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🏘️ Tam's Jam: Living at home sucks

In this issue: car-centric suburbia, American poverty, the US-Mexico border, strong passwords, walking away from the NBA, and more!

Tam Pham
Tam Pham
8 min read
🏘️ Tam's Jam: Living at home sucks

Heyo! Happy NY y'all. 🥳

I'm back with a new issue of Tam’s Jam. This one is more essay-driven than usual. LMK what you think! 🙂

In this issue: car-centric suburbia, American poverty, the US-Mexico border, strong passwords, walking away from the NBA, and more!  

🏘️ I hate American Suburbia

Every time I go home for the holidays, I re-enter American Surburbia and I hate it.

  • I can't go anywhere without a car.
  • Everything looks and feels homogenous.
  • It feels isolating, like everyone is content to live in their own little worlds.

Where's the culture? Where's the community? Where is that feeling of life!?

Since I've been back, all that I've been doing is eating, shopping, and watching TV. I'm reminded how easy it is for me (and Americans everywhere) to get fat and be lonely.

Obviously, American suburbia isn't hell. But it's definitely a middle place for me, if you know what I mean.

The Good Place is one of my fav comedy series

Aside from bashing car-centric city planning, living at home generally drives me nuts.

I get easily triggered by my family over the smallest things (these same triggers are common among kids of Asian immigrants... I highly recommend this podcast episode from Feeling Asian if you're curious).

Plus I default to old behaviors from when I was a kid like spending too much time behind screens, watching porn, and eating fast food.

Let me stop ranting here. Because after going down these spirals, I knew something was off.

There was something deeper here.

It's easy to say, "Surburbia sucks" or "My family will never fully understand me."

While there is truth in these statements, my friend Tam Phan (my doppelgänger) helped me reflect back on the true reason why I'm so unhappy.

"You are in the middle of a growth / self discovery period and coming back to your family's home somehow feels off."

YES!! 100%  

Before coming back home, I was having new experiences in México, dancing in Spain, and seeing old friends in Toronto. I felt so alive, connected, and happy.

To come back home to no community, growth, or fun felt like a stark contrast to the life I was living.

There's a numbing feeling when my dreams are on hold. It feels like I'm waiting on the sidelines instead of playing the game.

So in reality, the problem isn't necessarily about American suburbia. Or my family.

The situation is really about my preference to be elsewhere, doing the things that bring me life. To explore. To learn. To connect.

I'm not my best self when I'm home.  It's sad, but true. While I love my family, each visit back is a reminder to return back to my journey.

💰 Poverty in America

Now I know it's super privileged to complain about how hard my suburban life is. Travel has especially opened my eyes to how cushy I have it.

But ever since Andrew Yang's 2020 presidential run pushing for a universal basic income (UBI), I've been increasingly interested in learning about poverty in America. This TEDx talk titled, We can end poverty, but this is why we haven't, is a succinct intro to the subject.

Equally important was hearing from actual people who are suffering. I went down (another) rabbit hole recently and found some videos here:

  1. America's Broken Dream: The Middle-Class Families Living in Motels
  2. America’s Last Affordable Housing Is Under Threat
  3. Philadelphia's Most Dangerous Street

For a more polished documentary, I recommend Nomadland, an award-winning film based on the book, Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

If you're into books, I found The War on Normal People and Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City to hit me right in the heart.

I'm not an empath by any means. But how could one not feel for our fellow neighbors?

I feel sympathy. I feel guilty. I feel conflicted. I feel love. I feel hopeless and hopeful.

I feel like in a different universe, I could have easily been born into multigenerational poverty. I'm not balling by any means. But at least I have a backup plan.

I could live with my mom and work a marketing job for $50k/yr. I could borrow money from friends. Or I can beg one of them to hire me.

I used to think I was so smart and successful for making it without a college degree.

Little did I know that having multiple safety nets gives me the freedom to take more risks.

To do things for experience, not money. To take breaks between jobs for personal fulfillment. To try new projects and not feel stressed if they fail.

I'm really not that special. Just lucky to be born in my situation. Now it's only right to do the little things that I can to give back and be kind to others.  

P.S. An overwhelming number of people think they are in the middle class. Like these 60 yr olds with $4.5 million in the bank... Are you in the U.S. middle class? You can try this income calculator from Pew Research to see.

🚌 Crossing the US-Mexico border

Don't ask me why I spent my last month off work reading about depressing topics. But I came across the amazing memoir, Solito, at my local bookstore and couldn't put it down.

It's an eye-opening journey of a nine-year-old boy from El Salvador making a 3,000-mile trek to La USA for a better life. His parents were already in the states after escaping from the U.S.-funded Salvadoran Civil War.

So the author had to embark on this treacherous journey by himself, surrounded by strangers and with the help of local coyotes, to reconnect with his family.

After I cried reading the entire book, I went down a rabbit hole learning about the U.S. / Mexico border. And it doesn't look like much has changed.

Thousands of people are still fleeing their home countries to embark on a dangerous journey to America. In fact, Texas recently called a state of emergency due to the influx of migrants seeking asylum.

I find this issue conflicting because, on one hand, America has enough problems to deal with. We have more than half a million people who are homeless along with 60% of people living paycheck to paycheck.

Politics aside, how does America have the capacity to handle more volume?

On the other hand, these migrants are leaving much worse conditions in order to have a chance at a better future. Like the deadliest city in Honduras where funeral services are competing to arrive first. Or the endless crisis in Venezuela.

If I were in their shoes, I'd probably do the exact same thing.

Shit, my parents escaped Vietnam to flee from the war. They arrived in America with no money, no family, and no English. Luckily, they were able to build a life for themselves and their families.

I'm eternally grateful to the United States to give them a second chance. In an ideal world, I'd like everyone to have that opportunity.

Regardless of what you believe in, I think it's safe to assume that no one wants other people to suffer unnecessarily. But it's difficult to agree on the right course of action.

I try to keep my identity small and look at things without any existing labels (like if I'm a democrat/republican. Both parties share more common ground than most people realize).

How do we solve these issues at their core?

I'm still learning a lot about the border, so take everything I say with a grain of salt. I'm making my way down this YouTube series that interviews people from all sides of the argument.

It doesn't give you a "you should think this way" vibe and more of a "hear the stories and decide for yourself" feeling. I wish more forms of media did this.

If you have other resources that would shed new perspectives, I'd love to hear from you.

🔐 Change your passwords

LastPass, the password manager that I've been using, has had another data breach lol.

I asked for advice from Andrew Edstrom, my good friend who's really into security (check out his awesome newsletter here) on what he suggested I do.

I've grown up with the internet but he gave some great tips that I had no idea about. So I thought it would be helpful to share them with you.

Tip #1: Create long passwords

Comic from xkcd

I hate the pain of memorizing a new password. Did I have the special character in the beginning or end? Is this the password that required me to use a capital letter?

It turns out that the easiest and most secure method is to create a long password.

Websites have given people a disservice with password requirements that force you to have special characters or numbers. It lulls people into a false sense of security.

In reality, length is exponentially more important. Four words combined should do the trick. Per the comic strip, the math speaks for itself.


I made these using a password generator to give examples of what strong passwords are. These are much harder for hackers to crack than if you were to use a short password.

Andrew's rule of thumb: Never have a password under 12 characters.

Tip #2: Include numbers or special characters in the middle

Some companies require you to have numbers or special characters.

Andrew recommends putting the characters or numbers in the middle of your password, not at the beginning or end, to make it less guessable for hackers.

It may sound a bit paranoid to do this. But it makes a lot of sense and requires very little effort on the user's end.

Tip #3: Use a password manager with a different Master password than your normal accounts

I've used 1Password for work before and just started using it for personal use after being fed up with Lastpass. I've heard BitWarden is also another good option.

Do your own research, obviously. And if you decide to use a password manager, make sure your Master password is different than your normal accounts. So if one password is compromised, your master password will still be safe.

And if you're not using one, you should strongly reconsider.

🐤 Tweets of the month

All tweets can be found on my Tweeter (@MrTamPham)

🙂 Before you go

🙏 Support Tam’s Jam:

📚 My books:

Thanks for reading! See you again next month.

With gratitude,


Tam's Jam

Tam Pham Twitter

I'm a writer and bachata dancer currently bouncing around Latin America. Trying to make the most out of my one wild and precious life.

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