mattel, children's books, been featured in HOW Magazine, etc.) & I want to expand my client base and get some really cool, fun, rewarding new projects going on this year. I still have some LA clients, but I want more local ones... otherwise, why am I here? Unfortunately, an awful lot of my client leads in SF have gone nowhere because people seem to be (and I could be wrong, but this has been my impression so far) MUCH flakier about follow through here than they are in Los Angeles. Also, I feel that some people just try to put me in my place because it says LA on my resume. (My portfolio is really tight, yet I've even had one person say "Your work is too LA, THIS is San Francisco" which came across as ridiculous because I've had clients nationwide.)

I've always been told I'm a pretty easy person to work with/for. I know what I'm doing have a reputation for creating top quality professional work & having good management & social skills. So how should I go about developing a great, high profile clientbase in SF for myself? Any suggestions on good tactics that work? Or places/people I should look into contacting?

3) JUMPSTARTING MY SOCIAL LIFE A BIT MORE. What's a good way/place here for a 30-something, single, creative woman (with a slight LA edge, yes, but in a good way) to meet quality potential friends that are cool and smart and funny? Right now most of my very best friends live hundreds or thousands of miles away... I need to start befriending more local people & inviting them into my life. (Oh, and replacing the ex-boyfriend-that-I-dated-for-6-years-too-long with a better model wouldn't be a bad consideration either, truth be told.)

Ok... end of my annoyingly lengthy novelette all about me me me. Please commence with the insightful advisin', my MeFi peeps! Help me find my SF comfort zones! I'm all ears. :)
posted by miss lynnster to Human Relations (19 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
... in the last few years the only professional gigs I've had have been ones I commuted down South for....

Wait, sorry, what? You've been in SF for years and you haven't found your niche yet? I feel like SF is one of those love it or hate it cities: within 6 months of moving in, you either think "YES!" and feel like you belong, or you don't. And you're right that there's way too much LA hostility, though I'm a little surprised you're still getting it in the professional context.

Anyway, the only concrete suggestions I have are in the social life category, and I was going to recommend checking out places in the Marina and Pac Heights; lots of young-ish Financial District types end up there at night, and it sounds like that might be your speed more than a Mission dive. But I feel like if you've lived in the city for years, you know all about this...
posted by rkent at 4:17 PM on January 17, 2007

Wow, feel like I could have written this - except my singing is nothing special.

I too am all ears, and am curious of the responses, especially regarding the SF angle... this is a tough town to break into.

Dropped you an email - I'm in a similar boat and would love to chat. As for advice, I'll let the wiser folks chime in...
posted by rmm at 4:20 PM on January 17, 2007

Response by poster: Well, part of the reason is that I was so busy with the day job that brought me here I just got immersed in it. And now I'll confess the other reason I haven't found my niche yet... I live about 18 minutes south of SF on the Peninsula. If I lived in the City I think it would be easier, but I feel more removed from the energy of the City & that makes it a little more challenging. After living 1/2 block off of Wilshire in LA for 10 years, my life is much quieter here than I'm used to.
posted by miss lynnster at 4:36 PM on January 17, 2007

Best answer: When I'm not making music regularly, it's like a part of me is missing.

I can't address the SF issues but this part I can, having set aside my passion for almost two years.

Do not do what I did. When you have a thing that powers your life unplugging from that drains energy from everything else. Do whatever is necessary to keep singing and watch it how that one simple act affects all the other areas of your life. Your business will improve, as will your social life because people are attracted to passionate people.
posted by trinity8-director at 4:48 PM on January 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

I moved here a few months ago from the midwest, and I understand your frustration. I tried a little bit of meetup.com, but that's very hit-or-miss. I'll be sticking close to this thread to see what others have to say.

Perhaps it's time to start a support group?
posted by idiotfactory at 4:51 PM on January 17, 2007

Don't have any answers for you miss lynnster, but that track was a nice surprise. A definite Julie London vibe. (and I always like your posts to the blue too)
posted by vronsky at 4:56 PM on January 17, 2007

You know, that bit about living on the Peninsula is not so great. I'm thinking if you want to get singing gigs you need to be going out, striking up conversations with bartenders and club owners and other musicians, passing out demo's, and generally networking. Much easier to do in the City, or even Berkeley or Oakland. Just South of SF is really a cultural dead zone, not to mention cold, wet, and drippy. It really makes a difference when you're actually in the thick of things, logistically and spiritually.
The above advice holds true for 2 and 3 as well- SF is very much a social networking scene in the sense that it's a small city without much stratification: someone knows a bartender who dates a landscaper who works with another gardener that dates a programmer that has a musician friend who's startup needs graphic work, &c. I wouldn't want to say that moving will solve all your problems, but it's something to consider.

sorry I haven't more specific advice, but at the mention of the North Peninsula I thought to myself "no wonder", without really having a concrete reason why that should make any difference.
posted by oneirodynia at 4:56 PM on January 17, 2007

Is there a reason you don't live in the city? I live on the peninsula and while I like it I also am not a creative-type re: singing or graphic arts and that is really where it all is happening. It has always seemed to me that it would be very hard to break into the SF city scene without living there. Would you consider moving?

As for the rest, I might be similar to you in the last one. If you want to hang out send me an email - I seem to be all about meeting new people this year (and it's only mid-Jan). Maybe there should be a support group.
posted by marylynn at 4:58 PM on January 17, 2007

Hey Miss Lynnster,

I'm no expert in your field.. but i'll offer what ideas come to mind.

First I have to agree with what trinity8-director said. If there is something in your life that gives you energy----DONT UNPLUG IT...

You probably already "know" that inside.. you are just trying to figure out HOW to "re-find" your niche in a new area. I'm not sure what advice I have besides this. If you arent finding the "scene" or group of jazzy people you want to be involved in---then why not create it?... start your own jazz-jam night/group/meetup..etc... (or move back to LA?.. (kidding... sort of)..

The whole LA/San Francisco bias/contempt thing----you're going to find that everywhere. Locals are protective (and feel alot of ownership of their locality)... I dont know what advice to give you there besides to let it roll off like water and just move beyond it. Dont let your geographic location define who you are.
posted by jmnugent at 5:03 PM on January 17, 2007

Response by poster: Yeah, I didn't want to Peninsula bash, but that's a big part of it. Thing is... I have a GREAT apartment here... just an incredible find. 1440 square feet for decent rent, complete with a full office and patio. If I gave this up, I'd be living somewhere not half as nice. So I keep thinking I just need to just be driving up north more & I don't know where to start...

Thanks for the compliments, vronsky. :)

And I know exactly what you mean, Trinity. That's EXACTLY how I feel. Even just posting my songs on MeFi music has felt good. When I go back to LA to visit & I'm in the music scene again, I just feel rejuvenated. But I don't know that I want to move back there...
posted by miss lynnster at 5:06 PM on January 17, 2007

If you're not in AIGA yet, why the heck not? Lots of graphic designers up here don't have the "LA sucks" mentality, mostly because a lot of them came from Pasadena. Drinking with graphic designers gets you connections and friends. As a writer, it's the only reason I'm in AIGA. All the beer/wine/cute little finger sandwiches. (I'm not going to Throb on Feb 8, or I'd drag you along with me.)

I've heard from many friends that freelancing here is a bear compared to other cities. It takes longer to track down and please clients supposedly. If you're willing to freelance within an agency, however, there seem to be plenty of places that are looking. (My work is, but I'm little to no help in networking, as I am a writer, not a CD.)

I can't help you on the singing. But it seems like every friend of a friend has music connections here, so I think socializing will help with that as well.

(From the tone of everyone, it sounds like we need a meet-up around here.)
posted by Gucky at 5:08 PM on January 17, 2007

Hate to chime in with the anti-Peninsula crowd but yeah, it's not great for people that need to build a social network. Moving to the City would help, for sure. I moved to SF when I was 30 (I'm 39 now) and it did take me a while to settle in but I was always living in the City - until recently when I moved to Oakland. Even so, my social life is the the City.

I actually never found the LA thing to be too bad. I'm from Chicago originally but lived in LA for 18 months before coming to San Francisco. Lots of people joke about LA but I've never thought it was any worse than how the LA people made fun of the SF people. It's just your basic territorial rivalry. People from Chicago make fun of people from Indiana. Just ignore all those sentiments.

One thing about SF is that there's a Group for nearly everything. Hit Craigslist and you'll find tons of people looking for other people to do stuff with. Sometimes it's organized groups activities, sometimes it's just someone looking for a someone else that's into co-housing/ferns/hang-gliding/poodles/ashtanga/silent films or whatever their thing is. Everyone has a *thing* here.

Find a class that might attract like-minded people. City College has really cheap classes and you don't have to be a SF resident.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 5:18 PM on January 17, 2007

Response by poster: I've gone to some AIGA stuff, as well as WADC. Historically, my contacts through design organizations haven't brought me more work. Last time I went to the Floating Happy Hour I did meet a few cool people, but there were only 4 or 5 people total who showed up so it was pretty empty.

Once I get some momentum going I know things will fall into place... it's getting off my ass & finding the right opportunities that's the trick I guess.

And escaping the Peninsulaaaaaa!
posted by miss lynnster at 5:19 PM on January 17, 2007

I would second the networking idea but for the music, too. If you want to sing, if you have to sing, you can find a way to do it. Ask everybody, put yourself out there, do more jam sessions with more people. Search craigslist, cold-call at venues, who knows? Do any of your LA connections know people in SF?

Use your passion for music to drive you to find a way to sing. Might need to be creative, is all. Try using the Creative Whack Pack to break out of the old ways of thinking.
posted by trinity8-director at 5:25 PM on January 17, 2007

I've lived in Southern California, San Francisco and Seattle. It is never easy to move, but once you do a couple of times, you figure out how to meet people like you. It's a skill and it takes time to learn.

Get roommates, volunteer, pick up a team sport. Don't go home... hang out in coffee shops. Go to the gym.

In SF, the level of "friend permiscuity" is high. My friends are your friends are his friends... whatever.

In Seattle, this is not how it works. You can't really break through to a group until you know one person really well who accepts you, then everything is cool.

I could never really figure out SD, that's why I left.
posted by |n$eCur3 at 6:55 PM on January 17, 2007

Response by poster: I grew up in San Diego so I never really had to figure it out but I heard the same thing from other people.

I think the thing here is that I just put so much effort in when I first got here that I just couldn't keep it up. I got worn out & then I stagnated. Thanks for all of the support, it's making me feel better about getting off my rear again. ;)
posted by miss lynnster at 7:22 PM on January 17, 2007

Best answer: You have to move. You have no peers on the peninsula. Live in a tiny little studio if you have to in SF - but you aren't going to meet friends or partners where you are. You are going to meet married women with children where you are. You will never drive into SF as much as you need to to be part of what's here. San Francisco is very big on neigborhoods - spend some time here and find the one you like and then move there. Now. Rents are going up - the sooner the better. Then - at night - go out. A lot. If in a year - you still haven't found your groove - go back to LA. What was said above is true - this place isn't for everyone - you like it or you don't - but to make that decision you have to give the city itself a chance.
posted by Wolfie at 7:59 PM on January 17, 2007

I think LA-bashing jokes/statements are the kinds of thing people say because they're the kinds of things that other people say, without really even thinking about it. That doesn't excuse the behavior, but I also don't think it's generally intended to make anyone feel inadequate. It's a very bad habit, IMO.

On the other hand, I think creative types in the Bay Area do tend to see themselves as existing on a kind of island oasis of novelty afloat in a vast sea of homogeneity. Whether or not this is a true is a pretty subjective judgment, but I think this perception is one of the reasons the Bay Area has some thriving avant-garde and/or underground scenes. Which is to say that as far as making music goes, you might make more contacts & find more opportunities if you venture a bit into some unfamiliar territory. E.g., for music, check out some of the events listed on Bay Improviser. Also, Burningman tends to be a love it or hate it (or both) kind of thing, but getting involved in various BM-related activities can help broaden one's social circle. For online social networking and event listing, you might also check out tribe.net.

FWIW, I second your impression about flakiness you've encountered in trying to pick up design work. One thing that occurs to me is that sincere artists & non-profits might be a bit less flaky. Of course, they may not have much (or any) money to pay you with, but it might be a way of getting some Bay Area clients on your resume.

I have to say that the title of your post -- I gotta be me, but who am I? -- suggests to me that you're far from alone here. I hear this notion echoed a lot among people I know (myself included).

Best of luck!
posted by treepour at 9:22 AM on January 18, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks treepour. The part that's been the hardest about all of this for me is... when I arrived here in SF I really knew who I was & I really liked myself, I was very secure in my identity & who people know me to be. But after moving here, it feels like I started to lose my identity little by little until I just didn't know how to feel anymore... if that makes sense. (Being a creative person is never easy because you're always trying to stretch yourself in new ways to begin with... such a neverending battle!)

FWIW, I did take this post very much to heart. Last night I went out and sat in with a band at a club I've never been to before & the owner was really interested in booking me. Not sure if I want to play there, but it was a good reminder that I could do anything I set my mind to. When I started singing, the audience really paid attention. And the guitarist was someone I met through the Stanford Jazz Workshops... but at first I didn't recognize him and when I walked onstage he hugged me and yelled out "She's a great singer!" so that really threw me. I was like "Who is this man hugging me? And how does he know if I can sing or not?" When I realized I DID know him, it made me feel really relaxed when I was performing, which was so nice.

Oh, AND I have asked all of my friends in the City to keep an eye out for apartments. I have really been putting off even thinking about moving, but honestly I think it IS something I need to do. Peninsula living is just really not the environment I need to be in. I need to have a lot more going on. A LOT. I don't make a good hermit.

Thank ALL of you for your thoughts and support!!!! Sincerely.
posted by miss lynnster at 2:26 PM on January 18, 2007

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