Do you regularly use terms such as “orthogonal,” “social graph,” “big data,” and “escape velocity” during meetings? Do your out of town friends and family look confused when you say things like, “let’s take this offline,” “I’ll ping you later,” and “we need to pivot”? When terms such as “SoLoMo” (social, local, mobile) flow regularly from your lips, you know you’ve got to live among normal people for a while.
Silicon Valley is known for its plethora of startups that do everything from delivering groceries at all hours to finding you a parking space. Need a dog walker? There’s an app for that. Need someone to wash, iron, fold, and color code your undies in your drawers? There’s an app for that. You know it’s time to take a break when you realize that your smartphone takes better care of you than your mom ever did.
Do your eyes glaze over if the person sitting next to you at a party isn’t working at Google, Facebook, Uber, or the next hot startup that just got funding? Are you ducking into the bathroom with your smartphone to look up people you just met in order to make sure they’re actually worth talking to?
Do you make it a point to tell people how “swamped” you are when they ask how things are going? Do you purposefully show up late to a meeting just so you can say “sorry, I’ve got back to backs all day”? When you find yourself checking your phone for an “important message” just to appear busy during lunch with someone, you know it’s time to get out of town.
Find yourself emailing a colleague who sits in shouting distance? Prefer to Gchat with your manager rather than walk down the hall to see her? The idea of talking to people face to face probably stresses you out, and that’s weird.
Is your typical lunchtime dilemma deciding between the lobsters, charred pork belly, masala dosas, and miso ramen at the various free cafes on your company campus? Do you believe that Odwalla drinks, Pop Chips, Red Vines, and Larabars magically appear whenever you want them? Has it been years since you made your own sandwich or packed leftovers in Tupperware? Let it be known that a usual everyday life doesn’t involve a free all-you-can-eat buffet.
Do you find yourself estranged from your sister because she’s not on Instagram? Did you miss your best friend from childhood’s wedding because he didn’t post the invite on Facebook? When you know more about what’s going on with a person you’ve never met but follow on Twitter, than you do your own family members, you know it’s time to leave your social media obsessed world.
You may have no choice but to pay some of the highest rents in the world in order to live and work in Silicon Valley. But, just for fun, go on Craigslist and see what $3k/month can get you in Portland, Austin, New Orleans, or Minneapolis. True, your Silicon Valley job isn’t in any of those places. But then again, these cities are also developing their own startup cultures. Right now, you might think it’s normal to spend your entire six-figure income on rent — but it’s actually not.
Yeah, Silicon Valley’s got that wonderful casual vibe going on. But can you even remember the last time you wore panty hose? I mean, Mark Zuckerberg wore a hoodie to his meeting with Wall Street investors.
When the extraordinary becomes mundane, it’s probably time to leave. Find a place with no internet connectivity. Leave behind your Apple watch, Fitbit device, or Tesla car. Rest your smartphone. Buy your own groceries, make your own meals and do your own laundry. When you get back to Silicon Valley, you may actually have a greater appreciation for all the magic and innovation that happens there. And who knows, you may even come back with a new startup idea.