The Good and Bad of Living All Over the United States

An experience I wouldn’t trade…but…

It’s hard.

I just want to get that out in the open right away. If you come back here on Friday, I’m posting a video I made about handling the stress of moving your family.

Photo by Belle Co on Pexels.com

You can probably guess some of the good things though.

  • Living in a new area
  • Making new friends
  • Experiencing new parts of American culture
  • Traveling to places you may not have otherwise

Honestly, as a kid who was born and raised in California, I never thought that I’d live in states like Maryland, Pennsylvania, or Tennessee. If I hadn’t met my wife (from the east coast) I woudnt have spent as much time as I have in other states like Florida or New Jersey.

One of my favorite things about actually living around the US, is getting to learn about the different values that people have.

We are an incredibly diverse nation made up of almost countless experiences and backgrounds.

I love it!

California

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Right on dude!

In California, the vibe is different. The people and policies tend to be more liberal (for both better and worse in my opinion), health and wellness feels more front and center, and culturally it feels more like a melting pot with heavy influences of that surfer/outdoorsy vibe mixed with vibrant mexican culture.

I love California and I loved growing up there.

I miss it often…but honestly…I’m glad I don’t have to raise my kids there nowadays. There are things that are creeping in to the public school system that I am not a fan of. (I’ll leave it at that)

I wish I could give my family the same “live outside” lifestyle I had growing up in the Golden State…but I’ll make due.

Tennessee

Photo by Trisha Downing on Unsplash

Ya’ll come back now!

I had college room mates that were from Tennessee and Alabama and all I learned about the south was the accent and country music that I didn’t quite understand.

However, once I lived there, I started to get it. There really is a sense of southern hospitality that permeates through daily interactions with other people. You will hear sir and ma’am much more often than on the west coast, local food is more focused on flavor than “being organic” (southern bbq anyone?), and the summers are crazy hot…and humid.

Living in Tennessee was the first time I ever lived somewhere that I noticed the strong demographic differences of the locals. No getting around it…where I lived was primarily black and white. Not many other races or ethnicities to be found. (not in large numbers anyways)

This surprised me the most. I always thought that living in California I was used to the melting pot that is central and southern cali. However, living in the south was the first time I ever noticed it…and not (in my experience) in a negative way…I just noticed it. I’m not sure how else to put it.

Oh…and on Sundays…nothing is open before noon. It’s smack in the middle of the Bible Belt there. This was something I actually appreciated.

There was definitely a sense of pride amongst the friends I made that were from the area…they lived in Tennessee and they were proud of it!

Maryland

Photo by Robert Zunikoff on Unsplash

Rugby, sailing, and crab cakes.

My college years were spent in Maryland so I wouldn’t say I experienced it as much as if I was working and living there.

However, I can say it felt very “New England” for lack of a more succinct descriptor. This was my first time living anywhere with 4 distinct seasons…which for a Cali kid…was quite novel. It felt like the people who lived there either worked in Washington D.C., were wealthier people who owned a sailboat, or were locals who had a local crabbing license that was passed down through 3 generations of their family. (those are apparently very hard to get)

Being such a small state, my friends and I were often on short road trips to other colleges that promised a party and cheap alcohol (like many college kids). And there seemed to be A LOT of good colleges in the reigon.

Overall, I would say that if sailing and seafood are your thing and you don’t want to venture all the way up to New England, this is a great place to be.

Pennsylvania

By Nicholas A. Tonelli from Pennsylvania, USA – Endless Mountains Landscape (1), CC BY 2.0,

Beautiful hills, gritty honesty, and long winters.

I’ve been living in PA for about a year now, and there are a couple things that surprised me.

First, was how straightforward the people tend to be. I guess I should have expected this, as my wife’s family is from Pittsburgh, PA and they are very much like this…but it is quite evident that most folks here aren’t afraid to tell you what they think without sugar coating it.

Second is how long winter lasts…and how long it feels. Even though I am only about a 6 hour drive from where I went to college in Maryland, the winter here is no joke and much harsher than I expected. Where I live averages about 100 inches of snow a year, it gets cold in November and stays cold till May, and everyone has a story of “that one year we got 60 inches of snow in 24 hours!”.

And the summers….O-M-G…the summers are amazing. I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced a summer as nice we have in northwestern Pennsylvania.

You will definitely get an outdoorsman vibe here too (more hardcore than the REI style of California). Hunting and fishing is big here and those from the state, are proud of the history that is part and parcel of this very hilly countryside.

The family culture here is sort of similar to what I experienced in Tennessee…but more reservedly so. It’s tough to put my finger on it. I feel like the people here don’t shy away from “the grind” and that if 4 people from the states I’ve named here got in a fight…the Pennsylvanian would come out on top.

Others

While I haven’t lived in too many other states, I have spent a decent amount of time in other locations due to my work and extended family.

Places like New Jersey, New York, and Florida – to name some of the more common ones. And I enjoy aspects of each.

While my heart still belongs to my home state of California, I will say that I am a better person for the experiences I’ve had. Even as tough as it is to pick up and move every couple years, explaining to my kids why we have to move again, and the mountain load of work it takes to uproot a family of 5…I am glad to have this life.

It’s not always comfortable…but it forces me to examine what matters, what is truly important, and where I have yet to go.

As Socrates once said…

The unexamined life is not worth living.

Worried About Toilet Paper? Take a Breath and Look at The Big Picture

Did I ever tell you about my time in Pakistan and the guy whose job it was to scoop shit out of a port-a-john?

In 2005, I was on deployment in the western pacific and I got to be part of a multi-national military effort providing disaster relief to Pakistan. Devastating earthquakes had rocked the country, and the US was tasked with leading the relief effort. As a very junior officer at the time, this was quite an opportunity for me not only to travel to another country, but to spend about four months living with a group of people who hadn’t had Americans in their country for a few decades.

People who lived a very different way of life than my cushy American upbringing.

Not only did the joint efforts help with food, supplies, temporary housing (many homes in northern Pakistan were built in to the hillsides and thus destroyed), but we also brought out and deployed Army and Marine hospital units. We even had one or two full-blown MASH units that provided surgical care, trauma centers, dental care, and more.

I remember at one point people bringing reports and commentary back from those field hospitals. Many of the people they were seeing and treating said they had NEVER received care like this. Nor even had the option for care like this.

Before these MASH hospitals…before the world’s disaster relief efforts came to town…before the earthquake, many of these Pakistanis had never even seen a dentist, a pediatrician, or a doctor period.

This earthquake was estimated to have killed over 70,000 people and left close to 4 million homeless.

Think about that. And we have these MASH units ready to go in our backyard.

The Big Picture

image via wikipedia

Step back and take a look at your house, community, city, state, country…compared to other parts of the world. Don’t just look at other “advanced” countries. Remember there are “emerging” and “developing” countries as well.

For this report we grouped countries into three economic categories: “advanced,” “emerging” and “developing.” These categories are fairly common in specialized and popular discussions and are helpful for analyzing how public attitudes vary with economic circumstances. However, no single, agreed upon scheme exists for placing countries into these three categories. For example, even the World Bank and International Monetary Fund do not always agree on how to categorize economies.

—Pew Research

Take a quick look at this 2019 report from the United Nations. It lists the various country classifications with slightly different terms but the same concepts. There are large parts of this world that aren’t worried about the local store running out of toilet paper.

They just want to be able to eat with a roof over their head.

Or get paid to scoop shit out of a port-a-john.

Back to that Deployment

I wasn’t exaggerating about that. The local contractors that were hired when I first showed up outside of Islamabad, helped with some basic facility support. We were essentially camping out for a few months next to an ad hoc airport. We had the military tents, gear, and people…and they provided things like port-a-johns, water supply, some transportation, etc.

One day I was sitting, eating an MRE, and saw a gentlemen with a large ladle looking thing…almost like a shovel but the end was larger, flatter, rounder. Then I saw him start scooping shit…out of the portable outhouses we had been using.

This contractor didn’t have large trucks that could suck all that stuff up in to the back to later dispose of it at a treatment facility. These guys had to scoop the shit out before they got all the rest of the blackwater out!

Needless to say I lost my appetite for that MRE.

That give you a different outlook on your toilet paper tensions?

Values

Photo by Clark Tibbs on Unsplash

I have always appreciated the perspective that being in the military gives me. For some reason, I don’t talk much about my work here. Most likely because I normally see this site (and my past websites) as an avenue for me to express myself and my interests outside of work.

However, I would be doing a disservice to those who read this to pretend that my work is not a big part of who I am. I got to college, met my wife, and have a career…all because of the US Navy.

I have taken courses on leadership, ethics, thermodynamics (unfortunately), constitutional law, engineering, joint military operations, and national security. Leaders throughout my career have taught me humility, selfless service, hard work, sacrifice, harder work, and core values of “honor, courage, and commitment”.

Take Comfort in Your Leadership

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

I am writing to my fellow Americans, but I hope that this can speak to those beyond our nation’s boarders. Yesterday I wrote about companies that are closing up but still paying employees, three days ago there was an Italian opera singer who serenaded his neighbors, professional photographers are giving away their paid courses for free, and so much more!

I can only assume that if you a re reading this, you probably don’t have it that bad.

YES – doing what you can to prevent further COVID 19 spread is important.

YES – take your local authorities seriously

YES – do your part

But please, step back….look at the big picture….and know that you are ok.

I trust our leaders have our best interests at heart and I know (for a fact) that they are working around the clock to make sure that people are taken care of. Those leaders that taught me how to lead, to serve, to be a man of honor…many of them are retired and work in government now. As a collective, our representatives and leaders will help us through this and we will be ok.

And please, don’t sweat the toilet paper.

At least you’re not scooping shit out of a port-a-john.

This was first posted over on Medium. If you like these longer form posts, you can get early access to them by becoming a Patron for $1 a month.