For several years now, my friends have heard me get on my soapbox and sound off about how worried I am about the insane levels of income disparity in the Bay Area. There’s no sign of it stopping. Widespread gentrification. Google buses getting egged. The endless stream of Teslas commuting up and down the peninsula. There are so many obscene signs of Silicon Valley excess that I’ve had serious conversations with people about what we will do when class warfare breaks out. My hubby has our bug-out bag ready.
With my frequent trips to Hawai’i, I’ve been thinking a lot about how all the tech wealth would affect the islands. The obvious sign, of course is land ownership. When Larry Ellison bought Lāna’i it was just kinda weird. But a few months ago when Mark Zuckerberg bought 700 acres on Kaua’i, I got a serious shot of fear. Clearly, the techies are going to buy out my state. My husband and I started looking into how much a small plot of land on the Big Island would cost us. We want to grab our parcel before it’s all gone!
It was he that pointed it out to me:
Aren’t we part of the techie invasion too?
Neither of us are engineers or entrepreneurs, so we won’t ever be crazy rich without a Lotto ticket, but we’ve definitely spent the last 10 years living a comfortable life thanks to the tech economy. We were extremely fortunate to have bought our house in 2008, right when the market was heading south. Neither of us were affected by the crash, job-wise. And thanks to Obama, we simply sat back and watched our equity rise with the tech-fueled recovery. Sheltered, lucky, techie bastards… Yes, that we are.
But I’ve always worked for nonprofits!
(h/t Nisha) This was my mantra to convince myself that I’m not one of them. I’m the staunch defender of the greater good. Don’t put me in the same class as those capitalist beasts! But recently I’ve been having a number of conversations that gave me serious pause. It wasn’t about wealth. It was about work.
Over the past few months, as I’ve been building this little consulting business of mine, I’ve told “my story” countless times. Whether it’s meeting new people or reconnecting with former colleagues, I am constantly hitting the rewind button and picking and choosing moments to play on the highlight reel. It’s never exactly the same, but one topic that almost always comes up is the difference in work cultures between the Bay Area and Hawai’i, and how I’m currently figuring out how to navigate this space.
There are little things – like opening my emails with “Aloha” and closing with “Mahalo,” and getting back into the habit of using ‘okinas and kahakōs. But there are many other things that have shown me how steeped in Silicon Valley work culture I’ve become. Since my move to the Bay Area — even in my nonprofit world — there have been expectations of long hours, quick decisions and being reasonably reachable at all times. When I find myself being impatient about something, I can only think to myself:
Who the heck am I?
I don’t expect to resolve any of this any time soon. I just thought I’d share how confused I’ve become. Clearly I’m somewhere between both worlds. I love hanging out with the easy-going, “normal” people whenever I’m in the Bay Area, and I love hanging out with the movers and shakers whenever I’m in Hawai’i. As my business settles in to a routine, it will probably be anchored in one or both of these communities.
Til then, I’ll just navigate the space carefully and keep my mouth shut whenever I’m feeling impatient. Laulau anyone?