I left Silicon Valley for a dream job in Chicago. I wasn’t prepared for how crushing the loneliness could be.

I left Silicon Valley for a dream job in Chicago. I wasn’t prepared for how crushing the loneliness could be.
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Jaime Muñoz standing in front of a pink wall; Muñoz standing in front of a window with a view of the Chicago skyline.
Jaime Muñoz moved to Chicago for a job at a fintech startup in July 2022.

  • After graduating from Stanford, Jaime Muñoz moved to Chicago for a dream fintech job.
  • He worried about leaving the Silicon Valley startup hub behind, but felt the risk could pay off. 
  • He said the hardest part was losing proximity to his close-knit family in California.

This as-told-to essay is based on a transcribed conversation with Jaime Muñoz, 30, about moving to Chicago for a dream job after finishing his MBA at Stanford. The following has been edited for length and clarity.

I arrived in Chicago in July 2022, feeling optimistic.

I’d never lived outside California before and saw this as an opportunity to venture out on my own — a fresh start.

I’d accepted a new job opportunity as a strategy and operations lead for a financial technology company. I interned for a company called Bridge Money during my MBA at Stanford. They mentioned they had a potential role for me, but it would be in Chicago.

I was already considering other options in California, where I would be close to my family. I wanted to work at a fintech company, and this opportunity with Bridge Money was the exact type of role I wanted.

I thought, “This is what I was looking for, so what’s stopping me?” I saw it as a high-risk but high-reward opportunity. After some hard conversations with family and friends, I made the move.

I worried I’d isolate myself from my network and Silicon Valley by moving

I initially questioned whether Chicago was the right city for me.

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I didn’t know anyone there. Most of my Stanford classmates were staying in the Bay Area after graduation. Part of the value of getting an MBA is the network you form, and I wondered if moving would be detrimental to that because I was isolating myself.

I’d heard that Chicago was becoming more of a startup hub but not on the same level as Silicon Valley.

Jaime Muñoz standing in front of a railing with the Chicago skyline behind him.
Muñoz wondered if he’d isolate himself from his network by moving to Chicago.

I’d always played it safe and thought about security when it came to jobs. I wanted to be the first in my family to be well-off. I don’t want to worry about retirement, and I want to provide for my future kids and pass down the wealth that I accumulate.

I did some research on how some of the richest people built their wealth. Many of them mentioned getting in early at a company, being one of the first employees, and having equity.

I was offered another role as a senior strategy consultant with Accenture, based out of the San Francisco office. The offer included the option to buy shares of their stock, but I preferred the idea of having shares allocated to me at an early-stage startup. Bridge Money offered me the possibility of an equity grant — if all went well at the company, my equity would increase in value.

I felt I would be a speck of dust in a huge company at Accenture. I’d already worked there from 2015 to 2020 as a strategy analyst and senior strategy consultant. There were multiple levels of seniority above me. At Bridge Money, I was one of the first 10 full-time hires. Only the CMO and CEO are above me, so I’m making more decisions by myself. I think I made the right choice because I’ve learned so much about myself.

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Moving to Chicago was lonely, even though I was on my A-game at the office

Since I’d interned with Bridge Money for two years before starting the job, I felt prepared for the role. Most days in the office, I was on my A-game, making big decisions and collaborating with teammates.

However, I wasn’t prepared for the mental challenges of relocating, such as dealing with loneliness.

I have a very close-knit family in California. We lived in an eight-person household — myself, my three siblings, my parents, and two grandparents. I also have 15 first cousins on my mom’s side there.

I was always around family members, but in Chicago, I was shopping and sightseeing by myself.

Eating alone was one of the most crushing experiences for me. At restaurants, I’d sometimes make reservations for one because I wanted to leave my apartment. The tables around me would have at least two people sitting on them, and it felt isolating.

I tried hanging out with coworkers. They tried to integrate me into their friendship group, and I was grateful, but it felt a bit like I was intruding.

I also dated to meet people, but those relationships often wouldn’t progress, and it made me feel even lonelier.

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I eventually started making friends through social media. I’d been building a following on TikTok, and when I announced that I’d moved to Chicago on the app, my inbox was flooded with people welcoming me. I started grabbing coffee with people, and now, all of my friends here are creators.

I’m further from family, but I’m working toward my goal of building generational wealth

I prefer Chicago as a place to San Francisco. Everyone’s a tech bro in San Francisco, but I meet people from diverse professions here. It’s also more affordable.

The biggest cost has been losing the proximity to my family. I’ve felt guilty that I’m being selfish and only thinking of my career instead of them.

But I also think I’m building generational wealth and making decisions that can help my current and future family. I’m working hard to save money, and I hope I can retire my parents and buy them a house.

Moving to Chicago is probably the biggest risk I’ve ever taken. There wasn’t an immediate payoff, but we’re getting there.

It’s been liberating and has allowed me to focus on and prioritize myself.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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