“It is a sign of great inner insecurity to be hostile to the unfamiliar.”—Anais Nin, 1949
I’ve been to San Francisco twice in my life. The first time I arrived was last year. I was awed, in wonder at this utopian landscape that filled my eyes. I clearly remember the bustling busied bodies, the spark of cables, and the crisp autumn air that felt so fresh in my lungs. I had been traveling through California for some months then. I left Phoenix, my home city, a year after graduating high school in early 2014, with one hundred dollars in my pocket and a backpack holding the only possessions I owned: a water jug, a change of clothes, a sleeping bag, art supplies, and a downsized book collection of five novels that lagged on my shoulders until finally only one would remain at a time. I left my mom and close friends behind to begin the journey that still wavers on today. In a way, I can identify my erratic behavior and wild-child instincts as a form of escapism from my youth, but in the same regard my motivation was clearly to have an adventure, to create my own definition of freedom and explore more of the world.
I found myself spending 2014 wandering through northern California working on ranches, mulching soil, gardening, and constructing sustainable water solutions to address the state’s drought. I wanted to fully indulge myself in nature, and be responsible for my own needs. During that time, I learned that availability of resources places very real boundaries on quality of living. For example, walking a mile every day to carry back a five-gallon jug from your closest water source quickly becomes a humbling experience. I swiftly figured out the importance of conservation as suddenly sponge baths and water to cook with became a luxury.
After my time spent in the north and a much needed shower stop in Eureka, I hitched down and over the Golden Gate Bridge for the first time. With all I had known of San Francisco before my first adventure here, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of invincibility, some sense of home within the vibrant energy the golden city holds. Yet, it’s only a year later in my second time back to San Francisco that I am now beginning to really know her hilled streets and transcendent demeanor. This past year of 2015 in-between my travels to San Francisco, I found myself in Los Angeles exploring open mics, crashing on couch after couch, surrounding myself with other thoughtful creatives, and participating in LA’s infamous music “scene,” hoping for some sort of euphoric moment as an artist. I was on a hunt for a creative purpose to fully indulge myself in and to strip away any sense of my being that wasn’t focused on that purpose. I can see now, a month after arriving to San Francisco once again, how imperative my time searching in Los Angeles was in leading me back here, this time perhaps a little wiser and better prepared, propelled into life on Haight Street.
The Haight Street community is a breed all its own within San Francisco; a melting pot of individuals that are comprised of travelers, residents, and police. These individuals are intertwined with some remembrance of the sixties. It’s here on the sidewalks and grassy hills of Golden Gate Park I can feel the upheaval that has plagued the community for decades. The recent shooting of Canadian backpacker Audrey Carey on October 3 of this year has served as a catalyst for further anger and miscommunication. It’s only natural for fear to rise within an environment where something so horrific has occurred, but in addition, the issue at hand is not just specifically the murder of Audrey Carey or the three young travelers allegedly responsible: It is the disconnection of this community that has created the environment for these acts to occur. So let’s discuss the real problems.
The community is not coexisting. Through anger, judgment and miscommunication, the community exists in separation but nonetheless still shares a close environment. We are habitually and de-evolutionally stuck in a tangled three-way relationship between the travelers, residents, and police. As a traveler and resident of the Golden Gate Park I can feel the strain in the air with every camping ticket passed out and every musician told to leave the sidewalk. Anger is being met with anger and in return causing a stigma surrounding all parts of the community, especially the homeless and specifically youth homeless population. We have lost a basic level of humanity in how we all are treating each other. The current use of harassment, exclusion and one-way judgment towards the houseless population is not only a crime against humanity and our rights of existence, but it is also an inefficient use of our community resources.
So what are our solutions? We should view this as an opportunity for individual and community growth. We are in a time in which we have the fortune to easily collaborate and build change in a positive way, to look beyond the short-term and the revolving old ideas, to brainstorm on a bigger picture and new solutions with more open-mindedness. I now plead to every Haight community member—police, travelers, and residents—my fellow people, to think about the issues at hand with a fresh perspective, communicate, say hello to someone you might not, ask questions, open your mind to things outside of your comfort zone. Most importantly, let’s begin to act more thoughtfully, compassionately, and respectfully to one another, and give every man the loving freedom to do the same.