Posted on Dec 29, 2005 in Weblog | 3 comments

I should be happy. I should be ecstatic that I won’t have to attend lectures on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday anymore, go through rounds and rounds of examinations, and attend office hours. I should be jumping for joy that I have done my time at Berkeley, that I am now classified as an “alum.”

But when children reach the end of their school year, they all joyously proclaim,

no more pencils,
no more books,
no more teachers' dirty looks.

Somehow, “Bachelor Chan” does not quite have the same ring as “Master Chan,” or “Doctor Chan.”

High school graduation thrills

Graduating from high school, in contrast, was so much more exciting. I remember feeling the energy bubbling around me as all of the seniors salivated in anticipation of the big commencement ceremony. I attribute all of this excitement to the many senior events: all of us received our acceptance and rejection notices from our future undergraduate schools, all of us (at least, the Advanced Placement geeks) suffered through exams a month before our last day of school, all of us went to prom, all of us took our senior portraits, all of us signed each others’ yearbooks, then the Senior Breakfast, then finally, the last day of school never happened, because commencement overtook it. We enjoyed our summer in limbo, and then we were shipped off to our respective colleges and universities.

In contrast, my last semester at the university consisted of struggling through three heavy biology courses, managing a club, searching and searching for jobs, taking final exams …

… and still figuring out what will happen next. How anti-climatic!

I suspect that the uncertainty of what will happen next makes me nervous, forgetting to enjoy myself. The questions keep on popping up in my head: what jobs can I take? Where will I live? How will I travel around? How will I budget things? Where will I volunteer next?

Car-less and Loving It

I’d like to go on a rant for a moment and take on one of these questions that has been bugging me about my short-term future: how will I travel around? Most of the tech companies I can work for are in the peninsula and the South Bay, so if I relocate there, being able to travel independently by bus is a big issue. I like travelling by public transportation. It is far less stressful to me than travelling by car, because in a car, I have to constantly pay attention to avoid getting killed. Driving is stressful. And cars are expensive. So, I take the bus.

The AC Transit bus system is awesome in Berkeley (where I live) and Oakland. I can get to anywhere very easily by car, and there are a lot of restaurant choices, places to shop, and lots of stops. Buses run 24 hours a day, and there is even two bus lines that run directly to and from San Francisco outside my apartment.

However, most of the technology companies are located in the South Bay, where BART stations do not reach. BART is a quick way of getting around parts of the Bay Area, and they have trains running every 20 minutes on weekdays and weekends. But again, BART is not available everywhere. In a stunning lack of prescience, the San Jose area had ditched plans for a BART station (when BART was constructed in the 1960’s) because it was too expensive. (Now, they are begging for a BART extension.)

Thankfully, the South Bay has CalTrain. CalTrain takes care of places BART doesn’t reach, but it runs far less frequently and is much more expensive to use. This means that if you want to get out of San Francisco and back home in the South Bay on a Sunday night, you are totally screwed because trains run every two hours. And, even if you need to travel within, say, Mountain View, you are also screwed because buses run every hour (if you’re lucky).

It sounds like the obvious solution is to live in the East Bay instead of the South Bay. I can reap the benefits of reliable public transportation (AC Transit and BART), and commute to the South Bay. But commuting every day involves several transfers, and a round trip can take almost 5 hours per day. And that’s if you catch CalTrain at the exact moment it arrives. Otherwise, again, you are screwed and will have to add another hour of waiting to your commute. Let’s make that 6 or 7 hours a day. What am I going to do during that time?!

However, I have found one hope: Millbrae. They have a combined BART and CalTrain station, so I can travel around anywhere quite easily. The thing that sucks about Millbrae is that they have exactly one bus line running through the whole damn city, and it only runs on the weekdays. Every hour. Or maybe I could try living near Daly City station, or San Bruno (which also has both CalTrain and BART).

In any case, planning all these factors out makes for interesting challenges. What the heck. It’s exciting picking out my next apartment! I should enjoy this.

And perhaps I should just give in and get a car. I’ll go and see what Suze Orman says about purchasing a car.