Tuesday, December 14, 2010


I traveled more to Philly in my previous life (more so than Boston), and I remember walking down one of the city streets, from my hotel to get coffee on a quick break from work, and absolutely relishing the fact that I was here, in one of the great historic cities of our country, working, walking downtown with a sense of familiarity and the satisfaction that came from it. At the age of 21, I imagined living in Philadelphia. I liked the idea.

Downtown Philly is manageable, it is walkable. There are interesting historic landmarks everywhere, from an unexpected tiny graveyard preserved behind aging stone and wrought iron fencing begging to be explored, to historic buildings brandishing the fire insurance badge created by Ben Franklin, to the museums (the Ben Franklin one was quite interesting!), to the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. It is inspiring to think of the history, the choices, the events that took place here.

I never ran the steps at the library, and I didn’t get out much, but I have had cheesesteaks from both Pat’s and Geno’s, although being 10 years apart, I really couldn’t tell you which was better. Pat’s was a more “colorful” experience for sure. I bought scrapple and shoofly pie from the Amish at the Reading Terminal and wished I could explore Amish country.

I realize there are a load of bad areas of Philly – run down, ghetto, scary places. But there are just as many nice places as well, most of which seem to be in North Philly, more where we would be anyway. Philly also has public transportation, commuter trains, etc., which are probably ok to to use in the decent parts of town, and especially for commuting needs.
Googles of Philly related to quality of life tout the accessibility, manageability of the city and more than anything, the arts culture there. It is about a one hour train ride to NYC and another running community. The biking might prove to be a bit less convenient, with North Philly consisting of township after township connected by narrow, high speed roadways, but I’m sure the cycling community has something they do – being that there are several cycling clubs in the area.

Another city of 4 seasons, still in the New England area, it has a similar intrigue to Boston. I would be able to work remotely, or on occasion, actually commute to one of our call centers in Allentown, another hour commute away. Still the city is large enough that should I wish to do something different with my career, there would be many options.

The Boy’s job would be in West Point, a big pharma position that most drug developers would drool over. This is a position working with the best in the industry, with lots of support, and lots of corporate structure. There are many people with exceptional expertise to help for the mere price of asking. The drawbacks of the position? Big pharma and all the structure (as much as it is a benefit, it can be restrictive and limiting) and a potentially grueling workload extending late into evenings and monopolizing weekends as well. Haven’t we had enough of that in the last 6+ years of grad school? This position would pay the best, and living north of the city, we could find housing on par with the prices here in Seattle. The corporate campus is impressive, sprawling over many acres, there are vans and bikes to be borrowed to go from building to building, sports fields on site and a nice gym. I guess if you’re working late and weekends, accessibility is key. They also have a pension that employees can qualify for after only 5 years.

A tough choice – the tradeoffs of big pharma, with the paycheck, with the potential of long hours – how can you tell on the outside if the balance of work and life, pros and cons, is really there?

Provided we have time together, we still would enjoy the area, exploring, nearby cities and New England attractions. The cold and dark of winters is still a nagging drawback, but only because of some of the other options.

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