The scale of economics

Or a guide to getting the fuck out of West Virginia, or another similarly impoverished area with ultra-low paying jobs, and overbearing politics.

If you live somewhere like West Virginia (which there really isn’t anywhere else like), and you want to move away, you have to deal with what I call the ‘scale of economics’. That might be a real thing and I didn’t research it because I’m just simply refering to the differnce in costs between two places like California and the aforementioned impoverished place, and what it takes to move to CA. Yes, that’s probably just about the most extreme example I can give save for maybe Puerto Rico where they are poorer and you’d also have to add in a longer flight or boat ride to get you and your stuff out.

I’ve always used this concept to explain to people why it’s so hard to go from WV to CA even just to visit for a vacation. Visiting California is just not something you hear about much when you grow up there. The few people you know who have even visited California are either in the Navy, or just the coolest and most interesting people otherwise. California is a fantasy place in a land, far, far away and one you just don’t image yourself being able to afford to visit or even move to.

You have a few options and I mentioned the Navy already and there’s also the Air Force and Coast Guard which are great ways to get the fuck out. You can even get paid to go to school and unlearn some of the crap you thought you knew. The second options is couch surfing and that one is the most random, fly by the seat of your pants way of getting there and that’s how I did it. But, you can’t have a plan like I did because it just randomly unfolded in front of me and that is all about the luck you create. You just have to be able to spot the opportunities as they present and jump. I had a lady I met and we were interested in each other and that gravity made it so much easier. The random reasons I even met her were a crazy series of events that ended up with me in a chat room and an offer to visit California.

I’ll explain my journey later, but for now I want to talk about the other options and the saving money one is probably the only realistic route you have. It costs a lot out here. I pay $4.20/gal for diesel. I pay $40 for a steak from the grocery store that I still have to cook. I can take you down the street and get you a $9 beer and a $20 hamburger and they’ll be damn good, but nothing is cheaper out here than it is in West Virginia expect opinions. And before I continue, let me rant a bit: Californians who have never even visited KY, WV, TN, VA, AL, etc… know so much more about it than you do. Now, stop laughing and listen up, because when you come from somewhere like that, this shit is already obvious, but the jerk from San Francisco who has a never been there, knows how to solve all our problems, and won’t even listen to you explain whlie they anxious wait to blurt out their next ignorant and misguided idea. Out here, we have people who are more than activists, their what I refer to as ‘assumists’, and they assume they already know everything because they’re from California.

I won’t pick on California because I love it here and I’ve been able to reap the rewards and live a good life for a long time. I got out because I didn’t fit in and I never did. I think my greatest failure in life was not getting out earlier, but I don’t think I was ready and that’s attached to another failure I have, that I didn’t go to college, or should I say that I didn’t stick with it. I’ll have to explain that all at another point but I definitely think that young people need to travel a lot and see as many different places as possible. It wasn’t until I started traveling that I really started to understand a lot of the information I had accumulated from years of reading about all sorts of different topics. I think if I had front loaded the experiences that the information would have made immediate sense, even though at the time I read it, it made sense to me, I didn’t understand as much about perspective then as I do now. The flow of learning things naturally is often a lot about luck as well!

So, to suffice to say that the perspective is hard to explain to someone who lives here in California, but who has never visited one of these places and has never really seen a fifty year old house trailer on cinder blocks, with junk cars in the yard and kids playing about the broken down machines and what might appear as junk to you. That junk often provides parts and money to the people who collect it. It’s all about the perspective!

The price of rent really hasn’t increased much in the thrity years since I rented my first apartment. I paid $350/month back then and I can find places to rent that are equivalent quality and factors for $4-500 and then a range that’s just all over the place and I’m sure the quality and location as well. A trailer on a hillside, up some hollar with a dirt road is going to a lot cheaper than an apartment in the city but if it’s a new trailer and they have city water, then it costs more. You don’t hear that out here ‘city water’ and it’s been some time since I’ve heard it said, but I kind of miss it. So the rent has barely moved there in a long time but out here it’s ten times what I paid thirty years ago, and 8-9 times more than what I would pay right now if I were in West Virginia. I do see with the pandemic that there are some deals to be had and it looks like prices on apartments have dropped some out here but that will change and go back to normal in no time. Corporations are buying up all the houses out here and eventually will own it all and just rent it back to us.

What has gone up are utilities and the price of food, and guess what, they pay basically the same damn prices for electronics, cell phones, the service for them, etc… and they make a lot less money. Your new TV is the same price, the Internet sucks and is barely available and costs a lot. I have gig fiber at home and I’m super spoiled with it and don’t even have a phone line or cable. Internet is all I need but if you live in West Virginia, you have to get cable and pay too much for it because the Internet isn’t going to good enough to stream everything. You’ll still have to have a land line because you might live somewhere that doesn’t have cell service or Internet at all. Yes, in America that’s entirely true in many regions just like West Virginia. You’d think the east cost of the US would be all fiber and advanced like that but it’s not and more like a third world country in many ways.

So you’re going to move to California and get a job and live the good life for a while. You now understand that you’ll have to save first and last and the deposit, right? So your rent might be $3,000/mo so that will be $9,000 up front and you need money for utilities and the deposits. It really starts to go up and saving northward of 10k for anyone from those areas is a huge thing. Especially in an area where the minimum wage isn’t $15/hr. You need to start saving when you’re five if your dad can keep his job the whole time and your parents don’t need your money. It’s going to take a long, long time to save the money that you have no guarantee will be enough. You really need to find a job that will relocate you but that’s pretty rare unless you’re a highly educated, professional type or a programmer with lots of experience. You do not want to have a plan that involves you sleeping in your car because that will end up bad, every time. You’ll be robbed. If not while sleeping in it or when you’re not with it, someone will break into it or outright steal it. Cars with crap in them get broken into here. It’s a career out here so that’s the worst option. After the car is gone you’ll only have the street and it’s really, really bad out here right now if you live on the street.

It’s all about the money and when you’re from a place like I am, that money seems like it’s on another planet with California. You just daydream of getting out of there and seeing all the amazing things you’ve read about and seen in movies.

At this point you have few other options and I just want to stress again, that sleeping in your vehicle isn’t an option you want to try. There are so many that try and some that are successful at it, but they’re also usually the ones that are permanently living in their vehicles and they’ve got experience and wisdom from the road. They’re figured out a lot of the stuff that you have no idea about and they also figured that stuff out in a different time. California is way different than it was twenty years ago, and another twenty, etc… There’s always been a dangerous element and you know all the movies about serial killers, mad bikers, whatever, it’s just a lot worse these days and there are other, potentially more dangerous elements from the side effects of hateful politics, waiting to explode.

I think you can still manage to couch surf in this crazy, pandemic ridden world, but it will have elements that I never had to deal with. Maybe you can find someone that will let you pitch a tent on their deck or in their enclosed back yard. If there’s a will, there’s always a way to find something safe, or at least safer than the street. You have to remember, if you don’t live our here and have never been out here that there are elements you may have seen on TV but cannot begin to fathom until you experience them in person. Most homeless people do not want to be on the street but have no choice because of numerous factors, and mental health is often a big part. We do have a lot of pandemic displacement but oft times, a lot of that was a from a population of folks, already in tight situations with life that are easily disrupted. Then once they get out there, they’re just one of thousands in a line for soup, or another need. Once you’re on the street, a lot of normally available opportunities go away because or more than perception and bias, but prejudice. Don’t be quick to judge something you have no immediate knowledge or experience with and that’s a common misconception from West Virginians I hear about homeless people. There are a few in WV, and not many. My mother used to make blankets for them. It just gets too cold in the winter and you won’t see them as much, so you just don’t have perspective.

I met a lady online and she made an offer to visit. I took her up and immediately fell in love with it. I’m not saying that you should aim for the same place or ideals; there are many other states and locations where you could upgrade your lifestyle and not spend as much getting there like Florida. The only thing California has in common with Florida is palm trees and sunshine. Absolutely nothing else at all.

My advice is to get an education in the first place and pick a career that has jobs in the place you want to be. I was given my first job in California because they told me they were impressed with me because I just up and moved to California without more than a couch to sleep on. You see, out here, someone will look at that as evidence of ambition and desire. It also shows a ‘can do’ attitude and that you’re not afraid to take a risk. Out here, failure is seen as experience and hopefully wisdom gained. They look at people who don’t move around jobs a lot as though they aren’t ambitious. You have to show a career that looks like you’re eager to climb the ladder. Someone who just sits at the same job doesn’t appear to have ambition here and that’s so backwards from the notion I got growing up in West Virginia where you want to get a job and cling to it by all means. You don’t want to see too ambitious because they’ll fire you. You want to be plain and boring and just hard working.

Breaking into certain industries isn’t easy and many don’t want what they consider outsiders. Take the video game industry. Hard to get in if you’re never had experience! That’s a catch but you just have to get an opportunity and then be able to show them what you’re capable of and that’s not easy. That’s another luck thing and you don’t want to be one of those annoying people who have no real skills and persistently hang out around the game developer hangouts. They show up at all the hiring events and GDC, WWDC, you name it, if it has to do with video games, you can expect some of the same folks, over and over again, trying to get jobs that they just don’t fit. But once you have experience and if you’re a likable person, then there are a lot of opportunities and recruiters and HR managers are more willing to talk to you. Shit, they might even read your resume then. I know film and the music industry are the exact same way and you need a marketable skill and some experience to get in.

If you’re from West Virginia, you probably got pushed to go to some vocational program and learn welding or autobody or something like that. Those are useful skills that once mastererd can earn you a lot of money out here, but you need to be good because they get applications from all 50 states, all the time, from young, eager and ambitious people like you with mad skills.

I don’t know if many Californians know that West Virginias are some of the hardest working people on the planet, but if they’ve ever worked with one they would know. That could be a benefit to you anywhere that has that same experience. As a West Virginian, we are an esoteric anamoly. I think there needs to be a campaign to educate people about just how hard we work but then they might try to lure us all away! But isn’t that what we want? Not really as I would love to see my home state prosper, but until it does, the jobs and money are elsewhere.