jeffwongdesign

T-minus 18 Hours

In 18 hours, I’ll be on a flight back to Maryland. I couldn’t say farewell to everyone in person, but hopefully they know that I wanted to stop by.

I was lucky enough to see Joe and Justin one last time yesterday evening. It was refreshing to spend time with old friends.

Some people asked me if it feels bittersweet. To be honest, I’m just bitter that I had to pay for a place that I couldn’t really use over the last year. I’m looking forward to not paying double for living expenses.

Even though it’s been 3 weeks, time has flown by. I’ve spent my time packing, cleaning, working, and prepping for tomorrow. The good news is that I was able to take back almost everything with me except a few items that hopefully my roommate (David) can find useful.

I’ll be checking in two luggages tomorrow, and I’ll take my bookbag with me on the plane. It’s going to be a long flight with a layover. But I’ve done it all before, so I’ve got it down to a science.

The only thing that remains is picking up my car from the transport sometime this coming week. Hopefully, it’s unscathed from its 3000 mile trek. At that point, it’s done.

I took a couple of photos as reminders of this place. I’ve never considered it home, but I’ll miss my people and the panoramic views.

For now, it’s time to order some food and enjoy one final dinner here. I was going to just heat up some canned food, but I think that’s a weak sauce way to wrap things up. The last meal needs to be special. I could go for some udon. Heh.

East coast for good?

It’s the question that I’ve been getting from all my friends recently on IG and FB. My stories have consisted of me packing up and prepping to head back to the east coast.

And the short answer is, yes.

I moved out to San Francisco in 2015, and it was kind of a big deal for me at the time. I sold all my stuff, quit my job (which was a really good one), and slept on couches in the Bay Area until I could find a place to rent. That included me flying back and forth between the coasts on a monthly basis.

In this time, I’ve grown and learned much more about the people and the space. I’m still working on stuff here, but it’s time to head back to the east coast and consolidate my time and money.

Last year (in Jan 2020), I signed a lease for another year in the Bay Area, and then COVID hit. Let’s just say it’s been expensive to be locked into it. The good news is that this is my last 5 days here. In fact, in just 1 more hour, it will be t-minus 4 days.

It seems that I’ve come back full circle, returning back to the east coast. Living In San Francisco has never felt like home. While things may have become more familiar, I don’t think I’ll ever miss the smell of urine in the city, homelessness, and tech-bros. I, however, will miss the immense views of the pacific coast, the endless winding roads, and the earthy smell of redwood forests. I will always keep those moments in my memories as I reminisce.

Some people have described this to me as an end of an era for me. I think it’s been more of a transition. To give you context, Annie and I have discussed this for the last two years—where did we want to ultimately be. I think it was important for us to be be near her family as well as mine as everyone gets older.

I would prefer working in person, but at this point in history, we all have to work remotely. This is one tide that I think I’ll have to ride, versus swim against.

As I think about the future, I need to make better investments with my time and money. I need to take care of my physical and mental health so that I can take care of those around me. Over the last year, I’ve had too much anxiety worrying about california, moving, my company, people, etc. I think 2021 I will be focusing a little more on myself, so that in turn, I can give back to others and my work. As I count down the days, I realize that it’s becoming real. This may be my last time in the Bay Area for a while. I’m sure the gravity will always pull me back here, but I think that it’s time to grow roots again, and ground myself somewhere so I can develop a routine and take care of myself.

7 Days Remaining

I’m sitting on a mattress on a floor, typing, legs crossed, with practically no lights other than the ambient light from my laptop and some christmas lights in a couple of jars on my window sill. It’s almost appropriate that I’m spending my last week almost in the same way that I originally came to california in 2015.

Minimal. Efficient. Thinking of the future.

This won’t be the last time I’m in the Bay Area, but I will no longer be signing a lease out here. And, frankly I’m pretty exhausted of travelling, moving, and thinking about where I’m going to live every year. It was a good run here, and I’m thankful for all the memories, the people, and the wonderous views of the pacific ocean.

Living here has felt like urban camping. As each year passed, I collected more creature comforts, but I realize I don’t need half the stuff I currently have to be happy. There is something beautiful about living minimally—though, at the extreme, it actually takes more energy (mentally and physically). As I packed up all my stuff over the last 2 weeks, I’ve carefully wrapped each thing one by one. I wasn’t able to fit everything in my car, but I’m okay with that.

I folded down the seats of my GTI, added a padded cloth and covered the sideboards and any exposed surfaces with bubble wrap. The largest Item in the lot was my electric bike, Hanah and Kevin helped me partially disassemble so that it could fit in the car.

I my folding desk, used aeron chair, folding chair, monitor, VR gear, kick scooters, and more… carefully squeezed into the car. It’s impressive how much you can fit inside these little hatchbacks.

I’ve opted to have my car shipped (via an enclosed transport) back to maryland. I hope that nothing gets damaged along the way. I’ve done my best to package and wrap things. I even added additional cardboard to help prevent any damage to the interior of the car if it gets jossled around during the trip back.

I took a bed cover to hide the contents inside. I really hope I can get this in the enclosed transport this week. While it’s in the garage right now, I constantly worry about my car being broken into. You may think I’m paranoid, but I know people who have had their bikes and things stolen from within private closed garages around here. No joke.

7 more days until I’m back on the east coast. But more importantly, I won’t have to pay for a lease over here or all the additional costs that come with it. There’s a part of me that wants to stay here, but financially, it doesn’t make sense.

Plus, there’s just something weird about the vibe in California right now. For example, as I was packing my car outside (the the garage door open), and an old woman walks by and asked me what day it was. I told her it was the 17th, to which she asked “what day was it… like thursday, friday?”. I was somewhat confused, but I told her it was sunday. I thought she was joking for a moment, but I could tell that she was serious and she had lost track of the days. I could see the stress lines on her cheek bones, and the tension in her shoulders as she walked. She really didn’t know what day it was.

I guess, I can empathize… but I know that by this time next week, I’ll be on the other coast enjoying a nice dinner with Annie and hanging out with the cats.

The Journey Back to the East Coast

Photo of my room in Daly City (2021)

As I write, I have a room filled with some boxes with things that needed to pack. Everything is organized into piles of: things I need, things I’d like to keep, and things that must go. Everything that I owned for the last 5 years in a single room. Without much context, one would think that it was a prison.

Over the last 5 years, I’ve been acquiring more stuff to help make my stay in the Bay Area more comfortable, but as I take a deep look at it, I realize that I’ve somehow managed to rationalize how I could live in a space that spans two arm lengths in every direction.

How does anyone live this way?

Photo of one of the rooms I stayed in Bernal Heights with 5 other roomates + dog + cat

This is my thought as I returned back to the bay area after living on the east coast for the last few months. While things are familiar here, I don’t want to get comfortable again killing myself–dealing with egomaniac-tech-bro-douchebag-CEO’s, uninspired mercenaries, and homelessness.

The price is too high, financially, physically and emotionally. And as I write this, I think of my friends that are doing the same thing in the Bay Area. I think about this bizarre priveledged struggle.

While there’s a mass exodus from SF, what people don’t know is that founders and early stage builders (like myself) have often sacrificed everything to come here… often promised to play in the “big leagues”, to have a lottery ticket to work on amazing projects, etc. And while that’s true, we bet so big that our financial, emotional and physical support system is dependent on our work. When times are up, it’s a piece of cake… but often times, it’s down.

Our work, our team, our mission is what gives us purpose. And as I look at the people around me, I wonder who their support system is when times are tough… not just on the big emotional dips… but on the daily.

Which begs on to ask, who exactly are the people that support us every day?

Temporary crashing at Joe’s living room after we shut down Flare for a month.

It’s the small things that matter… and it needs to come from our support system. Without that, I think we fall in a downward spiral. Given where things are, without a support system, we look to the internet and other communities. While I grew up on the internet, I would be lying that I didn’t have real friends and family.

I think if I signed another lease here, I’d be in a downward spiral–signing another year of my life away to so many uncertainties. At some point, one has to seriously consider if this kind of lifestyle is for younger people. It’s cliche, but time is so precious, and there are days I worry about how I’ve spent it. I’ve learned a lot and grown, but it’s time to invest back into my friends, family and comrades that have supported me over the years.

Finally getting a studio in 2015 for an obscene monthly price after downsizing my life.

But first, it’s time to move back to the east coast. I’ll still come back to the west coast, but under different conditions. The commitment is too high to relocate yet again. In some ways, there’s some silver lining in current events.

The irony is that COVID may have saved a part of me.

2020 Year End Wrap Up

It’s been a rough year for everyone. As I reflect on myself and our culture, I feel that it has brought out some of the best and worst of us. In a single word…

polarizing.

People have been dealing with the stress in different ways. In some ways, I see people becoming more impatient than ever, politics, road rage, consumerism… feeding into anxiety and depression.

Oddly, this has been mostly a good year for me, enabling me to find my identiy outside of work again. As odd as that sounds, I’ve been able to develop a passion for gardening, home improvement, playing with our cats and spending time with Annie. Ironically, COVID-19 times have taught me balance and it has forced me to look at life from a different light. I have learned to slow down a little and sideline some of my addictions (to learn and grow).

As I reflect on this year, I feel that I’m in a better place, personally. While there is still always stress and pressure, I’m in a mentally healthier place. There were some hurdles, but I’m happy to say those things are behind me. I am more optimistic and peaceful than I was. I still have a ways to go, but perhaps this has been a taste of the better life—the simple life.

There’s an old saying, “some people are so poor, they only have money”. I’m happy that I have many close friends, comrades, and family that have supported me throughout my rollercoaster years. My fortune is comprised of the people around me, and that ultimately enriches my life.

2020 has been a rough year, I’ve embraced it… focusing on my home in Maryland with Annie and spending time with the cats. It’s been a year of home improvements, learning about how to run a company, and finding happiness and an identity outside of work. I don’t have a very organized way of running through it all, but I’ll list them out in some bullet points like last time.

  • I got my aunt’s chinese water color painting framed and mounted in our dining room. It looks pretty traditional, but I think there’s something nice about reconnecting to our roots.
  • Starting to teach Taro how to communicate with buttons. He seems to have his own way of communication—he wipes his paw on things when he wants something (like to play or opening a door). It’s probably one of the most adorable things he does.
  • Started getting some furniture for the house. I’ve lived out of a suitcase for the last 5 years, it’s finally nice to have some real furniture to sit on. Our main pieces of furniture have been from Restoration Hardware. We’ve added a bunch of curtains in the house, and it’s helped elevate space.
  • I’ve started setting up the media room in the basement. I’ve used my old speakers I bought nearly a decade ago and set up a proper 5.1 audio for movies. I’ve also bi-amped my left/right B&W bookshelf speakers so they sound better for music. It’s crazy to think that I’ve let them sit around—never again.
  • My health is still about the same—I still need to eat healthier, but I’ve managed to keep a pescatarian diet. There have been some exceptions though when family or friends prepare a special meal.
  • I’ll be heading back to the west coast for a couple weeks to collect all my remaining things. I’ll have to figure out a way to ship back my car, bike, computer, etc. Paying for a lease on a place that I couldn’t use for a year was a financial black hole. I’m really looking forward to not paying extra.
  • I’ve prepared the garden beds for next year’s crop. This past year was a success, lasting all the way through october. I’m looking forward to planting more things this year.
  • I removed all the Cleome flowers from the front garden bed. I’m never growing them again. I think I’m going to focus on something more simple. This will require some planning.
  • After becoming CEO of Input, I’ve had to make a lot of changes. There’s too much to cover, but the long and short of it is that we needed to downsize and focus on product market fit. The biggest lessons learned: a) avoid mercenaries, b) firing people is expensive, c) when in doubt, focus on any effort that is mission critical to product market fit. It’s been a really rocky ride so far, but I’m grateful for the chance. And no matter what, I will grow from this. While our time is limited, at least I don’t have to deal with tech bros, alpha male egos, mercenaries, etc for the time being.
  • I’m still playing games with friends. Mostly COD.
  • I bought a microphone and video light, but I haven’t really created content. I think I want to create a channel… it’s just hard to pick a topic.
  • Taro, Pepper and Noodle (our cats) have been doing great. They’ve made every day a joy and keep us company on cloudy days.
  • My parents are still healthy, and it’s good to video chat with them more often now. I’m more aware that our quality time is limited, so I’m trying to reconnect as much as possible.

More updates coming soon.

Where to begin…

So much has happened over the last few months, and I’m not sure where to start this post. Let’s just outline the last couple of months in simple bullet points of what’s been going on over here:

  • Been on the east coast (in Maryland) since the beginning of March.
  • Converted the majority of the lights in the house to smart switches that are now controlled by voice with Google Home.
  • Installed two Nest security cameras to monitor our back yard and garage.
  • Installed two litter robots, which have saved a ton of time for Annie and me.
  • Installed 3 fans in the house.
  • Installed four 3’x6’x1′ garden beds, with drip irrigation.
  • Installed irrigation to the front of the house to water our potted plants.
  • Planted Cleome flowers to our front garden bed.
  • Added mulch to the tree and did a little landscaping.
  • Became CEO of Input.
  • Still paying for my apartment in San Francisco.
  • Unable to use my car, because it’s in San Francisco.
  • Upgraded my laptop to something that can actually do some heavy lifting.
  • Installed a professional mic to my workspace setup.
  • Starting to learn how to stream live.
  • Hooked up my Nikon Z6 to my computer to use as a web cam.
  • About to install pro lighting to my workspace, so it looks better for streaming and video calls.
  • Continued my diet—not eating beef, chicken, pork, etc.
  • Haven’t really lost much weight because I’ve been bad—eating too much fast food.
  • My parents visited me a few weeks ago and I caught up with them.
  • Been exploring Google Earth and putting together a bucket list of places I’d like to visit.
  • Helped some friends edit some video.
  • Started playing some games with friends and streaming to Twitch.
  • Spent more time hanging out with Annie and our cats.

I guess each one of these bullet points could have been a blog post, but it’s just so hard to sit down and write sometimes. We’re past the halfway mark of 2020, and I need to start to update my priorities.

I hope everyone has been well. I think times have been tough for everyone with all the changes that are happening in the world. If you need support, want to jam, play games, browse Google Earth, or just talk, I’m here for yall.