Moved to the Suburban Jungle

by syaffolee

For those of you who have not been following my Twitter feed, I have recently moved from San Diego to the San Francisco Bay Area. I had been doing some intensive job searching the past six months or so–primarily because I knew that I really needed to get out of academia. I’m sure I could have done okay in it if I were in the right environment and working with the right people, but that’s really hard to find. Besides, I was really tired of the long hours, getting paid peanuts, and the unrealistic expectations which I’ve seen driven more than one person crazy.

To be honest, I was mostly tired of getting paid peanuts. I know my worth. And for the amount of skilled work I do–which is in the service of science and the betterment of human health–I knew I shouldn’t be paid less than some secretary who occasionally fiddled around with spreadsheets on a bad day. So I decided to go to the “dark side”, a.k.a. industry. I mean, sure, it’s not completely altruistic and as I’m finding out, there are other sorts of challenges I have to face. But at least now, I’m not employed by people who are deathly allergic to weekends and I’m getting paid enough to cover my rent and maybe have some savings left over.

Anyways, work at the new place is interesting so far. I probably will say very little about it (if any) seeing that I’m in R&D and have signed all these confidentiality forms. So I guess I’ll just leave it as an exercise to the reader to imagine what I’m doing.

Moving is always an interesting proposition. For most of my adult life, I have either lived out in the middle of nowhere or in cities. I swore that I would never go back to suburbia. Yet here I am, in suburbia. And yes, in some aspects, it’s as horrifying as one might imagine it to be. I lived in the suburbs while I was growing up, and I really did not like the upwardly mobile snootiness that went with it. Mostly because I stuck out like a sore thumb.

I still feel like I stick out like a sore thumb. Not because of how I look or dress–as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to camouflage myself better–but my way of looking at things. The advantage now, of course, is that I’m not as stuck in suburbia as I was when I was a kid without a driver’s license and no access to public transportation. I can easily go into the city without much trouble or even drive into the wilderness (with a little bit of planning) if I wanted to.

To be fair, though, not all suburbs are quite the same. Here, there’s an added layer of the tech world to contend with–the assumption that if you’re going to fit in, you’re going to have to show off your smarts, ambition, and newly acquired bling. You go to some place like Target in order to get toilet paper and laundry detergent and you find soccer moms on every aisle, chatting to people about their high-powered jobs at some startup while juggling their kids’ extracurriculars.

I mean, of course I want to do well career-wise. But I don’t particularly want my ambition to bleed into every other aspect of my life. I guess that’s where the philosophies of the average suburbanite and mine diverge. I don’t want my life choices to be driven by the need for status or succeeding in the yuppie rat race. I just want to avoid the bullshit and do whatever I find that’s both practical and fun.

(I’m also trying to aim for minimalism which is the complete opposite of the obsession with stuff people around here seem to have, but that’s a topic for another blog post…)