Leaving Paradise

Posted on November 03, 2017 · 7 mins read

Over a decade  ago I missed a Delta Airlines flight. Fortunately my Aunt Shebronda, being the great aunt that she is, bailed me out, and got me a flight on American Airlines. That was the flight that brought me to MIT, to Cambridge, a city that would become my home for the next thirteen years.

MIT has a wonderful acronym: IHTFP. The meaning depends on your state of mind and/or feelings toward MIT. If you’re feeling bearish on MIT, it means, “I Hate This Fucking Place!” (this feeling is often strongest in winter). Feeling a bit more positive? “I Have Truly Found Paradise!” Besides winters, sophomore year was the peak of my hatred toward this fucking place. However, my time after that period, perhaps especially during my ninth term, things were much better. I had screwed up a bit along the way—hence the ninth term—but that was an invaluable learning experience that allowed me to meet new friends, experience new adventures, and simply reflect on the previous four years. I had the opportunity to travel internationally every year, helping out in the villages of Ghana, universities of Kenya and Zambia, and hospitals of India. I made numerous friends and acquaintances. I grew. I became a leader. At some point I even acquired the moniker “Mr. MIT.”

So much of my life is intertwined with MIT (including my apartment, owned by the MIT investment company). Thus it was quite a difficult decision to leave not only my job at edX, but also Cambridge. December 15 will mark my last day as an edX/MIT employee. December 23 will be my last as a Cantabrigian. Michelle and I are packing up and moving to San Francisco where I’ll join the engineering team at Stripe in January.

This past week, since announcing my resignation at edX, has been odd. “Bittersweet” is a word that I find myself thinking and saying more often these days. On the one hand I have a new opportunity to continue my life and career in an area I have always wanted to work, and at a company I’ve admired since I first learned of them (shout out to Dave Gandy for that info a couple years ago). I also get to reconnect with the numerous classmates, alumni, family, and circus friends already in the area. On the other hand I am leaving a great team at edX, where we’ve done some amazing work; numerous alumni I’ve spammed (as VP of Communications for the MIT Club of Boston) and with whom I’ve volunteered; a great group of friends that has seen me through some tough times; the Huntington Theatre community that taught me an expensive lesson about auctions; and, of course, the circus community at Esh that I have laughed and played with almost every week for the past seven years.

Nevertheless, I’m excited! No offense to edX and the other companies I’ve worked with, but I can’t recall ever being so excited to join a new team and company as I am to join Stripe. This time it just feels. . . different. I feel more prepared, more mature. Over the past 3.5 years at edX I have leveled up, significantly. I took advantage of opportunities to lead the design and development of numerous projects that increased my technical skillset. More importantly, I had an excellent manager—Zach Rockwell—who helped me get out of my own way and become a better communicator, teammate, and well-rounded engineer. Do I still have a bit of imposter syndrome after all these years? Yes. Despite that, my time at edX has made me confident in my ability to contribute to my new team upon joining them.

Nevertheless, I’m worried. I’m worried about finding someone to sublet my apartment/take over my lease. I’m worried about all of the tasks that will need to be completed before moving. I’m worried I might forget to say, “goodbye,” to someone. Also, I’m worried about living in the Bay Area. It’s no secret that the region is one of the most expensive places to live in the country. I’ll be well-paid, but a lot of that compensation will be stock that can’t be used to pay rent. These are the things that literally keep me up some nights. I know it will all work out, but I’m worried.

Nevertheless, I’m excited! I’m excited to get very much outside of comfort zone. I’m excited at the opportunity to join new communities and build new relationships. I’m excited to walk the streets of a new city, and explore the unknown. I’m excited that Michelle can once again live close to the Pacific Ocean. I’m excited that we are embarking on this new journey together!

I’m going to miss the wonderful shows at Huntington. I’m going to miss the amazing group of people at Esh, who continue to wow and inspire me with their near-unlimited creativity and talent. I’m going to miss the students alumni that never cease to amaze me with their brilliant minds. I’m going to miss this wacky socialist republic known as “Camberville”.

MIT has been my home away from home. It took me years before I even called Cambridge “home”. I would tell folks, “I’m headed to my apartment.” Home was always Dallas, Texas. It wasn’t until Michelle entered the scene that I felt comfortable calling Cambridge home. MIT is the closest thing we have to Hogwarts in this reality. It has been an honor and a pleasure to live, study, work, and volunteer in this paradise for last 13 years. I will truly miss this wonderful, crazy, wicked smart (I refuse to say “smaht”) place.