So I Guess I Went North for the Winter


So despite the fact that a textbook I read for a history class compared the “nationalism” of California to that of a community with nation status, no one I know from home stayed in California for college. I come from Oakland CA, the Bay Area, a fifteen-minute BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) ride from downtown San Francisco. Everyone I know who lives in that area, including my mother, who is from New York, and my friend, who is from China, loves the Bay Area with their whole soul, which makes it confusing why we would choose to leave. My personal theory is that all of us know we’re coming back. When people go to college, they might want to see how they like it and then decide where to live, but everyone I know is going to live in the Bay Area. They might visit other places or work in other places, but they will live in the Bay. Because the Bay is home.

So we all left. In preparation for this, my school librarian hosted a “how to dress for the winter” informational session during lunchtime after college acceptances had come out. It was widely attended. Said librarian, who is from Boulder, Colorado, instructed us in the use of hats, scarves, and gloves, items that I basically knew existed, but had never voluntarily owned. I’m still adjusting to the city, asking my roommate from Connecticut whether this is scarf weather. And today, fed up with the idea of “socks,” I elected to walk to the dining hall in flip flops. My feet got wet and cold and I slipped a few times, but I made it. The Californian has survived.

Besides the weather, there are other adjustments to make when coming from the West Coast to the East Coast. The East Coast is old blood, colonial revolutionary blood. That means the East has traditions. Standards. The West has none of that. I have friends whose family came over in the gold rush. They were opportunists looking for a “get rich quick” scheme.

If there’s one way I can sum up the Bay Area’s culture it’s this: the Bay hates formality. Anything you can do to take it away is good. Calling your teachers by surnames seems a little much, let’s go with first names, or even nicknames. Not being able to swear in class? Let’s get rid of that one too. We didn’t graduate in a cap and gown. We could wear whatever we want and some of the kids wore caps, some wore gowns, some wore both and some wore neither. We looked about as coordinated as a jamboree class. As a high school student, I spend some time on the Berkeley campus. Everyone on the Berkeley campus is wearing sweatpants, sweatshirts and flip flops. And because the temperature never gets below 50 or above 80, they look like this year round. This all conspired to mean that when I walked into my 8 am first year math lecture to see people in heels and makeup, I was confused. I looked down at my own legging-clad legs, shrugged, and went to sit down. My personal overture towards both coasts is the “leggings and heels” look, which gets across comfort without sacrificing too much dignity, though it’s very uncomfortable if you’re late to class.

My first impression of New York was that it’s a city of people going places on their way to other places. People in California are busy too, but they stand still for a second, sit down for a meal. New Yorkers are going to meetings on the way to their other meetings.

By Abigail McManus

Abigail McManus, a first year linguistics major, is interested in all things words and stories. In her abundant free time, she writes and thinks about language, as well as practicing Jiu Jistu and Karate. She is from the San Francisco Bay Area and she’ll tell you about it if you let her. 

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