screen top

A not-so-brief update about my move to Denver from the San Francisco Bay Area between July and October.

Okay, so not-so-brief status update:

You probably know I drove to Denver from San Francisco in July with a car-load of things I need to live and work on a day-to-day-basis. I stayed with my cousin Stacy for about a month and a half. In early August, I had to retrieve a huge sectional sofa, California king mattress, squat rack, and exercise equipment from Fairplay, CO (about 2 hours southwest of Denver), where Adam and I had driven it in a huge trailer back in July 2019, thinking we would need it in our future home there. So much for that. But it all went into Stacy's apartment for the time being.

I started looking for a place to live in the Denver area in late August. I realized that the time I needed to find a suitable house (in the mountains with a mountain view, to say nothing of liking the house and property itself) wouldn't work for how long I could impose on Stacy's generosity, and I decided that I would rent an apartment/house that felt "nice enough", using the lease term to validate that my romanticized ideas about Denver/Colorado are accurate and also to execute a proper housing search. I ended up finding a place pretty quickly, and because of some logistics, I signed a lease on an apartment in Denver that started on September 15. I moved my things (including that bulky furniture) from Stacy's the following week, and I borrowed the few things I need to live in my own place, like kitchen equipment.

I still regard California as my primary residence: I maintain a physical mailing address (not just a box!), and I pay California taxes. I spent most of 2020 in California anyway, and Amazon is having us work "from home" until June 2021, to say nothing of my role being inherently remote since October 2019 because my team is based in Seattle and distributed across numerous states. 2021 is going to be weird from an accounting/tax perspective, but I'll sort that out later: For now I'm thinking of it as follows: As I ride out COVID-19, I'm spending time in Denver; we'll see what the future holds in terms of permanent residence. But I do hope to make Colorado my permanent home.

Back to the main story: I immediately started planning (agonizing?) over how to get my disaster of a storage unit in Sunnyvale, CA over to Denver. The storage unit was 10' wide x 20' deep x 10' tall, and even though it was "stuffed to the gills", I knew that there was a LOT I could get rid of: sell, donate, trash. These are things that I "accidentally" acquired from roommates in the course of various move-outs from housing situations over the course of almost-10 years in the Bay Area, and which I had zero sentimental attachment to (if even any memories of at all).

I originally thought I was going to hire full-service movers to get my things to Denver. They usually need 2 weeks' lead time and then take up to 3 weeks to deliver. So on the outside, that's about 5 weeks before I could get my stuff. I figured it would be less stressful to have someone else move my things...except that my storage unit was lots of flimsy boxes and random crap thrown in in a haste whenever I needed to get things in and out of there. Let me tell you: I was really kicking myself for not organizing it while I was still living in the Bay Area, like Adam had been encouraging me to do for 2 years. So I couldn't even estimate the cubic footage for movers to get a quotation. Would I need to fly to Sunnyvale, organize the storage unit, estimate the quantity of things, then hire the movers? 5 weeks was turning into 7 weeks before I would get my things to Denver. And then there was all the negotiating and playing movers against one another for pricing and uncertainty about their reliability/trustworthiness. I HATE negotiating.

So I wasn't sure what I was going to do. I knew that in any event, I had to get back to Sunnyvale and deal with my storage unit. So one step at a time. I figured I'd do that and go from there. So after a lot of consternation about logistics and utter crap from Avis around my pickup truck rental (which is a whole story unto itself), I flew to SJC on October 1 and stayed at a $26/night Airbnb that was a partitioned off section of a living room in a house with lots of other Airbnb rooms. This is what I imagine a hostel might be like. But it was fine; I just needed a place to sleep that was 5 minutes away from my storage unit, and I couldn't stay with my aunt and uncle in Los Altos Hills because COVID-19. (Oh, yeah, did I mention that I also had two carloads of boxes in their garage? Sigh.)

Provisionally, I planned to fly back to Denver on Sunday, October 11 with a few pieces of checked luggage of more immediately needed items. I figured I wouldn't be able to get movers to come get things from my storage unit before then, so I would likely have to fly back again or allow them to move my things without me. (Yikes!)

As I was packing, I realized that loading and unloading a truck wouldn't be too bad, given how efficiently I was packing everything. So I "reserved" a 26-foot U-Haul truck for Friday, October 9. Meanwhile, I packed all my stuff into 80 (yes, 80!) of those 27-gallon black-and-yellow heavy-duty storage bins. I was left with only a dozen or two items that were too big (but still very light) to move, plus about a dozen items of furniture.

At this point, you might ask yourself why the hell I need 80 bins of stuff. Can't I Marie Kondo that shit? Well, let me tell you: I did. Scrupulously. See, the thing about me is that fuckin' everything sparks joy. It was an extremely stressful time for me, and at the same time, I lost count of how many times over the week+ I would open a box of memorabilia and cry tears of joy, reminiscing about something from my childhood. (By the end, 59 of those bins were all going into storage in Denver...) I think this has something to do with my being an Enneagram 4 ("4s see beauty in everything", maybe?), but who knows.

Then things get rougher: I pulled an all-nighter at my storage unit between Monday the 5th and Tuesday. On Tuesday, exhausted and nearly delirious and not having eaten for 15 hours (while awake!), having just returned from a drive up to SF for my dental hygienist appointment (which is what I organized the whole CA trip around and then was also late for!) and trying to drop stuff off at the dump (only to find out they wanted to charge me $50 to drop off a single bin of recycling), I had a call with my manager at work. For about a month or so, we'd been talking about how there's sudden scrutiny by senior leadership in our org in terms of product management, and since historically, there hasn't been a product manager on the tech docs team, some eyebrow were being raised about my being there. The context is that a year ago, as a result of a reorg, senior leadership (different players, though) decided to put me on this team, without even consulting me. (It was definitely the right decision: It was an amazing fit in terms of expertise and experience and passion, and I found I absolutely loved my manager, who's the most supportive and compassionate manager I've ever had.) So now, my manager--who really values me and my contributions to the team (and regularly gives me glowing feedback)--was recommending that as a matter of prudence and because of organizational uncertainty, I ought to start looking at internal transfer opportunities. I felt dejected and demoralized. I cried in the shower. It was hard for me to see in that moment that there were a lot of independent reasons that was a good idea: my growth and ability to achieve great things in my current role are limited, not by my ambition, but by bureaucratic constraints. I should be clear: I love tech docs; it's in my blood. And more, I love this team. And while I think the argument for "tech docs is a product" and my being the product manager for it is very straightforward and shouldn't be controversial, to say nothing of the specific, huge value I have created and am pursuing, this is not the first time in my career that I've been a, writing on the wall, yeah, time to make sure I've got options. Boy, there's a lot more to be said about this, but that's also a story for a different time. Suffice it to say that, without any effort on my part, a colleague who holds me in high esteem reached out to me on Wednesday about a potential opportunity, which seems like a really great fit along numerous dimensions, so I'm not too worried about landing on my feet.

So then, on the morning of Thursday, October 8, U-Haul called me to tell me that they have no 26-foot trucks within 300 miles (and I later found out it was in California at all). I felt like I was in that episode of Seinfeld about how a reservation is apparently not a reservation. I went into a bit of a panic, but I had to rush off to my therapy appointment. That was 2.5 hours long. Then I spent over an hour getting preliminary estimates and quotations from full-service movers again--I felt like I didn't have an option. After about 24 hours of agony and exploring lots of creative options, I realized that even though it would be $2000 more, I ought to rent the last 26-foot truck in California from Penske. $2000 was well worth the cost of eliminating my anxiety and getting my stuff 5 weeks sooner. I picked up the truck from San Leandro later that day on Friday and started loading bins.

On Saturday, October 10, my friend Daniel helped me move my piano, couch, desk, and a few other items into the truck, after I'd gotten all 80 bins and most of the other furniture in.

And on Sunday, my dad flew up from Los Angeles to drive the truck with me. By then, I'd mostly finished loading the truck, and he helped secure all the furniture. We hit the road in the afternoon and made it as far as Reno by Sunday night.

By Monday night, we'd made it to Wyoming. Tuesday morning, we made it to my apartment in Denver and unloaded everything that was going into the apartment. (I had the foresight when I was labeling all the bins to color-code them with an indication of whether they were going into my apartment or into storage, and I put all the to-storage bins in the back of the truck...front?...well, you get it...the logical place.) My dad was an amazing help, and I'm super grateful to him.

On Tuesday, he even continued unloading and shuttling things into my apartment while I took several hours of work calls. We miraculously found a place to park the truck overnight. The next morning, we drove it to the storage unit 30 minutes away ($70/month for a 10' x 7.5' unit, compared to $600/month for a 10' x 20' unit in Sunnyvale!). We swiftly unloaded it, as I organized the storage unit super efficiently, and returned the truck. I had originally thought to just unload everything into my apartment and deal with the storage unit in a different phase (since I didn't necessarily need a moving truck for those items), but holy crap am I glad I didn't need to do a round trip up to and down from my apartment with 59 of those bins! So getting the storage unit sorted was absolute gravy. I couldn't believe I was done; I couldn't have done it without my dad's help.

Wow. It's true what they say: Moving really is one of the most stressful things in life. But one other lesson I learned is that, as much as I once told myself, after hiring movers for the first time in 2015, that I would never move myself again, I found that being in control of the packing, loading, and unloading was way less stressful for these items and my logistics. I can only imagine how stressed out I would have been trying to explain the logistics to movers and then agonizing over the amount of time I was paying them for moving bins. I'm sure I'll use movers again in the future for certain moves, but I definitely don't have a blanket policy or even disposition about that anymore.