“Here we go again…”

This phrase kept rolling through my head as I was on my daily evening stroll in Colonial Park.  The reason is probably because the past week or so has been a whirlwind of activity.  I accepted a job offer from a small consulting company, I found an apartment and I have to move within the next week and start my new job.  To say that I am feeling a little anxious over so many changes is an understatement!  I’ve had anxiety every step of the way.  Whether to apply to this company in the first place? Whether to quit midway through the interview process? Whether to accept the offer?  So finally I decided.

I am not sure how to cope with it all. How will I maintain my sense of balance? My meditation?  All the creative things I am trying to do in my free time?  Should I just throw in the towel until January to get adjusted to things and then try to start some new routines to figure out life after corporate???  Will I even have any energy left over at the end of a work week for all this stuff??

I am clearly all over the place.  I largely abandoned this blog over the last six months because I wasn’t sure I had anything to say that I wanted to share on a blog. Thinking about the inception of this blog and re-reading my earlier entries makes me happy.   The last year has been harder.  With trying to start a business, then deciding not to, feeling like a failure, and then figuring out how to proceed.  I had a hard time with the thought of going back to a corporate job but could really use the money and the health insurance.

In the meantime, the idea of writing on a blog again has been tugging at me. But I didn’t have a theme I felt inspired to write about.  I thought about the types of writing I enjoy reading and it tends to be more personal and introspective in nature, such as the Modern Love column in the NY Times.  That is the kind of stuff I want to be able to write.  But I know it doesn’t happen overnight. Like any craft, I need to do it regularly to grow and improve.  I also need to make it a routine, otherwise it won’t happen. And somehow, the act of publishing it on a blog will force me to write more regularly.  That isn’t to say that I will publish everything I write. But it will force me to think more about what I want to say and polish it.

My goal, at least initially, is to publish once a week.  I thought about publishing more frequently, but also know that if I am too overambitious then it won’t get done at all.  The topics will be varied for now. I will see how it evolves and maybe in the future I will pick more of a focus.  Obviously topics like career, passion, creativity, and travel are favorites for me – they will very likely continue to be themes.

So today, while walking, the title of this blog came to me.  “Here we go again.”  Into the world of apartment hunting and work and schmoozing on the job and having my days filled with meetings and coming home so exhausted that I barely have energy to do anything but flop on the couch and watch TV.  It feels a little like I’ve been on this ride before. First with pwc. Then with Accenture.  Will I ever do anything else besides management consulting??  But while working out at the gym, Nelly Furtado sang on my ipod:

“I am not a one-trick pony
I really feel no one can own me
I really feel nothing can hold me

Nobody can control me
Nobody can conform me
Nobody can disown me
Nobody can ignore me

I am not a one-trick pony
For you I will not dance
For you I will not prance…”

I am not a one-trick pony.

Image

Amazing skies over Colonial Park

Anniversary of Bin Laden’s Death…

Every time I turn to the New York Times in the last day or so, I keep being reminded of the fact that it has been one year since bin Laden’s death.  And while I am happy that this is a major step forward in the war against terrorism, I keep thinking back to where I was last year at this time.  I was in such a different place emotionally and spiritually. I remember I had taken a week off of work to attend two weddings on the west coast and also just have some down time to think. I flew into Fort Worth where the first wedding was, stayed with my friend, Kay, and got to see her life there and catch up. She was also at a “stuck” point in her life where she was unhappy with stuff professionally and generally didn’t love Fort Worth.  Although she wasn’t at her happiest, I had a great time in Fort Worth. Kay and Partha were incredibly hospitable and made me feel like it was my home, too.  They indulged me by fulfilling all my requests, no matter how crazy -like going to a bull riding show at Billy Bob’s and doing other cheesy Texas-y things.

They dropped me off at the airport at the end of the weekend to catch a flight to San Francisco. I didn’t have a lot planned for that week…just a stay at the Courtyard Marriott by Fisherman’s Wharf and time to sleep in, catch up with old friends, and head to a wedding in Sonoma Valley the following weekend.   Just after landing at SFO I turned on my phone and saw that I had received two text messages from my brother while en route. The first saying that Obama was going to speak in a few minutes but people weren’t sure about what. The second was telling me that they killed bin laden.  I turned to the New York Times on my cell phone and was shocked and surprised to see that not only had they killed bin laden, but that they found him in Pakistan.

Despite the surprises in the news and the constant chatter in the press about the implications of this latest turn of events, I was so thrilled to be on vacation and far away from home and work.  I took a cab to the hotel and checked in, excited about my plans, or lack thereof, for the week.  I remember taking a run by the water in the mornings and just using the time to think. Taking in the blue sky and cool breeze and being sooooo happy to be away.  I remember eating delicious Mexican food in the Mission and awesome pizza at Delfina’s.  I enjoyed Salted Caramel ice cream at Bi-Rite.  I took the trolley to the Ferry Building, ate a delicious warm egg salad sandwich with cheese on top (sounds gross, but was absolutely delicious!) and sat by the water to unwind. Finally I bought a pretty purple moleskine notebook to think and write.  I must have sat there in the sun for two hours that day, writing and contemplating.

Later that week I headed to Neera’s wedding in Sonoma Valley.  I remember talking to one of her college friends during the rehearsal dinner.  This friend had recently taken a career sabbatical and could see I was on the edge of taking one myself, but needed convincing that it would all be ok and that there was nothing to fear.  She was fantastic with really convincing me that I would be ok – after all she had quit her job in advertising, planned to take six months off, and was offered another advertising job before her six months were up.  I took a deep breath and asked for a leave of absence when I returned to work the next week.

After that, the last year has been a blur of incredible experiences and general giddiness with life. I had no idea what an amazing ride it would be.  I took the purple moleskine while traveling over the next six months. Initially it was my travel planning notebook.  Then it turned into my journal/travel planning notebook/area to jot down the awesome places I came across on the road.  During the trip I kept turning back to those first few pages I had filled last May with thoughts about how I needed to and wanted a change, but was terrified and felt stuck.  Every time I read those pages, I can immediately picture myself there again and remember that feeling of dread in my stomach…dread about work..dread about asking for a leave…dread about the great unknown.  Ultimately, I am glad I got out of my comfort zone to take the sabbatical.  The scariness has been well worth it.

So the anniversary of bin laden’s death is somewhat meaningful for me in a strange way.  As you can see, the mere mention of his death brings me back to where I was last year and reminds me of how far I’ve come and what an amazing journey it’s been.  It’s like when you hear an old song on the radio that takes you back to a completely different time and place – you can remember all the details, the weather, what you were wearing, what you ate, how you felt.  So for me, the memory of that week is a beautiful one because it was the beginning of a great journey.  Here’s to continuing the amazing ride!

Feeling like myself again

So I spoke with Colleen over the phone a few days ago in our initial conversation about starting a business together. It went really well and I am super excited.  I think we both have very similar ideas on how we want our business to work and so far she is a great business partner with a similar level of detail and attention to the work we are putting in together.  I am really happy that I asked her to partner.

At the end of our conversation about the business, we just started talking about ourselves and how stuff is going. I love her optimism and general happiness about everything. It is one of the things that really drew me to her. She mentioned something that really resonated with me. She was saying that after only two years of working at pwc, she just didn’t feel like herself anymore. And it took almost a whole year longer to feel like herself again.

I could totally relate. That wasn’t among the sentiments I had repeatedly expressed to people (like so many other job-related things that I repeatedly whined about). But it was a sense of feeling out of sorts and putting on a different persona at work. I know I can’t always dress in my college clothes and be a bum. But there is some middle ground, which I didn’t think my life at my last job was really amenable to. I keep thinking back to various situations: feeling envious of my clients in Miami who could comfortably be themselves at work, feeling like I was in a dark tunnel in St. Louis, feeling like I would never want a job like the ones my clients had on Long Island, the sense of dread I felt on a daily basis at Yale and how much I hated that role and being in New Haven as a consultant.  I just didn’t feel like myself in any of those situations.

I have to agree with Colleen that it has taken me a long time to come back to me.  I finally shed the persona of the knowledgeable consultant having to act like I know everything in order to justify our high rates or having to prove myself to peers.  I can pursue things that are important to me now. I can venture to India to start this business and not have to dress in a suit or do “professional speak” to impress people.

Sure, parts of it are valuable – like knowing how to plan and run projects, how to make presentations, and how the corporate world works in general. But I don’t know how people do this their whole life. I really don’t. Yesterday I was describing to a friend how in looking back at my job, I feel like it was this controlling relationship. The company kept trying to make me happy with money and a semblance of the things I wanted (staying local), but it wasn’t enough to keep me in the relationship. And now that I have left, I feel like I am flying. I was so worried about what others would think of my new business idea and how hoaky it is. But that fear is slowly fading.  I have started to post more on Facebook, which I think is fun. I have opened up my blog to the public (though haven’t advertised it), which is huge for me. These little steps are big ones for me.

I didn’t realize that after leaving I would uncover so many layers of myself and of my relationship with my former job. It was only leaving that could have done this for me. The longer I suffered in that job, the longer the real me would stay suppressed and hidden away.  And I felt like I had to have all the answers when I resigned and I didn’t. Looking back now, there is no way I could have had the answers. Just the mere act of being away has given me the space to find the answers. I knew they were there all along, but it took me time to uncover them.

“The Journey”

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice —
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do —
determined to save
the only life you could save.

-Mary Oliver

The Leap of Faith

“Faith is taking the first step even though you cannot see the whole staircase”

-MLK

It’s been a total of three weeks since I returned from my grand trip around the world and I have had a chance to reflect on my travels and what is next.  The first thing I agonized over and then finally completed was resigning my job.  I was sure I wanted to resign, but agonized over what to say in my final conversations with the various partners I worked closely with.  I only ended up having one conversation because everyone else was on vacation. And the conversation didn’t go too badly.  I tried to stay honest because I felt it was only fair to me and to the people I was speaking with.  Reflecting on my six years there, I was proud that I made it from Consultant to Senior Manager and had been successful at my job.  I think it set me up well for whatever comes next.  And I am also confident that leaving was absolutely the right decision for me.

So what is next?  I have no clue right now.  I am pondering doing contract work for my last client.  It sounds like it’s great money and little commitment. That feels like a great deal for me right now.  Then I can continue to travel and explore.  I don’t think I will do contract work forever – probably until I get bored with it.  I do somehow feel like I am on the path to something bigger and better than what I was doing before.  There was a moment during my travels where one of my best friends emailed me a one liner saying “you’re doing it!!  you’re in Asia!!”  It was a great reminder to me that I finally did it!! I took the leave of absence from work and took off to travel and was finally on my way to resigning!  All stuff that had felt unthinkable to me in the past.

One of the best things that has changed in me since my travels is an amazing feeling of optimism for whatever comes next.  It is a bit scary because I am not sure what it will be.  But I am just running on a feeling that this is the first step in a journey that will lead to so many more amazing things to come.  I found this blog posting that describes much of how I am feeling.  I especially love the line near the end, describing the feeling of “Yes, I did it!” that’s always tinged with a little “Oh god, what have I done?”  Here’s to keeping this feeling alive for a long time 🙂

Scuba diving

So I finally worked up the courage to take a scuba lesson today. Years ago, I had filled in the health questionnaire for scuba and two things I wrote on it nixed me from participating and also made me fear ever trying scuba – my asthma and claustrophobia. The asthma I could understand, though mine is so mild it’s hardly noticeable. But the claustrophobia is the bigger issue. I have had panic attacks when stuck on the subway. There is nothing worse than feeling trapped. And i generally avoid situations that could lead to a panic attack – like taking the next train if the subway was too crowded for my comfort level. But i couldn’t understand what it was about scuba that was claustrophobic. After all, you are out in the open water.

So why did I try it? Well after snorkeling with a local dude who showed me all kinds of cool stuff underwater, he said that you can see even more cool stuff if you dive. So I started pondering it and visited the dive school next to my hotel to ask all kinds of questions. It seemed like my asthma is mild enough not to be an issue. And after trying a shallow water dive (maybe 10 feet deep) I could back out if i didn’t want to do the next dive at 12 meters.

So with great apprehension, I signed up. Even thinking as late as this morning that maybe I should back out.

We took a boat from Gili Air to Gili Meno where we had a lesson on hand signals, breathing, etc. Then we got suited up and headed into the water. My first fear of the dive suit feeling too constricting (and therefore leading to a potential panic attack) was unfounded. It fit with enough breathing room. I was worried all the gear might make me feel too weighed down. It did, but I managed not to panic because there were so many other things to focus on and we quickly got in the water anyway, where you don’t feel the weight of all the gear. The hardest part was getting used to the breathing. You can only breathe through your mouth and it feels like you are not getting enough air initially. But they taught us to breathe slow – 4 seconds breathe in, 4 seconds breathe out. The main instructor, Adrian, could very quickly see that I was a big time scaredy cat and required a lot of hand holding. Once he figured this out, he was always keeping an eye on me and making sure I wasn’t panicking. If he saw me starting to get scared, we would focus on my breathing together and then I calmed down. Once I saw that I could trust him, I would look for him every time I began to feel uncomfortable and then calm down again.

Well I survived the shallow water dive and started to even enjoy it by the end, though we couldn’t see anything but sand there. I was worried about the 12 meter dive and kept thinking that maybe I should back out. After lunch we got suited up again and headed out on the boat. Once we were in the middle of the water you had to get in the water by basically falling backwards off the boat. It looks scary and I was the last one off the boat because I couldn’t summon the courage to do it with everyone else. Finally I managed to do it with one of the instructors and discovered it actually wasn’t bad at all.

Then Adrian split up our group of 4 students in two so that me and one other girl went with him (thank god, i was thinking, but I am sure he kept me close because he knew I needed extra attention) and the other two girls went with Tina, an instructor in training.

So we started to descend slowly and after only like 2 feet I told Adrian I wanted to come up. So we came up for a minute and then went back down super slow. Every now and then I could feel the panic rising within, but did my best to keep it at bay by focusing on Adrian. He kept making eye contact underwater and asking if I was ok. And he was holding my hand while descending. I also didn’t know how to really get out of it at this point if I wanted to without spoiling the experience for the other students.

Anyway, we slowly descended and I kept looking down and then up again to see how far we were. And of course I kept checking to make sure Adrian was still there and hadn’t abandoned me on the mistaken assumption that I was ok now. Finally we reached the bottom and immediately Adrian pointed out a giant turtle eating seaweed or something. It was so cool that i stopped fixating on how I could escape if need be. Then I saw some cool fish and some coral. Every time I started to feel any sort of panic, I would focus on looking for cool fish and my breathing and check for Adrian. At one point I couldn’t see him and I started thrashing around looking for him. He saw me and quickly swam to my front so I could see him.

Before I knew it, 40 minutes had passed at 12 meters and it was time to ascend. I couldn’t believe I had survived the day without backing out or having a massive panic attack. I was so proud, though it was due in no small part to Adrian who had to handhold me (literally) the entire time.

Many people come here and get their Open Water Diver certificate. It would take 2 or 3 more days – time I actually do have. But I am happy with my progress today. Maybe in the future I will dive again, but this was perfect for me today. Plus I would need to find an Adrian at every dive school!

So after I got back, I was thinking in the shower (great place for contemplation) that if I was Carrie Bradshaw, I would draw some lesson about relationships from this experience. I did think of a good lesson, but more related to my journey so far: don’t fixate on the stuff that scares you. Focus instead on the positive.

Ok, so I need to work on my eloquence. But there you have my life lesson. I know it’s kind if a long and boring post, but I feel so proud of myself today!!