I'm finding myself spending more time searching rental and home listings in other parts of the country. Finding myself is such a passive phrase, as if it's not me doing it, but it truly feels like it's just...what I do when I'm bored or restless. I daydream about being somewhere else.
I haven't been journaling the way I used to years ago in, well, years. So in a quick "catching up with things" rundown, I've been out here in the San Francisco Bay Area since 2002, and living in Santa Clara since 2010. I moved to Santa Clara for a job with Nokia in Sunnyvale when they moved their offices there. On the first day their offices were open, I was laid off, with about half my team.
I bounced around between other technical jobs, and grew to loathe working with code. Especially bad code, but to some degree, code, period. I hate to trivialize real PTSD, but I think it truly broke me in some small but noticeable way. To this day I fall into frothy screamy lunatic moments when my computers do something I don't expect or want in a way that just didn't happen five years ago. I know I've always had a short temper, but this is much more oh my god, listen to yourself, what the fuck is wrong with you kind of irrational rage.
In 2014, I lucked into a terrific startup, RethinkDB, not as a coder but as a technical writer. I loved the people, genuinely liked the product (as you can guess, a database), liked the commute (25 minutes to or from the office on a bad day, usually under 20), was paid really well. It was as close to a dream job as I suspect I'll ever have unless I go into business for myself.
So naturally, that couldn't last. They spent all of 2016 trying to get more VC funding and finally threw in the towel in September.
I'm employed again, at a company in San Francisco that's...nice enough, I guess, but I have issues with them that I might get into in another post.
The truth is that 2016 was already a bad year for me, emotionally. I can't say why with absolute certainty, but my mom had a serious health scare in late 2015--I spent months kicking myself for not dropping everything and flying out to be with her while she recovered from surgery--and a series of house troubles in early 2016 which ended up seriously throwing me into flux, because it seemed that the theoretical Some day you will move back to Florida to take care of your aging mom was nigh.
Now, there are things I still like about Florida, and I think some of the urban areas I used to visit have gotten, well, more urban in the last decade. Hipsters are starting to spring up and, setting aside concerns about gentrification for the moment, that means non-retiree culture is starting to spring up. (Also setting aside how uncomfortably close to retirement age I'm getting.)
But all other things being equal, Florida just--isn't high on my list of places to live anymore. I don't like the climate, I don't like the bugs (seriously), I don't like the politics. It's cheap compared to where I am now, but that's not a useful metric.
So I spend my free time looking at other cities.
Portland or Seattle--that's where techies flee the Bay Area to, right? Staying in state, Sacramento is beautiful and has a thriving craft food scene. And there's Eugene, Oregon, kind of a lower-cost, small town version of Portland. An artist friend who used to work at RethinkDB--she did my Twitter icon--suggested Santa Fe. Honestly, Albequerque has pretty areas, despite what "Breaking Bad" may make you think. For that matter, if we're thinking desert oasis, there's Las Vegas.
I know this is silly. I still expect to move in with my mom, wherever she is, and that's almost guaranteed to be somewhere around Tampa. (She's looked at moving away from the rural area she's been in for the last thirty years, but I have my doubts she'll commit.) Putting it that way makes it sound like something I'm dreading, but--it's complicated. I love my mom and want to be with her in her twilight; I just wish there was a way for us to move into The Perfect Town For Both Of Us, whatever the hell that would be, into separate side-by-side houses, or two sides of a duplex or something. So I'm right there, but still have my own space.
But I can't make that happen.
I hate moving. All things being equal, bluntly, I'd rather stay here. So, for the foreseeable future, I am. But my salary is about 15% lower than it was at RethinkDB. Commuting to San Francisco is about a two-hour process each way, when all is said and done. I only have to do that two days a week now, thank God, but between the costs for commuting that incurs anyway and the cost for buying my own lunches when I'm working at home, I'm spending a couple thousand dollars more a year to go to the job that isn't paying me as much. And the rents here are getting so, so high; I'm pretty sure we're paying about 50% more on this lease than we were on the one we signed in 2010, and I would be (perversely) pleasantly surprised if there's merely a 5% increase when we're asked to renew in a couple months.
So I wait. I wait to see what happens with this job, what happens with my mother, what happens with the Bay Area, what happens with my friends. And I daydream about towns I'm not going to move to.