I try to visit my cousins down in South Bay every few weeks. I feel immensely fortunate to have such a support system nearby, especially with a view like this:
But the liking extends much further. There is an unsung peace and calm that comes from being away from the city. I grew up in Saint Louis (which I have likely aggressively touted if we’ve met), where weekends were comprised of car rides to Schnucks for $2 12-packs of eggs, spacious, open parking lots, and a certain communal friendliness. Evenings were spent on long walks at Queeny before getting Molcajete Mixto from Charro (my favorite dish!). I’d play around on our piano at home before sitting out to read on the patio. The same routine applies most times I revisit home, and I love it.
When I lived right outside DC post-undergrad, it gave off a similar serenity. I lived right next to a beautiful park where I went on morning runs, had close friends and a partner within a few blocks, and a spacious, multistory townhouse (for under $1600/m 🙃). I was there for the majority of Covid, and while I don’t know if I fully appreciated the affordances at that time, there is a subtle calm nostalgia that comes with thinking back.
I had always planned to move back out to San Francisco, and while I had an idea of how things would play out, the city life was a bit of a wake-up call! The city has clearly been through a bit of change post-pandemic, and the setting has also induced some rapid feelings of ‘next’ - at that time, Retool was still fairly early in operations, and there was always more to be built out. But in a city that is a machine of new tech and innovation, the feelings of ‘that next step up’ ring true. In a time when I couldn’t imagine another company to be at, a handful of folks from my team were leaving to start their own companies. I wondered what I was missing and whether that was expected as the next step. That thinking, even if not explicitly present in the day-to-day, reverberated across the city (and still does). It’s what makes Silicon Valley Silicon Valley.
But getting away continues to serve and provide the necessary reset after a few weeks-months in the city. The feeling that there isn’t some place to be or task to complete. The ability to actually have multiple rooms to walk around in. A neighborhood and a local chain restaurant nearby. As simple as it sounds, I’ve found it do wonders to my mind space.
I do imagine I’ll be in a large city for at least the near term (including my upcoming move to New York), but I’ve gotten more honest with myself about my own needs and physical/mental space to operate.
I love the suburbs. There are limiting factors of being a bit removed from the action, especially early in one’s career. But there’s a wonderful feeling that comes with being in a house in a tucked-away neighborhood.
Of course, the grass is always greener. Beauty in the balance.