I have written previously about my time in Silicon Valley, what took us out there, and why we left. But, this morning, I was ruminating about that first fall…right after the drive out. And I think about it often enough that it makes sense to put some thoughts here.
The great drive occurred at the end of August/beginning of September. I had left behind most of my stuff, so when I got to the apartment I picked out, I had like….heirlooms, electronics, clothes, and a blow up mattress. No furniture, no kitchen stuff.
So, for about a month and half, while I waited for my soon-to-be wife’s stuff to arrive I lived out of a suitcase and slept on an inflatable mattress.
When you move to a new place, it is always difficult to find an apartment. Chicago felt easier, cause I knew, generally, the part of town I was interesting in setting up shop. This time, I knew nothing about Silicon Valley. I knew I would be working in San Jose and my wife would be in Palo Alto, so I found a place to split the difference.
I picked the apartment I was living in about 4 months ago on a one day visit. After seeing a bunch of apartments I was not impressed with, I ended up picking it cause it seemed the quietest, easiest to get to, and not that expensive.
What I didn’t realize was the neighborhood was off…
It wasn’t a bad neighborhood by any stretch; it was just dead. Sometime around the .com boom, a bunch of real estate companies built all these little multi-office complexes. Our apartment complex was the only one in a few mile radius, surrounded by these complexes, which now sat either half occupied or totally abandoned. It was…a bit eerie. At night, no one would be around. You would walk out of the complex and it was just completely quiet. So quiet you could hear anything and everything.
Also, our apartment was way too small. My wife lives in a constant fear of being fired tomorrow, so she didn’t want to get a two bedroom apartment. So it was both of us in a one bedroom that was smaller than what I had in Chicago.
It also took me most of a full year to get my bearings. I think I wasn’t prepared for Silicon Valley to be a mix of traditional suburbs, bustling downtowns, and just miles of old shopping centers.
Distance. I think that’s the biggest thing. I thought I would take the public transit. The VTA. Turns out riding the light rail from my apartment to downtown San Jose took about 10x longer than just driving and parking in the big lots they have right outside of town. I’m talking a 10 min round trip commute vs. an hour and change to two hours on bad days.
I suppose that is the nature of suburbs, but it didn’t occur to me that Silicon Valley would be like that. Over the years, I found my good record store, good chinese food, etc. But they were all like 20 min drives in opposite directions.
A ton of that fall felt like holding patterns. We were waiting to hear back if my wife passed the bar. And that fear defined the fall. Fear of having to leave in a hurry if she didn’t pass. I feel like this is the subject of constant gossip among the new lawyers. Who passed who didn’t.
So, that fall was biding time. That was the time of twilight for her, and for me, still trying to figure out where I moved to.
I didn’t jive with my co workers. My only friend was all the way out on the coast. So, it was isolating. We had one trick or treater on halloween.
I remember a good portion of time trying to figure out how to get from place to place. The iphone had just come out, and I didn’t have a GPS in my car. So it was a ton of printed mapquest directions, and trying to figure out if a random restaurant was still there. Or a store or something. A ton of driving at night, trying to remember where my exit was.
That fall was extremely isolating. I wondered if that is what it was always going to be like out there.
Things started to pivot right before Thanksgiving. My wife found out she passed the bar. We actually switched apartments in the complex to a two bedroom that we got for dirt cheap. It had been sitting vacant for 4 years because it sat above a rec room people could rent out. Apparently there were noise complaints.
We ended up living in that apartment for close to 7 years. Never had a noise issue.
We started taking day trips. Meeting people out there. Socializing. All the things we weren’t doing in the fall.
I would say that period actually ended around our wedding, which was the next summer. It felt like we had friends, we had our spots. We knew the area better. What we liked, what we didn’t. It was becoming home.
I think about that fall at least once a season because I think it was one of the few times where an emotional place I was at actually locked into a season.
It was fall, and I felt like fall.
But, the seasons do in fact change. And you can change things to get to a better place. At least I did.
Have a happy fall everyone. Don’t let it bring you down. Its only castles burning.