That really wasn’t what I intended to happen yesterday.
The morning had a quick not-really-interview with a recruiter, about a position that I don’t think either of us believes I’m actually qualified for (the client wants a few pretty specific skills that I don’t have), then another stop at the doctor’s office to drop things off. The office is in a little “medical district” very close to the Highway 17/85 intersection, and I figured I’d take Highway 17 over the mountains down to the Ugly Mug in Soquel.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit there are, in fact, coffee shops closer than the 26-mile journey that represents. In fact, my favorite coffee house in terms of the actual coffee is Barefoot Coffee Roasters in Santa Clara, and they’re much closer! But I discovered the Ugly Mug over a year ago, though (during my last work-free stretch), and somehow fell in love with it. It’s everything a stereotypical college coffee house should be: dark wood, nooks and crannies, fairly lively conversation with regulars—and unlike Barefoot, enough space to spread out a little and get work done. And as is proper for a college coffee hangout in this day and age, free wi-fi and power outlets available.
But, somehow, this isn’t quite what happened.
See, I decided that, well, since I was already over “the hill”—that is, to the Santa Cruz side of Highway 17, and onto Highway 1, the Pacific Coast Highway—I’d go down just a few more miles to look at the ocean.
And I did that, stopping at one of the state beach overlooks just south of Soquel, walking around the beach a little.
Then I figured, well, maybe I’ll keep going just a little farther.
But “little” is such a relative measure, isn’t it? I ended up going around Monterey Bay, and at that point, I wasn’t that far away from the Big Sur coast…
So. Yeah. I never actually made it to the Ugly Mug. I just kept going down the PCH.
I stopped along the coast a few times. I got a brownie and a Cafe Americano at the Big Sur Bakery, a fantastic restaurant I’ve written about before. I stopped briefly at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. I got stuck waiting for CalTrans to clear a mudslide somewhere around Limekiln State Park—but that was okay. It was a beautiful day at that point. There was a line of cars and nobody really seemed to mind being stuck there.
As things worked out, I pulled into Morro Bay around dinnertime, and went to the forebodingly named “Taco Temple” on the recommendation of Chowhound.com members. Despite the name, the food was pretty terrific, reminding me oddly of some of the family restaurants in the Florida Keys—a bright, clean but no-frills look.
What this trip did for me—besides cost me more than I should have spent in fuel—was recenter me. The Big Sur coast may be the most beautiful area I’ve ever been to, honestly. Being there makes me feel brighter, calmer. It reminds me of just what it is I like about this state. I like many things I found in Florida; I’d like to go back to the Southwest and explore much more of it; but if I won the lottery, if I could live anywhere, I might just end up along Big Sur somewhere.
I also had time to do some thinking about where I want to be, what I want to do. I haven’t come to any definite conclusions—that’s a lot of insight to ask of a day trip—but I’ve come to at least one conclusion that’s rather shocked me: I may want to aim for contract work, not permanent work.
Every interviewer comes up with a question that’s a variant on, Where do you see yourself in five years? As standard as the question may be, in the 21st century tech market, a three-year anniversary is relatively rare. What I’m expected to say—what I usually do say—is that I expect to be with that company, on a career track. But right now, I don’t feel like there’s a company out there I could honestly say that to. (There’s a non-profit or two I could honestly say that to, and I’ve applied to one and may apply to more.)
I suppose I am, basically, in the frame of mind where one joins—or starts—a startup. I even have an idea or two, although I haven’t fleshed them out well enough to decide whether any are (a) worth pursuing and (b) commercial.
But maybe where I see myself in five years is working for myself. In a cabin, not too far from the Pacific Coast.