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My Six Year Vacation



Well it's about that time, eh chaps?

Nearly six years ago, I sat in a crammed van with my parents driving my entire life 3,000 miles west across I-80 from Michigan to California. All I remember thinking was, what the hell am I doing? After living my whole life in Grosse Pointe, I decided I wanted to move as far away as possible from GP for college. And so I did...alllll the way to California.

So now it's six years later, and I'm readying my exodus from The Golden State, packing a shipping cube and driving to my new life in Seattle. How's Cali treated me? Well, it has been quite an experience and that's what I wanted to chat about today.

California has definitely changed me. I went west a quiet, shy, unadventurous computer geek and came back an outgoing engineer (who's still a geek lol) that loves to bike, hike, volunteer and explore the world.


Who the hell is this guy? And what's with the long hair? I'd never in a million years guess I would've changed this much, but I'm very thankful for it and for the most part have CA to thank for it. So what do I have to say about California? A lot.

My four years at Cal Poly alone changed me drastically. The California culture melded with my midwestern charm, creating a weird hybrid that is my personality. I spent the first two years being told I had an accent, and now I can hear the difference between my voice and my mom's when she says "box". I learned about the civil war brewing between the North and the South (sections of California, that is) and how ridiculous it sounded. Now, I'm a true NorCal kinda guy (sry Brian, I'm a Norkie :-P) and I've loved it! Oh, and In-N-Out is awesome (props to Mike for rushing me up to A-Town ASAP when he found out I never tried one) and I will definitely miss it in Seattle.  Maybe Dick's can take its place?


To all my Poly friends: you're awesome, I wish you the best, and be sure to keep in touch!

Let me say that this state has to be one of the most beautiful places in the world. The parks are gorgeous, and I've thuroughly enjoyed hiking through them. Yosemite was probably the most beautiful park I've ever been to, and it was only three hours from my house! Heck, just having sun all the time has been nice, although I do get bored of it sometimes lol. I'm not a beach goer, so it's not as big a deal to me, but it's a plus. Roadtripping has been a blast too.


Driving up the PCH, cruising through the redwoods, and even battling traffic in LA, they have all been experiences. I've explored cities from Leggett to Laguna Beach and a few more on top of that. I've covered a lot, but I'm not sure if I could ever cover it all lol.

The people are also extremely friendly.


Strange at times (sorry guys!), but friendly. I think it has something to do with all that sun, it makes people always smile. It's true what they say about long Michigan winters, they can kinda get you in the dumps when it's cloudy for days on end. Everybody I've met has always said "Hello" and given me help when needed. Two weeks ago, I fell off my bike at a red light (it happens) and a guy in a truck next to me asked if I needed help.

Going from the fattest city in America to probably one of the healthiest spots was also a switch. Of course, I've always been one of those skinny guys that everybody hates because I can eat whatever I want, but still. It's nice to see people exercising and trying to eat right. I know I've definitely started exercising more and eating better since moving here; it's infectious. I'm sure the weather has something to do with it too; those winter months in MI can be tough. Shoot, I bike 30 miles roundtrip to work now, that's nuts! I've always been a biker, but even when I started small with my 5 mile ride to Poly I thought I was crazy. Now it's like no big deal.


One of the biggest impacts of California on my life has been its dedication to sustainability and the environment. I have both the state and Braun to thank for getting me more into “bring green” and I am forever grateful. I hope I can continue to make an impact in the Evergreen State with my research, my career, and my everyday life. I wouldn't go as far to say I've become a hippie (I think they'd be offended). Rather, I've become more environmentally conscious, one who believes in little changes that are needed to make a big difference in protecting our planet.

So why move away? It all sounds so great. Well, like I said, it's been a vacation. I mean, going to California or Florida or South Carolina was always a real treat as a kid. Even though I've lived here six damn years, I still don't call myself a Californian. When people ask, "Where are you from?" I always say, "Oh, well I'm originally from Detroit and now I live here in California." It took me a while to figure out why I do this. Why I have never truely adopted this state as my home. Like a vacation, it's great at first, relaxing, a new adventure. However, after a good stay there (in my case, probably around the 5 year mark), I'm ready to ship out. Now, I'm not saying I want to move back home to the D (don't worry mom and dad), but I'm ready to continue trying new things and searching for my home.

I'm tired; that's all there is to it. California is a crazy place, and after six years of trying to fit in, I need a vacation (at my new home haha), at least that's how I see it. The traffic everywhere, and some of the drivers, man! They're called blinkers people! And don't even get me started on the people merging across four lanes and exiting lol. I love being liberal, but all the antics in the state government get a little ridiculous and everytime I check the paper, we're out of money. I've never been into politics, but I mean come on, an IOU for my tax refund, really? People are nice, but it's hard to nail many of them down. We live the land where “people are flakes” as my good friend puts it. That's not very pleasant if you're an ISTJ like me haha.

I'll be honest: most of this I can deal with. Hell, I'm sure I'll run into this sorta stuff wherever I live. However, based on six years of solid research as a guy, I'm pretty sure I'd never meet someone in CA. I'll admit it, I'm a bit rough with signals, flirting, relationships, dating, etc, no question. But, I have yet to meet someone I think I could be in a stable relationship with. Well, there's been a few girls, but usually they're already in relationships, and I'm sorry, but I'm not the type of guy to go around splitting up couples. Many people have background stories and drama I just rather not deal with. I'd like to meet someone who listens, someone who is willing to put forth the effort to make things work. Sounds weird coming from a guy huh? Well, believe me, I've run into plenty of situations where I'm stuck trying to make things work and I'm tired of it; if that's your game, “Check, please!”

Those who know me know that I've never really been into the whole online dating thing. I'm not boycotting it or anything, I've always wanted to meet someone the old fashioned way. Well, I've changed my mind. If I don't meet anyone during grad school, and who knows what will happen up there, then I promise I will try online dating. That's my pact, you all have it in writing. I'm not really hot to trot on the whole dating/relationship thing; I love being a lone ranger. I just figured I'm so sluggish that I might as well force myself to get the ball rolling lol and put it in the plan.

There you have it, that is major force driving out of the state; that's what might keep me from coming back. California is an awesome place to be young and on the go, but I think for my future's sake, another state might be a better fit for me. Yes, I'm still young and yes I'm still exploring, but I can see the writing on the wall and I think it's time to leave and keep looking.

My past two years in San Jose have only reenforced my desire to leave. Although it's probably a much better fit than the craziness of SF, the sprawling family towns of Silicon Valley are not the best match for me. I love the variety of food and culture in the South Bay, not to mention the easy access to hiking/biking and all the latest tech I could want. It's the little things: sitting in lines of traffic, dragging my ass up to the city to have fun, getting honked at and swiped by drivers on my bike, staring at the orange street lights that paint the streets an eerie color at night. Not to mention that “Man Jose” isn't helping my odds either.

I moved back to SJ to work at Hitachi, and although I will forever be thankful to Steve and Roger for getting me the job when the economy tanked, I have to admit that it wasn't the best fit for me and I'm ready to move on. I will miss the SoC team, along with trips to the Korean BBQ, Juicy Burger, Chavez Super, and even the fun club (the snack room for all ur non-HGSTers, nothing shady lol). No, I'm not probably cut out for a startup writing apps or software, but maybe a smaller company, one that is working on something that I am passionate about, like the environment or volunteer work...


Ah, SVV, that has been my one saving grace in San Jose. Volunteering with Avni, Aravind, Denise, Jose, Lesley, Melisa, Michelle, Shailendra and all the volunteers has been a blast and I thank you guys! I was getting a bit stir-crazy in SJ by early 2010 and thank God I found our Meetup group. It's been so much fun working with so many great people doing something that before that point, I had almost no experience with. I'm totally honest when I say I will miss you all and I hope to start up a new volunteer Meetup in Seattle. Volunteering has been an eye-opening experience and I hope to continue helping those who have needs. Oh, and I'll totally be Skyping SVV meetings when I can :-)

So Seattle...what's up with that? Well, I've visited only twice, but both times I loved it. Touring was a blast, the city reminds me a lot more of back east. However, the hills give it a bit of a SF feel, which is great because I've always wanted to live in SF, although I realize now that I'm probably not cut out for it. Crusing the neighborhoods, I got a real feel for the city, and I liked what I saw. Not to mention UW is an awesome school. There's a view of Mt. Rainer from the quad right next to the EE building. Crazy! Oh, and no surprise, but everything (food, transit, houses, etc...) is so cheap compared to Cali. I loved the real estate agents I called:

Agent: “Well sir, now rentals in the city [Seattle] are a bit pricier than the rest...”
Me: “I'm from California.”
Agent: “Oh! Well no problem then, you'll love the cheaper rents!”

“Do you know it rains in Seattle?” YES, and I'm looking forward to it haha. For the record, it doesn't rain as much as people say it does. Sunny all 5 days last March when I went. Weather in CA is boring; too much sun, if that's possible. I miss seasons, snow, and even tornados. No, I'm not crazy, I just like a little variety. It does rain more often and there's a (small) possibility that it will even snow. Of course, SEA shuts down when it snows, but so does SoCal when it rains lol. It's also much greener; the brown, grassy eastern foothills of the Bay are not my fav.  This might affect my exercising a (tiny) bit, but that's what the rollers are for :-)

Seattle also seems to be with it when it comes to many of the things I love about California. They're friendly, healthy, liberal, and green. Not to mention all the opportunities for biking and hiking, I can't wait! I'm all about the west coast lifestyle, but I figured it's time to try moving a little north and checking out the PacNW. I've spent the past two years getting into the whole coffee shop thing too (fine, Chai tea) so I can't wait to check out all the indie places Seattle has to offer. There probably aren't as many awesome sandwich shops as the Bay, but hey, at least they have Jimmy Johns lol! Sure, the Frys is now 30 minutes away instead of five, but I can deal. Oh, and I guess I'll need to take up listening to grunge too :-P

Grad school has always been on the periphery of my mind since graduating in '09. I applied for three years straight, and finally I made the call this year. That and my GRE was about to expire. My goal has always been a masters. Yes, I am an academic (insert Tami laughing about my GPA here) and I'm sure I could be a PhD student, but I think I'm cut out more for the working world. I am excited to teach and do research, and who knows, the option's always there, maybe someday I could be Dr. Staniszewski (God, that would be weird!) For now, however, I am sticking to my two years of graduate work and we'll see how it goes from there.

My one regret about undergrad was not cutting back on the studying to go nuts once and a while in the "Happiest Place in America". Too much time spent behind a book and not enough exploring and being a college student. That's why I have vowed to not revert to my bookworm self when I go to UW. I hope to have a lot of fun in grad school, both learning things and researching fields I'm actually interested in (rather than doing busywork) and I hope to have a good time in Seattle while doing it. I'm sure I'll be swamped with work, but I hope it's work I'll enjoy and that I can take with me to a coffee shop (there's only 10,000 or so of those in Seattle lol) Tami, I'm counting on you to help me out!

So...after grad school, what's next? Oh, who knows lol. I'm using grad school as a two year trial period in Washington. All my residency stuff will still be California.  Afterwords, I need to make a call, and so far I'm riding on 3 separate plans (after all, I'm Stan the Man with the Master Plan :-) Either:

1) Stay in Seattle
2) Move back to the Bay Area
3) Move back to Detroit

Both 1) and 2) are in the realm of possiblity, although I have to muster up the strength to put my effort into making 2) work again. This time round, I'd live anywhere but SJ, most likely north of Mountain View. Peninsula? SF? Marin? I don't know, but I will not live in San Jose again.

Yea 3) is a little out there, but I'm considering it. Of course, there still aren't any jobs really for me in Motown. If I moved back to Detroit, I'd definitely start up my own business, maybe in downtown somewhere in the shell of a former auto factory. The incentives are there, the labor is there. All I need is an idea. And in order for that to happen I need time. Hmm...time, where the hell will I find that haha? I don't know, I hope to come up with some cool new cleantech idea that I could work on from the D. Shoot, maybe it won't even be related to engineering. There's a lot of people moving into downtown and I'd think it'd be badass (to use my new catchphrase) to be a part of the revitalization of the city.

What's in the future plan? Well, of course like most people, I'd like to be able to live comfortably someday and meet someone. I don't want to be rich; I just want to be happy. I'm definitely not ready to settle for a while, but I do want a house someday, you know, to putz around with? I stood in Home Depot a week ago watching all the happy couples buying stuff for their DIY projects. Is it weird that I want a place to mess with more than a girlfriend? I like to mess with stuff, that's how I am. This all comes after my barage of traveling and then finding a place to stay of course. Maybe that city is Seattle...I don't know. All I know is that right now I want to travel as much as I can and I will find my city someday.  In the meantime, I'll keep running on hope.

I do feel bad about moving away because I have met so many wonderful people.

[Insert friends list here]

I feel like with leaving Michigan, once I meet good friends, I seem to run away. Granted, I've only done a big move like this once before, but still, I basically uprooted myself, and although I had a blast and met all sorts of new people and ran into many new situations, it was hard to let everyone in Michigan go. Why would I have to do that? I didn't, you're right, and I don't need to do it when I leave California either. I'm just reallllllly BAD at keeping in touch. I know it. You know it. The world knows it. So please, all my Cali friends (along w/ everyone not living in Seattle lol), make sure I keep in touch. Harass me, email me, fb me, Skype me, I don't care, just make sure I stay on the ball. I know I tend to do it, and I'll try my best to not fall back on old habits, but I could use your help. I'd love to hear from ya at all hours!

To everyone, I wish you the best of luck in all your adventures. Keep safe, have a good time, try new things. I'll keep you posted as I meander 1,200 miles up the west coast and on life in the Emerald City. Drop me a note, stop on by and keep on reading...



-StM

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