Just a few minutes ago I gave up washing some TV show about fishing and decided I should brush my teeth and head to bed. As I stood up I heard what sounded like a gust of wind outside. Oddly enough, that triggered my “you’re in a tent” feeling, the kind of feeling I would have when I would go out camping with the Boy Scouts in a tent or just sleeping under the stars (readas: the weather was nice and I was too tired to setup a tent). Perhaps my current living situation isn’t much different from camping out in the wilderness.
Sure, I’m in a significantly larger living space compared to a tent. I’m not living out of a backpack, nor do I have to sweep out the dirt / pine needles that might get tracked in on a regular basis, but I think if you take away some the details things are actually quite the same. Camping was always an experience where I’d leave my friends behind for a weekend and for all extensive purposes be off the grid. I’d go away for a weekend, my friends would presumably continue on doing whatever it was that they planned to do, and I would show up back at school on Monday morning and pretend to be up to speed on things. See, most of my friends had dropped out of Boy Scouts in Middle School and I never really considered myself close friends with many people in the scout troop. I didn’t mind being around any of them, but aside from saying “hi” in the hallway I didn’t really hang out or interact with them outside of scouting much. While I don’t think any of my friends have dropped out of the “go to California plan” (because no such plan has ever existed) it does feel very similar, I’m out here mostly alone (I say mostly because, like in scouts, I did managed to have one or two folks I was friendly with that accompanied me) and most of the folks I’ve been friendly with are back east carrying on life as usual.
An outpost may be a better way to describe my slightly longer term arrangement out here. I was probably “camping” during the first two weeks while I was living out of my suitcase but now that I’ve got some simple pieces of furniture I’m slightly more invested, not in the financial sense (I mean technically yes, but I don’t really care), but in the physical sense that I have a few items out here now. I could probably load my existence into a truck in an hour or so if I needed to abandon the outpost and quickly relocate. My possessions are really limited to things I need to survive without too much discomfort on a day to day basis. I’ve got a chair to sit in when I want to watch TV, a few small pieces of artwork on the wall so my eyes can focus on something that isn’t a computer screen all day, and just enough lights so it doesn’t have to be dark all the time in here. For some reason my fairly minimal setup at college really didn’t present this way to me, maybe that’s because I knew the defined start and end dates associated with things and could predefine my engagement as such.
Back in the day cowboys, missionaries, frontiersfolk (gotta be gender neutral), and others that setup outpost would write home to fill in their relatives and loved ones on the latest and greatest news and discoveries. This feels a bit like my weekly phone call with my parents on Sunday, where my dad lets me know that I’m looking good / healthy and my mom asks what the past week has been like. I don’t usually have anything particularly exciting to say, but I’ve always avoided any status reports that could come off as depressing / negative. It’s been a while since I’ve read letters home from folks that moved out west early on, but I suspect many of the painted similar pictures either to reinforce optimism, try and encourage others to join them, or even just to not appear to have made what can appear, at times, to be a mistake in the whole process.
Professionally I think I’m also on some sort of frontier as well, at least from the groups I hail from. Many of my peers find themselves working / living well withing a day’s drive of RPI and probably the same could be true about where they’ve grown up. I’m out here in “Silicon Valley” which is suppose to embody the bleeding edge of technology and innovation given the companies that call the area home. I think the wide spread adoption of the internet has greatly reduced this feeling associated with geographic locations; you can just as easily visit a website built out here as I can, but I get to see the billboards recruiting for the latest tech startup or using catchy technology slogans to try and promote products. Personally I enjoy Microsoft’s “Virtualization alone does not a cloud solution make” billboard.
I don’t know if I look forward to the Sunday drive home from being camping all weekend, when it was thoroughly relaxing to just take a shower and eat some food that I didn’t have to cook, or if I should be looking to a future where I start to scale up this outpost into something a bit more sustainable. Either way, I’ve already put the fire out for tonight (because if you sleep with a fire still going your tent could catch on fire and you never ever want that to happen) so I should get going to bed.
Good night moon.