Working from home for two years has taught me how to use my free time to replenish my life. If I don’t learn how to do this, I’ll just end up working myself to death.
One day, I finished a meeting at 4 pm and rode my bike up the mountain, hoping to make it back before it got dark for another meeting at 8 pm. I’m not exaggerating when I say that this is how my days go. Even from 8 pm to 9 pm, there are still meetings, and no explanation is needed. Everyone knows that we can’t go back to the office, and on Fridays, no one dares to work openly, let alone schedule meetings, or else it will cause public outrage. The remaining four days are just packed.
I have to say that the day of a three-day weekend is coming soon, and we’re just playing it safe for now.
At the trailhead, I met a teenager who caught up with me and asked excitedly if he could join me. Seeing his enthusiasm, I agreed. We chatted all the way, using the language of teenagers. I’m good at speaking the language of the people, and I can even use head shaking to indicate agreement when chatting with my Indian colleagues. One of the survival skills in Silicon Valley is to adapt to local customs and switch gears at all times.
He was in high school and had recently fallen in love with mountain biking, but it was hard to find someone to accompany him. For the sake of his passion, I changed my route at the last minute and took him to a different place – the exciting mountain road in the photo below. It’s a secret route that’s not easily shared, reserved only for those who love excitement.
Last spring, I encountered a traffic jam at the beautiful cliff. It was clearly a one-way road, but a whole fleet of cars came in the opposite direction. This kind of thing is more troublesome in the spring because they are more likely to be impulsive. I carefully moved to the edge of the cliff and patiently waited for the fleet to pass. If I took one more step to the left, I would have fallen into the valley. I stood on my bike, using my left foot to support myself, and at the same time, I had to worry that if they suddenly didn’t like me when they passed by, I would have to choose between jumping off the cliff and being bullied.
But they also stopped and waited for me.
It seems that they are quite disciplined, and they know to keep to the right and yield to oncoming traffic, which is better than many Indians who don’t distinguish between left and right. The problem is that the gap of 30 centimeters is too narrow for me to pass through… The second one is still a bull, maybe a breeding bull. When I passed by, its testicles, which were bigger than my head, were only a few centimeters away from my face. I decided not to mess with these people.
I kept gesturing and even spoke to them in a friendly tone, hoping that they might understand a little English, but they remained unmoved. It’s impossible to reverse on this road, so we were all stuck there.
So I waited, and they waited too, and we just kept waiting for each other. As I said, the wildlife in Silicon Valley is very rational. While waiting, they started eating grass in the middle of the road. Cows are just cows. So I had to keep using my left foot to support myself and enjoy watching them eat grass.
We waited like this for a while… Anyway, they had plenty of time, and my legs were strong enough.
But that was all last year. Today, I met this adventurous young man, and I presented this beautiful and exciting cliff as my first choice.
He praised the road as cool, and I felt proud. The young man was faster, so he climbed to the top and waited for me. If he reached the bottom, he would turn back to make sure I hadn’t fallen or run away. If he encountered a fork in the road, he would wait for me at the intersection. When we were about to leave the mountain, we encountered a group of angry cows blocking the road. I said not to mess with the cows in the spring, so we had to carry our bikes and walk down a steep slope, crossing mountain ditches and taking a detour down the mountain. The panic during the escape was no different because of age. There is no cool panic in the world, nor is there a confident panic.
After we got down the mountain, he thanked me and invited me to ride the “stairs” again. Young people like to play mountain bikes as stunt bikes: going down stairs, jumping ramps. If they fall, they get up and wipe the blood off their lips and keep riding, keep falling. Maybe the excitement from before made him overestimate me, thinking that I was just like him and that I could stand up after falling.
It’s not polite to refuse someone’s invitation, so I thought maybe I could try it if the stairs weren’t too long.
The school is built along the hillside, facing the stairs of six or seven sections like in the photos, each with more than 20 steps. There are more than 150 steps in total, and he went all the way down. There were still students in the campus at that time, so I had to carry my bike and walk down. He had fallen once before and even showed me the railing he had hit last time. At his age, every time he falls, it’s an honor and he can accumulate points.
I said I couldn’t afford to fall even once.
His excitement didn’t end after we finished riding down the stairs. He invited me to see his secret ramp that he and his friends built on a secluded hill covered in tall grass. He warned me to be careful of snakes and gave me detailed instructions on how to navigate the difficult terrain. We pushed our bikes through waist-high dry grass until we finally reached the deadly ramp. There was no path, and even if you knew about this secret spot, it would be hard to find. He proudly pointed to his little secret and said he comes here often to practice.
It was amazing to see his glory hidden in this wild and overgrown place.
This is the legendary secret ramp.
I was surprised that there are still young people who ride mountain bikes instead of staying at home playing video games. I was impressed by his enthusiasm for sharing his secret with me. Before he could invite me to the next exciting adventure, I had to leave to continue my meeting.
Just two hours ago, I was discussing next year’s data center budget online. Suddenly, I was transported out of Silicon Valley and into the wilderness with a stranger. We took risks, did crazy things, shared secrets, and probably fell hard at least once. I felt like a high school student again, turning a casual stroll into an unexpected adventure.
When I first saw the stairs, I wanted to ride down with him. I wasn’t afraid of falling, but when a group of students suddenly appeared on the other end of the stairs, it reminded me that I’m no longer young. I wasn’t afraid of falling, but I was afraid of getting caught by campus security. That gave me a face-saving excuse.
During those two hours, we were sincere friends and selflessly shared with each other. When we left, we asked each other’s names and shook hands briefly with a unique fist bump during the pandemic. He didn’t treat me like an elder, and I didn’t treat him like a child. It was hard to say goodbye to the madness that ended so suddenly. I realized that age and the heart can be at odds. If it weren’t for my out-of-place face, I would have loved to be a high school student again.
Unexpectedly, I made a two-hour friendship with a young man and became a high school student again for two hours. When I returned home, I continued my online meeting and went back to the high productivity and coldness of Silicon Valley, as if nothing had happened. I regretted not riding down the stairs and letting him experience the thrill of the ride and letting myself relive my high school days.
Working from home is great, and it’s even better to never go back. It’s amazing that going out for some fresh air can also make you feel young again.