Adventures in the Bay Area: The first six months

Exactly six months ago yesterday, I arrived at a little Airbnb in Danville California with one suitcase of clothes, another of shoes, a plastic tub containing cereal and granola, and a small backpack. I spent the first three weeks of my new life in the Bay Area living out of these containers, hauling the backpack to and from my new job in San Ramon at GE Digital. Each morning as I passed beneath the GE logo, stationed massive and blue above the front doors of the five-story building, I marveled, woozy, at the literal magnitude of what I had just leapt into: I had left my friends, family, and childhood home behind for what I had excitedly been referring to as a “hard reset” in the weeks prior to my move. And now it was real. And now it was hard.

Gulp.

Gulp.

I had been warned that this would happen on the day of my site visit by an affable-yet-frank young data scientist named Christina. “The six first months will be really tough,” she told me as we strolled along the Iron Horse Trail that ran behind the building, and I believed her. But my past six months had already been tough—my grandmother had died, my beloved cat had been killed by a coyote, my roommate and housing situation was a spectacular mess, and the stress had been completely wrecking my immune system—how much worse could it be to simply start over on a new adventure?

Okay, so I cried myself to sleep a couple times during those first couple weeks. Doubt and loneliness are powerful things. (So are cockroach infestations, as I’ve learned, and will discuss more later). But even though I only officially graduated from the so-called “really tough” period today, I’ve got to say that it hasn’t felt tough, or wrong, or scary, in a long time. This adventure has been immensely positive, healing, and exciting so far—even despite some hiccups (I’m looking at you, roaches). Let me share some highlights.

Life at the Big Blue Meatball

I did move down here for a job after all, so I might as well cover this bit first. As you may have seen me mention on social media, I’ve been met with a wonderful opportunity at GE: making the leap from Marketing into Product as a Technical Product Manager. The prospect of working in Product has fascinated me for a while—due in no small part to how interesting and badass the Product folks I’ve met all seem to be—as has the idea of becoming more technical and more directly involved with the software delivery process. GE took a big chance on me with this opportunity, and I’m studying like mad to rise to the task and make my team proud (power plants, Java, and Agile; oh my!).

I don’t mind this view from our office, either.

I don’t mind this view from our office, either.

I’m having an absolute blast learning new things and finding my footing as a member of a truly brilliant team of people. I love my weekend adventures, but I often catch myself getting excited about what I’ll get to work on in the office when Monday rolls around—crazy, huh? It’s a fantastic feeling, and I’m incredibly grateful for this chance to learn and grow at a company that really, truly, does world-changing things every day.

The wonders of regularly scheduled recreation (or, “does anyone need a spare mug?”)

Work is fun and all that, but after staring at screens and talking about technology all day, nothing feels better than unplugging the electronics and getting mud all over myself. That’s why I intentionally chose to live a five minute walk away from the Walnut Creek Ceramic Arts Studio, a lovely and astoundingly well-equipped clay studio where all of Walnut Creek’s artsiest and fartsiest retirees can go make beautiful vases and teapots while I sit in the corner and agonize over my lopsided progenies and wonder why every bowl I attempt to make somehow ends up turning into a mug.

You were supposed to be a salad bowl!

You were supposed to be a salad bowl!

I’m taking classes every Thursday, and visit the open studio for several more hours throughout each week. The “regularly scheduled recreation,” as I call it, does wonders for my mental health (and is slowly but surely causing my shelves at home to overflow with lumpy creations).

Old friends, new friends, tiny little creepy friends

I had exactly three “friends” in the Bay Area when I moved here, and I owe each of them my eternal gratitude for putting up with my needy and bewildered self for the first couple months of my bayventure. Among these is my friend Marina, who I’ve known since we were itty bitty Girl Scouts in first grade together, when we would clasp hands and sing “Make new friends, but keep the old / One is silver and the other’s gold / A circle is round, it has no end / That’s how long I want to be your friend” in our adorable little uniforms. The song, as goofy as it felt even then, actually totally nailed it. You rock, Marina. Here’s to more adventures.

*Whispers* I’m following you across state lines… You can’t escape me….

*Whispers* I’m following you across state lines… You can’t escape me….

It has been wonderful reconnecting with her and with many other folks from my past who I discovered now live in this area. But as that song from my Girl Scout days implored me, it’s important to make new friends too. And lucky for me, I’ve met lots of smart, interesting, and incredibly kind people here—from fellow GE Newbies met on first-day orientation, to my carpool buddy down the street, to my new adoptive aunties at the clay studio. These new friends have played a huge part in finding myself and settling in here in my new home. Thanks for the warm fuzzies, gang.

Not currently accepting roommate applications but thanks for asking.

Not currently accepting roommate applications but thanks for asking.

Oh yeah, and then there’s my “roommates.” Listen, next time any of you have to deal with a cockroach invasion in your otherwise adorable-and-lovely apartment, just buy this stuff. It works really well—too bad it took me two months and four exterminator visits to figure that much out. The good news is, when I see an insect dash across the floor at night, I’m so glad that it’s not a roach that I’ll enthusiastically smash it no matter how big the thing might be. Silver linings…?

Any excuse to quote Lord of the Rings

Turns out the Bay Area is a big ol’ area around a big ol’ bay, and there are tons of adventures to be had around here. Take my second weekend, for example, when I somehow ended up on a boat cruise in the middle of the bay watching the Super Bowl City fireworks show:

Is this what every weekend is like in San Francisco?

Is this what every weekend is like in San Francisco?

Or my most recent weekend, when I wandered through Golden Gate Park with some buddies on a quest for rare monsters in Pokémon Go, ending up on the warm sand of Ocean Beach:

Left: New Friend. Right: Old Friend. Not pictured: Pikachu.

Left: New Friend. Right: Old Friend. Not pictured: Pikachu.

And my god, I haven’t even had a chance yet to call back to that trail I mentioned in my second paragraph, which runs all the way from my office to one block away from my apartment and beyond, and which I try to carve out a few miles on every day, and which makes my jaw drop pretty much daily because it looks like this:

Screen Shot 2016-07-19 at 5.28.55 PM

Sure, there have been some twists and turns here and there (including but not limited to “The Tale Of The Spontaneous Ceiling Hole,” “The Tale Of Being Reminded That The Mission Is A Scary Place At 3 AM,” and “The Tale Of The Walnut Creek Dumpster Fire”). But there always are in life. And armed with an engaging job, a wonderful network of people, and more pottery on my shelves than any sane human needs, I feel ready to take what life throws at me next.

Now I’ve got to run to the studio to glaze some more mugs (mugs, mugs, why always mugs, Leah?!), so I’ll drop a Bilbo quote and skedaddle.

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say!

-J.R.R. Tolkein, The Fellowship of the Ring

I don’t know where this road might take me another six months down the line. But I’m quite glad for the adventures it’s led to so far.