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Your situation sounds almost exactly like mine.

I got lucky when I decided to come back home to Imperial County, a place here in Southern California with over 25% unemployment most of the time. Right after I finished my degree, and about a year after I started my initial job searching, I ended up landing a great position in 2008 as the webmaster for the local community college.

I had been really happy with my job, and then a few buddies of mine in the Joomla community liked me enough to offer me an opportunity at eBay in 2011 which I ended up taking for a short while. It was tough being away from my family/support network though. Work-wise, I didn't have as much responsibility as I already did at the college, but there was definitely the promise that there would be a lot more down the road. However, I got the sense that my buddies were already thinking of moving on to another company, which scared me a bit as I had gotten used to the job security of working for a public institution. In the end, I ended up getting lucky once again with my old position getting upgraded so I had to decide whether to come back or stay at eBay. I ended up coming back home and starting in the new role in early 2012.

Coming back felt right...but now two years into the new position my heart sort of yearns again for something new and to be a part of something bigger so I can learn more and be more.

My current job is still awesome for my area (if I were to lose this particular position, there would be no equivalent locally that I'm aware of), but what annoys me is that I keep track of all of the Who's Hiring? Threads here on HN each month and I feel like the folks in these companies (at least the ones I've been interested enough in contacting) don't appear to value what I've done so far. Maybe I don't use the latest languages (due to our infrastructure, I've kept things mainly to PHP/MySQL and more recently, PowerShell, for server integration work) or have a lot of experience scaling to millions of users, and I don't use every buzzword I know about, but I definitely know I'm capable of contributing a lot to a team and my people skills are probably one of my greatest assets.

Like you, I sometimes wish I could just work remotely...as an example, last week I wasn't feeling well on Tuesday so I took a sick day and napped for part of the morning and then connected remotely to a WebEx training we were having at 11 AM with a new company we're working with and then caught up on the previous day's work in the afternoon, since I had been out on Monday as well, all from the comfort of my pajamas. It was nice and relaxing, so it might be something I could talk about more with my supervisor. The problem is when you're supposed to be managing other people in addition to your own work, having your presence in the office most of the time is more or less expected so that can be a downer in my case, but perhaps you wouldn't have that same issue.

Going back to my comments above though about the Who's Hiring Threads, while I'm not sure what exactly it is that may not make me attractive to the companies, I think one of them could definitely be that I'm not located in their general vicinity.

There's a lot to be said for being in the right place where those opportunities are more readily available. I wish I could just up and move myself, but in order to maintain the same lifestyle I'd have to be making considerably more than I am currently, simply because rent is so expensive in the Bay Area (and I'd need a decent sized place since I'd be living with my wife and little one). And with all of my family down here in Southern California, it would definitely make spending time with the family more difficult (no quick weekend drives to San Diego, or being able to ask a sister or parent to watch over the little one as inexpensive daycare on certain days or evenings).

If I were in your position, I would go ahead and downsize to a smaller/closer apartment, but I think moving back home would probably put you in a risky position because the remote work opportunities can IMO be a bit more precarious, particularly if everyone else is in the office (even if your still doing about the same amount of work, I think there'd just be that perception that less work is being done, which is a bummer).

I would favor staying put even more if back home you had a low probability of getting a local position that pays close to what you're making now.

All I can say is good luck and I hope you make the right decision for yourself (and I wish some more people would see the value of us small city folk :-).

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