Living In Silicon Valley: What's That Like?

What's that, you say? Wireless charging! SO. COOL. #thankyoustarbucks.

Skipping town this week has made me realize just how unique and special the area I have called home for the past four years can be. There's always been buzz about this 'Silicon Valley' place, this mystical land from which our iStuff and Facebook stalking and #nofilter's originate. I'm here today to give you a peek into this weird universe – although as a college student here, of course my perspective might be different from, say, that of a startup founder or CS professor or hip barista or sustainable living entrepreneur:

Firstly. The weather. It's perfect year-round – sunshine and smiles and cakes baked out of glitter and butterflies, straight up no exaggeration whatsoever. We're close to a hike in the redwoods or up a mountain if we so desire, or can also alternately beach it up in Half Moon Bay or Santa Cruz. If nature's not your gig, then there's always a day in San Francisco or San Jose, or small town charm in Sausalito. The possibilities are endless, as are our credit card statements every month because cost of living = soul sucking money vacuum.

Every single conversation includes a startup idea or two (hundred). In fact, every other person you know has interned at / founded / pitched a startup or five. The other half of the people you know are employees of tech giants like Facebook, Twitter, and Google, which FUN FACT all have spectacular and free cafeterias and snack stations and all things good and holy. Google also has bikes. Which people steal sometimes, and leave all over the place. Jealous. 

"Going to the store" is another way of saying "ordering from Google Express." The celebrities on campus are not the MVP of a gold-medal winning Olympic team or a Disney Channel actress, but Steve Jobs's son and Bill Gates's daughter. When discussing the implications of technology addiction, we're referring not to social media and iPads, but to virtual / augmented reality and The Next Big Thing. You have a minimum of four food delivery services on your smartphone, which you rotate based on who delivers from Chipotle, who's offering a promotion, and who could bring you toothpaste from Target. The only cars that rival Ubers and Lyfts ... are Teslas. Teslas everywhere.
If you have a formal interview out at a bank or really, any company, on the East Coast or Midwest or Normal City, USA and need to borrow a suit or dress shoes? SOL, my dear. Totally out of luck, because the only "professional wear" people have here are startup T-shirts, Yik Yak socks, and um ... jeans. When it gets real fancy. 

Grabbing gelato in (exorbitantly expensive) downtown Palo Alto? You might just run into Her Royal Highness, Marissa Mayer. Date night at the movie theatre in Mountain View? Mark Zuckerberg will very likely sit two seats down. Think he goes for the extra pumps of butter? Now you'll know!

People live and breathe TED Talks. Friends are often featured in Forbes or Business Insider, which can be pretty jarring the first time it happens because hello, were you not acting like an idiot two nights ago when you wanted to parkour your way to get chicken tenders? Secret geniuses, everyone, but often lacking common sense. It's probably because people converse so much in CS code, the brain waves got a bit ... disrupted.

Oh, disruptors. That's one heck of a buzzword. As is: design thinking, angel investors, VCs, and social innovation. These words are thrown about like confetti, and you'll definitely pick up on it if you grab a Mint Mojito coffee at Philz or a Tiger Spice Chai at Coupa Cafe, where many, many $$$$ meetings take place. Coupa is so important to Silicon Valley culture that it makes a split second cameo in the movie, The Social Network. So, Justin Timberlake status!

Checking your inbox can be a tricky process, because more often than not, you'll receive a long e-mail about this, that, or whatever new app someone developed, and they're begging you to 1) check out the beta site, and 2) perhaps be a part of a focus group? Coupa provided!

Indeed, this place is anything but normal. It's exciting, buzzing with energy, the breeding ground of young innovators who believe in changing the world ... aaaand, a population about to get a whole lot more lazy because so. many. delivery. apps.

But What You Don't See On Instagram Is...

A quick confession: I actually have not yet finished Yes Please! I tried to race through the fifty or so pages I had left before my ride to the airport arrived, but my eyes were like, hey quit it baby girl how 'bout we shut down for a snooze instead?

Anywho. I love this book! I love Amy Poehler! Even more than I thought I did! Amy is honest and frank and hilarious and this book is chock full of good advice, lessons learned, amusing antics, and resonant tidbits. I found myself thinking "she gets it, she GETS it, she really REALLY gets it" more than once.

My absolute passage was this: "Once [Rachel] Dratch and I played Michael Jackson and Elizabeth Taylor, respectively, in a sketch where we sat in a tree twenty feet in the air. I looked out over Studio 8H and for the millionth time laughed at my crazy life. Tina and I used to look at each other before "Update" and also laugh at our crazy lives. We would whisper, "We fooled them!" Sometimes I would pat her knee. One time I ran into Mick Jagger, Tom Petty, and Eric Idle in the hallway and I was legitimately mad that they were in my way, but the gratitude never left me."

This. We fooled them. It's three little words that have summed up more than one experience in my life (albeit slightly different from Amy's cooler version). I scribbled it down in my journal and also snapped a photo lest I forgot about it, God forbid:
But hey! Speaking of "fooling people," you wanna know something else? Those pictures up there are 100% staged. What you aren't able to see on Instagram {I'm not even posting this on Instagram, so by Instagram I mean Instagram / Pinterest / Facebook / Twitter / Perpetually Caroline} {and I'm sharing in the spirit of saying yes please to authenticity and all} is ...

// I didn't even read the damn book casually swinging about on a hammock, swayed by a light breeze and alit in the glow of the sunset. No sir-reeeeeee. (I read it in bed. By the heater. Because it was 65 degrees.)

// The book kept on falling on my face. One-handed photography is a PROFESSIONAL SPORT, y'all.

// I had to shave for this. But on second thought, please don't zoom in.

// Guess what the rest of my outfit consisted of? If you guessed real stylin' workout shorts and a business casual sweater, you guessed right! Top notch #OOTD right here.

// These sandals? Had to dig them out from the back of the closet, dust bunnies attached. The sole was unglued and flap flap flappin', the leather was frayed, and a new one is sitting in my Target online shopping cart.

// It was FREEZING. See goosebumps. (But please don't.)

// This photo op was planned for days. Seriously. In my mind, it was to take place on our cute little balcony and I was going to make a fancy schmancy (wine) glass of iced water with cut up citrus, but well, the balcony was locked and I was too cold to get ice.

// Things that were cropped out: recycling bins, red solo cups strewn all over the yard, condiments on the picnic tables left over from lunch, and a photo bombing squirrel. I would have kept him in, but he was way too smug so I thought I'd show him who's boss. Sorry buddy.

// Reading did NOT go down. Obviously, because I was writing this post and waiting for my burger delivery.

// # of shots taken of this scene: 9.

// I fell out of the hammock tossing and turning, trying to find an angle that would include the Cali-fabulous palm tree.

// What I wasn't doing that I was supposed to be doing while doing this: packing, cleaning, laundry, vacuuming, etcera etcera etcera.

// I then proceeded to repeat the whole thing with my burger, as such:


Finding Magic In The Mundane

Exactly a year ago, I was meandering the streets of Barcelona. It was a magical weekend of being tipsy off of gin & tonics and uncontrollable laughter {I might've walked into an elevator wall, oops}, and breathing in that gorgeous Catalan air made up of intermingling tapas and sangria and the romantic Spanish language. I was speechless upon seeing La Sagrada Familia and enthralled by Gaudi's masterpieces – some, a mere few steps around the corner from our hotel.

A week before that, we were fresh off of an adventurous St. Patrick's Day weekend in Dublin and seeing the expansive Cliffs of Moher after an exhausting seven-hour bus ride. Then, we drowned ourselves in afternoon tea and scones one final time in London before retreating back to Oxford for an infuriatingly stressful week of staying up way too late, scrambling to finish end-of-term essays, fueled by "intellectual vitality" and, really... the chips and cheese fried up in a food truck down the block that tasted so amazing only at 2 am. 

Right after Barcelona, my best friend and I took a train on a whim to spend a quick 24 hours in Paris – we feasted on fondue in Montmartre, shared macarons and crepes, and had to take the red-carpetted stairs right from the Champs Elysee entrance straight to our hotel room.

Not long after that, I came home to Stanford for a very go, go, go quarter that began with surprising my roommate and culminated in road-tripping the Pacific Coast Highway down to LA and an internship that had me in New York City living in the East Village and working at 30 Rockefeller. As if all of that wasn't a dream already, my sister and I decided to pop on over to China for a week in September to see our family and "relax." Because thirteen hour flights are so relaxing.
2014 was absolutely extraordinary. And in so many ways, it was exactly that – extraordinary. It was the outlier of a year. And so far, in 2015, it's been a bit of a struggle coming to terms with that. When I'm watching my eighth FRIENDS episode in a row in the dead of night and Netflix is cruelly prompting me "Are you still watching?," it's hard not to let my mind wander back to "last year this time, I was...!!! Oh how the mighty have fallen!"

It's not that I'm not thrilled to be where I am now. I am. I could never not be thrilled to be here in sunny Stanford with my best friends in the passenger's seat. It's just ... different. It's finding happiness in the mundane day-to-day life. It's being content – more than content – in treating myself one too many times (to foot reflexology and new skirts and acai bowls and artisan ice cream and Chipotle bowl(s)(s)(s)) and in the unintentionally hilarious quips courtesy of my friends and in getting all comfy just to watch The Mindy Project. 

I realized something as I was watching FRIENDS (a good thing too, or else it'd be wayyyyy too many hours of my life gone down the drain) – it is ten seasons' worth of peeks into mundanity. I mean, sure they go to London at one point and Las Vegas and the Bahamas, but 9/10s of the show is simply the six friends in an apartment or in a coffee shop, having a great time and laughing all the dang while. Sometimes the ordinary can be even more exceptional than the extraordinary, y'know?

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