Spring Thaw

I’ve been busy being depressed, watching Netflix, and procrastinating everything in my life. It reminds me a lot of when I was graduating from Macalester, and I’m mad at myself for falling into the same habits. I haven’t written, partially because of all of this, and also because I’m not always sure if I want to continue having a public blog. I started this blog, and have maintained it, because I think other people go through the same things I do, and it could be helpful for them. Yet, I wonder if it will ever hurt my chances at finding a job. Or worse, hurt someone I care about. It is a delicate balance that I am always very mindful of, but sometimes I make the wrong decisions. A friend of mine recently shared her own story though, and it reminded me of the reasons I will continue to share my own.

One example of fear related to a job… I recently went to Utah for an interview. The highlights were endless: the company is a small, fun technology firm; I would be a manager to 10+ high potential recent grads; they allow puppies in the office; culturally, I loved everyone I met. On the other hand though, it is in Utah, which is far from the NYC in which I envision myself living. Both geographically and culturally. I was really concerned about how me having a public life could influence my ability to lead a strong team. Would they have doubts in my leadership abilities because I have publicly stated I’ve dealt with depression? Would I be less effective with my subordinates knowing details of my personal life? I’ve never pretended to be religious, but I would also be nervous that my openness could be frightening to some of the more religious and conservative people that are in the majority in this small town in Utah.

In the 6 weeks since this interview, I’ve come to realize a few things about myself. First off, I’m just a candidly open person, both online and in person. I don’t say anything on the internet that I wouldn’t say in real life, and whenever I do have the opportunity to manage a team, I will carry this strength with me. I believe it makes me both relatable and inspiring, and is something I would value in a manger of my own.

Next, Utah isn’t for me. It is beautiful, absolutely, and I would love to vacation there sometime. Yet, I need to live in a big city. I love being able to walk everywhere and not have to worry about a car. I love being able to run down stairs and across the street to get my Starbucks coffee. I need to have a neighborhood bar when Joe and I can go after work for a drink or two, and not have to worry about driving home. I also feel that there is just more going on in NYC. My Macalester community, Girls in Tech, book clubs, etc., will all be available in New York. Sure, they could be in Utah too, but there would be fewer options and a longer commute to any of them.

Learning these things about me, that I want to be in NYC and that I’m really excited about managing a team (and believe I’ll be really great at it), took a while. I had been applying to a ton of data analytics positions, both because that’s what I know and because it is what I’m good at. Yet, it isn’t what completely excites me. So, today I still don’t have a job, but I know a lot more about what I’m looking for and can be more fierce in tracking that down. For now, I’m pushing down the fears that I’m a fraud and can’t actually positively contribute to a company. I’m happy it is finally spring.

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LA and Amsterdam and Israel

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I’ve arrived in Los Angeles. I flew in last night after a week of zero productivity back in Boston. Well, I guess it was productive in that I finished season 9 of Criminal Minds so I’m all caught up on what’s available via Netflix… that counts for something, right?

Coming to a new city and starting from scratch is so refreshing. I don’t have any bad habits ingrained in me yet and I can try to set better ones. I remember when I first graduated from Macalester and started working at Target – it was such a great time where I was able to get in shape, explore new hobbies such as baking and writing, and do a lot of self reflection. Then Joe came into the picture and while I’ve gotten a lot of good habits from him, I also picked up some bad ones. The lazy ones.

Last summer I had the opportunity to start fresh when I moved to Boston. Something went wrong though. Instead of having a home that encouraged activity, I feel the focal point became the TV and all of a sudden my entire summer disappeared. When Joe would get home from work we’d do fun things and explore the city, but I still managed to put way too much effort into Covert Affairs and Royal Pains.

Not wanting to fall into that same trap, I’ve decided to do something drastic. I am swearing off TV for the summer. Ideally I would find some sort of happy medium where I could watch some programs to stay up on pop culture but not so much that I watch hours upon hours. But I’m sort of like an alcoholic with my TV and I can never have just one.


In other news, Israel was absolutely fantastic. I believe it may be the best international travel experience I’ve ever had. On my way there, I had the opportunity to have an extended layover in Amsterdam. I was able to leave the airport and explore the city for about 8 hours before my next flight. I was a little nervous about managing all of this on my own. I had never been to another country alone before, but from what I had heard, Amsterdam is pretty accessible.

I quickly figured out how to buy my train ticket from the airport to central Amsterdam. I decided to take the Canal Bus, which not only allowed me to hop on and off the boat at places throughout the city, but it was a great way to see the architecture with a guide.

My first stop was the Van Gogh museum. I didn’t know much about him going in, but really enjoyed learning his story through the setting they offered. Afterwards, I went for pancakes at a cafe recommended to me by a friend on Facebook. They had a notice though that their credit card machine wasn’t working, so I made sure I would be able to afford something with the $10 I had. I found a Nutella pancake for $8, which also gave me enough for the tip. Once I got the bill though, I realized they charged me for water. Doh! I had to pull the whole “this is all I have” thing, and I felt like a dumbass. Boo.

Next I attempted to go to the Anne Frank house, but the line was 3 blocks long. Only having a short amount of time I didn’t want to waste it all in line. So, I just went and picked up some postcards and then sat at a rooftop bar and wrote them out to people while sipping a cocktail. It was beautiful and marvelous and the highlight of Amsterdam.

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Israel was something else entirely. The first night we had dinner on the hillside at a beautiful outdoor restaurant. The food was amazing, I got to connect with some friends I haven’t seen in a while as well as meet some new folks. It was so tranquil and a really great way to start a vacation. [Once I got home, I tried texting Joe but it wouldn’t go through. We were kind of in the middle of no where. The next day I had a bunch of texts from him and he was pretty convinced I was dead because he Googled the cell phone reception in Israel and was sure I would have coverage everywhere. Aww…]

Photo by Matan Shiloach
Photo by Matan Shiloach

The next day we went to Jerusalem and did the Old City stuff. I went in the room of The Last Supper, saw the golden dome and where Jesus was crucified… very neat from a historical perspective.

The next day we started out at the Holocaust Museum and then it was time for the Dead Sea. Holy hell it was hot. I think it was over 115 degrees, and we were in the sun and it was humid as crap. I had thrown up a few times from night before (#winning) so I was hating the heat all that much more. It was the most amazing private beach party though. There was a beautiful buffet, slushies, massages, and great music. We got all mudded up and then dipped into the sea. I didn’t actually like being in the water. I floated too much, it tasted terrible (whoops!) and made all my skin sting. I didn’t stay in too long :)

Photo by Matan Shiloach
Photo by Matan Shiloach

That night we slept in tents in the desert. I was woken up at 1am by a jackal, who I thought was a cat at the time. I’m glad I didn’t know the truth then. I was woken up again at 4am because it was time to hike up Masada. Here is my paraphrased story of the land: Masada is this mountain in the desert that is flat on top. Thousands of years ago this guy, Herod, went and built his palace there because he was a nervous SOB and thought everyone was trying to kill him. The mountain top allowed him to watch his back most of the time, and then he had other protections in place for the rest of the time. Then he died and everyone left.

Then, years later, when the Romans took over the temple in Jerusalem, some Jews fled to Masada. They set up camp in Herod’s old palace and were able to use his cisterns as well. Then, after these 900 people spent some time on the mountain, the Romans decided enough was enough and came to get them. But because it is a mountain top it is nearly impossible to take over. Eventually the Romans used Jewish slaves to build an extremely large ramp up to the top where they then broke down the wall.

Not wanting to let their women and children be raped and made into slaves though, the man in charge decided everyone should die instead. So he chose men who would go around and kill all their families and then kill themselves at the end. The next day, when the Romans come in, they found that everyone was dead. They were pissed, I believe. There were a couple holdouts though, which is how we know the story. The Dovekeepers is a historical fiction novel written about Masada and it is an amazing book I would recommend everyone read.

Photo by Matan Shiloach
Photo by Matan Shiloach

Then I rode a camel.

Photo by Matan Shiloach
Photo by Matan Shiloach

The next day I rafted down the Jordan River and then ATVed up to the Syrian border. It was scarier than it sounds. Those red signs on the fence below say “Caution, Mines.” As in, land mines. I only walked where others walked… just in case.

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IMG_1377This is the inside of the former Syrian Military Headquarters. It looks like it was bombed… we took another set of stairs to the roof though, so it wasn’t completely destroyed. Because we hadn’t done enough yet that day, we went to a winery for wine tasting. That evening I was like, wow, how the crap is this my life. It all felt very surreal. But I can definitely see myself looking at Israel a lot differently now and have a new appreciation for the things that are going on in that area of the world.

After that we headed to Tel Aviv where the trip shifted to more of a party. It was amazing. We had the best resort on the beach and went to amazing outdoor restaurants.

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Somehow, I made it out alive.

Travel from hell –> Pretty good week

 

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What started as the worst week ever turned fantastic pretty quick.

Traveling back from China was the worst 26 hours of my life. Physically. I’m sure I had worse emotionally, especially when I was an emo-teenager. Something I ate on Saturday, most likely the dinner of dumplings, made me sick. I didn’t realize this until 5am the next day when Victor showed up at my door to take me to the airport. I was still sleeping and hadn’t yet packed, but he was an hour early so I fully believe I would have gotten ready on time had he not been early.

Once in the car, I took out the barf bag I had been carrying around with me all week “just-in-case,” at Victor’s request. It was the mix of the driving around (which was obviously terrifying) and being up so early, and my upset stomach could barely handle it. I did make it to the airport, but the second I was through the door I had to run to a bathroom. Luckily I actually stumbled into one with an actual toilet rather than a hole in the ground.

I cleaned up and went back out to meet Victor and Anya who were seeing me off. Victor wanted to grab breakfast but I was like “omg I will just throw up again” and decided not to eat anything. We said our goodbyes and I made it through security. I wanted to buy a bottle of water because I was pretty thirsty, but apparently it is impossible to buy bottled water at the airport in Kunming. They did, however, have little water machines with paper cups every now and again so I tried to use one of those. I couldn’t make the water come out. I ended up texting Victor and he gave me instructions. It shouldn’t have been that hard.

Having something in my stomach again made me feel ill, so I went to the bathroom. But BAM! there were 15 women in line. So, I left the bathroom and used the garbage can sitting outside, right on the main walkway of the entire airport. After successfully throwing up into recycling (oops!) I made my way to my gate and painfully waited over an hour because it was delayed.

Once on the flight, still thirsty and dehydrated, I got apple juice from the flight attendant when she came around. That didn’t work either so within 5 minutes I was throwing up in the bathroom of the plane. I sat back down again. By now, you’d think I had it all out of my system. I realized this was false when I felt ill again and went to the bathroom, again. There was a line, however, and stupid me didn’t bring my barf bag with me. As I stood there waiting I was carefully evaluating whether or not I could hold it. I eyed the seat pockets of those around me just in case, when all of a sudden I knew I had to reach for one. A seven year old boy had his sticking out a bit, and even though he was at the window seat I leaned in and swiped it. And voilà, there I went again.

The flight attendant saw me this time and brought extra bags for me as well as a small cup of water. Hot water, obviously, because this was still China. I didn’t drink much more than a sip because of my inability to keep it down. I eventually went back to my seat and tried to nap. I wasn’t able to do so, but soon we started landing anyway (it was about a two hour flight). About as soon as the “remain in your seats we are landing now” announcement was made, I needed to throw up again. I felt really bad for the man sitting next to me, no one should have to experience stranger-vomit. Thankfully it was mostly liquid at this point though and therefore wasn’t overwhelmingly stinky. Yay!

He only spoke Chinese but tried to show me some hand pressure points that would help make me feel better. It was hard to hold my barf bag and really do what he was showing me, but at least I tried.

Once in Shanghai, I had to get my new ticket printed and make it to the next terminal. I found my way to the singular Delta counter in the airport and attempted to get my ticket. However, they said I needed to grab my checked luggage first, even though the woman in Kunming explicitly told me I wouldn’t need to. Okay, so I sickly walk to baggage claim 7, where she told me, only to find she meant 1. Once I get to 1, most of the baggage had come out and it was clear mine wasn’t there. This is when I began to cry. I called Joe at $1/minute because I just felt alone without any ability to communicate and sick ans arrggg.

After making sure my luggage wasn’t indeed anywhere, I went back to the counter to tell them so. While listening to them decide what to do, I throw up again. Luckily I had the extra bags from the flight. They had to check for the luggage themselves, obvi, so there was more walking around. Eventually they said “it isn’t here” and finally just printed my tickets. Because I didn’t think I would be going through security again, I bought a water which they actually sell in Shanghai. I knew I would throw it up but I was just so parched.

Once I was in line for security, whoops, I saw some classmates of mine who were stationed in Shanghai for their project. I was just so so so excited to see people I knew and was able to communicate with. I just felt bad they had to watch me vomit while standing in line, but they handed me tissues and were really helpful.

You know how they always have garbages right before the x-ray machines for all the things you forgot you had? Yeah, they don’t do that in Shanghai. So when I get up to the front of the line I find I have nowhere to place said barf bag. I had to carefully hand over a warm bag of vomit to a very nice looking security woman who only spoke Chinese. She then passed it to a coworker and so forth – it finally found a garbage.

For some reason I thought that a skittle would be a good idea. Well, maybe I didn’t even think it would be a good idea but I needed something to get the taste of vomit out of my mouth. While it didn’t get the taste out because it came back up pretty quickly, it was sort of like one of those pills that makes your poop smell good. I still had to go through it but it didn’t taste as bad.

At this point, I was only 6 hours into the 26 hours of travel.

The next leg was a 14 hour flight. Once I made it on board, I warned my seat mate of my “motion sickness” just so I didn’t catch her off guard. I was on the aisle though, so at least she wouldn’t need to get up every time I needed to throw up. Surprisingly I only had to get up 3 times during that long flight, and towards the end was even able to eat some bread and managed to hold that down. Winning!

This flight was incredibly turbulent though. I really thought I knew I was going to die. And, at that moment, there was nothing I could do so I kind of just tried to stay focused and think of happy things. I ended up feeling very calm knowing that I would die, and I convinced myself that I didn’t want my last moments to be in pain so I somehow willed myself to numb away my stomach ache.

I couldn’t concentrate on any movies and I couldn’t read or play cell phone games, so I just sat there and reflected and maybe drifted to sleep once or twice. 13 hours later I’m finally in Detroit and I felt a lot more calm and not as freaked out. I didn’t even care that my luggage wasn’t there either, I just told the agents and they let me through customs anyway.

Only 3 hours of waiting and a 2 hour flight stood between me and Joe. I could handle that. I finally had real internet access again, so I watched some Criminal Minds on Netflix while waiting and then slept for the whole flight. Joe picked me up at the airport and we went to file the claim for my missing luggage together. It was actually kind of nice to not have to drag it around. Instead, it was going to be delivered!

Once home at midnight Monday morning, I slept solidly until 4pm the next afternoon. I missed class, but that’s okay in situations like this. I stayed up for a few hours and was able to fall asleep with Joe that night. Jet lag is a crazy thing.

The next day, everything in life was just so much better. My first class of the day was a new class called “Managing in Adversity.” Every class a different CEO or leader come in to share stories of how they, get this, managed through an adversity. First up? Ed Davis, former police commissioner of Boston, who was in office when the Boston Marathon bombings occurred.

It gave me goosebumps listening to the story through his point of view. All the people he had to interact with, all the things he saw and decisions he had to make. It made me want to join the law enforcement it was so powerful.

That night, I had a networking event for Netflix at the Lenox hotel. This hotel was right near one of the blast sites and was mentioned in the case we read in preparation for Ed’s talk. Even though I’ve been by there tons of times since moving to Boston, after hearing from Ed I definitely experienced it differently.

The Netflix event was awesome. I’m so in love with their focus on analytics and how they use data, I just want to work for them forever. They even had more women at the event than men, which adding this to their recent addition of Anne Sweeney to their Board of Directors, it is clear they value women in business more than most other tech companies. It is seriously such a dream company for me, I’m going to really try to pursue an internship with them even though they typically don’t bring us on.