Two years ago, I couldn’t really complain about my life. I mean it was all good, but when I would try and share things that did bother me, all I would get was the same response: “You shouldn’t be complaining, you’re a team leader / a software engineer / you have great shoes / you look good / you go on dates. Your life is amazing.”
And it WAS pretty good. But at least once a week, I would call my best friend and whisper to her bits of truth, that no one else wanted to hear: I was lonely, dating felt like a pointless repetetive ritual, with things crumbling down to the first appearance of hardship, my job was paying me well, but people were getting under my skin, and it felt like a highway to nowhere. I was using my work to avoid issues with my relationships and my health. I was slowly sliding down, getting comfortable, falling a sleep, while awake.
I decided to start small, to prepare myself for change, by saving some money. I had a feeling I was going to need it. Over a period of a year I put as much as I could into savings, with a growing realization that I wanted to buy my time back.
You see, when you work in Hi Tech, your (very generous) salary doesn’t really depend on your working hours. Especially where I live, work-life balance is pretty much non existent. I often found myself working for 12 hours a day. Wake up. Work out. Work. Come home. Smoke a joint. Take a shower. Sleep. Repeat.
About a year ago, something finally took over me, as I walked into my manager’s office and told him I was giving him my notice. He wasn’t totally surprised, he sensed it was coming. I decided I wanted my last day to be April 1st, however when the day came, and I left the company after 5 years, no one found it that amusing. They just ate the cake I had brought, told me good luck, maybe a pat on the back, and went on with their lives.
Here I was, without a partner and now without a job. I stopped going on dates, I was free at last. Two weeks later: back pain. Terrible terrible undescribable back pain. I had plane tickets to go abroad and I had to travel on pain killers. When I came back, it was all doctors, appointments and specialists. I was diagnosed with a herniated disc. Surprise surprise. BYE BYE Yoga. Hello physiotherapy.
I would assume most people dream about having lots of free time, but if you ever get a chance to experience it, be prepared for a lot of boredom. Having back pain stopped me from working out for a while. When I wasn’t hanging out with friends, I was stuck at home. It was that boredom, that pushed me to go for two weeks to Midburn, the local version of Burning Man. Alone. Knowing no one. Scariest thing I did in a long while.
The first week, before the mayhem started, I was kitchen chef, cooking food for around 150 volunteers, in the vastness of the empty desert. I forgot about my back and about my life, and let myself submerge in the pleasant pace of waking up to cook breakfast at 4am and going to sleep not late after dusk.
But on the first day of the event itself, I collapsed to my lowest point. Useless, tired, overflown. I cried in my tent for two hours. But something pulled me out. Thirst. I went to grab a glass of water, and started chatting with some stranger with a huge beard and lovely nail polish, he offered me a foot massage. I went on a walk, with a girl I didn’t know. She was sad, and I let myself follow her, while she talked. I followed a familiar face into a coffee shop, and talked for an hour about motorcycles and career choices. I let the cold draw me to a fire. I was offered a beer. I returned him a smile. We talked about stars. We fell in love.
We have been ever since, but this is not a story about love, but about driving change. In the months that followed, I was still avoiding the issues around my career. And being terribly in love, definitely helped me do that.
But sooner or later I had to. The money I saved was running out, and having more than ten years of experience in my field, I had high hopes. But interviews, just like relationships, are matter of chemistry. And once again, just like with relationships, that chemistry wasn’t happening. I interviewed with some of the top companies in the world, with the best of start ups, met with amazing entrepreneurs. I got a no over and over again. I said no after no.
Last week, my partner and I had a nasty fight and took a couple of days to cool down. I also had four out of five companies, I’ve been in final interview processes with, return me a negative answer, day after day. I was left with only one open process, with the company I wanted to work for the most. No backup plan. No one to talk to.
It was stormy outside (Really! This is not a cliche) and I went for a drive in the pouring rain and thought about faith. I am not religious, I don’t believe in God, but I thought about the faith of one in oneself. How important it is, to know that no matter what happens, you will still be ok, even when you’re not. The realization that the world might not like you right now, but it doesn’t mean that you should not like yourself. The simple truth that you don’t need every firm or every man or woman to like you. It only takes one. The one you want as well.
I got an email later that night telling me I was accepted. My partner called to congratulate me. We met and he brought me flowers. I don’t know if this job will be perfect. I don’t know if we’ll live happily ever after. My back still hurts now and then. But I am open to continue seeking discomfort and see how it goes.