Beyond the Highlight Reel
I love roller coasters. The nervous jitters when you buckle in. The pinch of fear and anxiety as you progress up the hill. The cathartic moment at the top that is always much shorter than you want it to be. And, of course, the joyous thrill of coasting down.
I’ve been on this roller coaster for 2 years. I’m not jumping off.
Flash back to my first month. New to the city, basking in the last few weeks of Seattle sunshine. I was buckling in. I hit my first wall about 2 weeks later. After working several nights until 9pm (I thought that was late, lol) and even more nights running to the bathroom with tear-filled eyes, I didn’t think I could do it. I’m not cut out for this job. It’s too hard. I’m not smart enough.
But I stayed on the coaster. I kept climbing.
I was shipped off to China about a week later. Let’s call China the corkscrew- the twisted inversion that flips you around, turns your stomach, and stresses you out. However, when the corkscrew is over, you always smile. You know it was worth it. Business travel is a stomach swirling experience, but one I would never trade. Immersed in the factories and culture is the best and fastest way to learn how things work around here. Every trip is an unforgettable experience full of learnings I will be forever grateful for.
I’m pretty sure I spent more weekends in China than I did in the US for my first 6 months. Making friends was easy. Keeping friends was hard. How are you supposed to develop new relationships when you leave the country every 6 weeks?
For quite some time, I focused on work and working out. Everything else was put on the back burner. Diving deeper into an introverted sense of self, I found that my field and fitness were consuming 99% of my willpower, and willpower is expendable. My ideal Friday night involved pajamas, a book, and an empty living room… even when I was invited out. I didn’t want to participate in fun things. I was mentally exhausted all the time. I was actually really sad.
Let’s call this part of the roller coaster “the tunnel.”
Christmas 2015, I sent out 78 hand written Christmas cards. An embarrassing amount of them had, “I promise we’ll hang out again when work isn’t so busy” written inside. That is not what you want to read in a Christmas card! I couldn’t believe how many friends I let slip away. How many memories I missed. So cue New Year’s resolutions!
A dozen self-help books later, I was ready to make a Switch. Find the Power of Habit. Learn How I will Measure my Life. Finding Balance in an Unbalanced World.
These past 8 months have been devoted to restoring relationships, exploring new places, and stepping outside my comfort zone. Learning it’s OKAY to leave work at 5:30 for happy hour with an old friend. Learning the gym will always be there tomorrow if I skip it today.
These past 8 months have had tons of small climbs up, but significantly more hills down. I’ve done a lot of living. Shout out to social media for sharing my highlight reel. Moments of bliss and enjoyment captured in time and shared for self-reassurance; I am developing balance.
But always remembering this is just a highlight reel. What isn’t pictured are the 90 hour work weeks. The 3 nights/ week conferences calls with China. The 2am releases that need to be redone in the morning anyway, because who releases their best work at 2am? Such is the life of product development. Such is the life I love.
I’ve learned and grown an insane amount at this wonderful company. My brilliant co-workers keep me trekking forward, and my project allows me to learn and develop new things every day. It’s really exciting! My job has presented me with countless opportunities to progress as an engineer and as a human. No matter how much I complain, I love the work I do. My heart is in it, and I will gladly work my ass off to create awesome products. It’s hard to believe it’s been 2 years already. I can’t wait to see what’s up ahead.
Life is basically Roller Coaster Tycoon, and I’m here trying to accumulate as much G force as possible. What’s your roller coaster look like?