Don't Shake the Flask

Because you don't know if it'll explode

Tag: moving

Moved to the Suburban Jungle

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…)

Moving In, Sorta

I don’t know why I’m up at this atrociously early hour in the morning typing this up. All I want to do is to sleep in. I really haven’t had much sleep for the past month as I was prepping, packing, and moving to San Diego. Well, actually I do. I’m waiting for the property manager to drop by so he can secure the water heater in case of earthquakes.

Moving, I suspect, can make or break a person. Sure, I’ve talked to my parents on the phone to get their advice on things, but this is the first time I’ve done this big of a move by myself. (I did most of the move from Idaho to Montana myself as well, but that was a relatively simple four hour drive away. And my dad did visit to help me find an apartment…) My cousin lives here, at least, but she’s a pretty busy person and the only thing I can count on her for is to be stuck by needles as she’s a voodoo priestess…er…I mean acupuncturist.

A word of advice on apartment hunting in San Diego (or probably any large growing city)–be prepared for fierce competition from other potential renters. I guess I’ve been spoiled by living in small towns the past decade where you could see an apartment and then at your leisure, go back a day or two later and ask more questions. Here, it pays to be a bit aggressive because apartments can go off the market in hours. But don’t look desperate and take the first thing that comes along. I managed to nab a pretty nice apartment for a reasonable price (for the city). The only downside is that I will have to commute. However, even with all the gas and driving, I’ll still save money because the rents for apartments closer to work are almost twice as much.

This was also the first time I bought a car myself as well without anyone else tagging along. I think it helps to have a mindset that is not impulsive and not be dead set on a particular car even though you’ve done your homework and already have one in mind. And as for aggressive sales people, say “I need to think about that” and “No” frequently. Keep your poker face. The thing is, America has a kazillion cars. Even on a very limited budget, you can afford to be picky. Unlike apartments, there’s always supply.

As for the DMV, everyone recommends making the online appointment. But that’s only good if you can go two weeks (or later!) after you make that appointment. If you need stuff done as soon as possible, take the whole morning (or better, the whole day) off and go to the DMV two to three hours before it opens and wait. (And if you’re really prepared, take a folding chair. And maybe something to read. Personally, I passed the time by cramming for the driver’s written test.) Make sure you also look up the opening hours and possible unexpected closures online so you don’t get caught off guard. And above all, be zen. The San Diego DMV is nothing like the DMV in rural Montana. In Montana, you can just saunter in a little after opening hours and there’ll probably be only three or four people ahead of you.

The traffic here, as far as I can tell, is never good. It’s just either stuck or not stuck. Once the movers get here with my stuff (and my dedicated mp3 player), I’m going to load in podcasts and audiobooks to make the drive more amusing. If anyone’s gotten this far into this post, let me know your suggestions for podcasts and audiobooks! I’m pretty omnivorous on podcasts, but the narrator for an audiobook has to be pretty good for it to work for me.

And as for work, well, my co-workers seem like nice people. But I think they’re nuts for thinking they can have any meaningful scientific meetings with the boss on Saturdays. I have no problem meeting up with the boss to discuss science. I also have no problem going into lab on weekends to do an important experiment. But meetings? Weekdays only, please.