24.2.12

GUESTPOST #3: "Not Being Me" - Amanda Rosenberg

This guest post is from my good friend Amanda Rosenberg who recently moved to California. Amanda is a very talented and funny young lady - she will no doubt enjoy great success and I hope one day she will employ me! If you would like to keep up to date with Amanda and her senseless ramblings then please feel free to add her on Google+ ;)
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I was really excited when Parin asked me to write a guest entry for his blog. However, when I found out the kind of thing he wanted me to write about, my excitement quickly waned. His exact words were:
‘I am always looking for new content around entrepreneurship, tech, education, Asia and just people doing cool stuff and learning new skills’

What?! None of those words apply to me (apart from Asia but that’s only because I’m Asian). So I had 2 choices, I could pretend that I was the CEO of a popular educational start-up...in Asia or I could just write about the new skill I’m learning, the skill of not being me.
Let me explain. I'd been living a beautifully choreographed life in London for pretty much my entire life; family, friends, job, life. Done. Then one day I realised that yes, everyday was choreographed but, the beauty had faded and was now a bit...shit. So I applied for a transfer with my company to go work in a different country, in a different department, in a different role on a different product. Yes! The romance of a transfer! I’m going to be like one of those girls in the movies; I’ll glide into a new city and instantly meet some cool people in a ‘bar down town’. I’ll wear hats and start saying things like ‘My friend Cole was there last week, he said it was amazing apart from the food and atmosphere’ Oh, to be a person!

Luckily for me this all worked out like I dreamed it would...NOT (I’m trying to bring NOT back). Of course it didn’t work out like that! Why? Um, maybe because I’m a deluded, 25 year-old who has been living in an urban womb for decades...maybe. So now I’m in San Francisco and working in Silicon Valley, like the rest of San Francisco. I’m excited and grateful to be here, it’s a beautiful city. It looks like London, if London was built in the Seventies....and were high. I remember having conversations with people about moving countries and they’d say things like:

‘I moved to New York when I was 27 and it was awesome, I lived in COOL AREA right next to this COOL PLACE and I did so many COOL THINGS’ (they actually said ‘cool things’ so I don’t know why I wrote that in caps)

Huh? What about the boring shit at the start?! No-one talks about how they first found their feet, how they had to re-learn everything, how it felt to be alone and how they managed to slowly crawl their way into being a pseudo-native of that city/country. I wanted DETAILS, I wanted to grab them and scream ‘Why are you not telling me about how you ate lunch in the toilets at work for the first week because no-one talked to you?! WHY?!’...ahem. Now, I understand that these are not the world’s biggest problems, I’m not dying, I do not live in poverty, my life hasn’t been ruined by natural disaster. With that in mind ladies and gentlemen, I give you the gritty details...

Week 1 - Take stock of yourself
I have a temporary corporate apartment which is great. Good, I have roof over my head and for that I am truly thankful
I have a phone but it’s useless because I need an American SIM card. Ok, I’ll get that from a...phone shop place or online...ONLINE??
I need the INTERNET, oh god I really need the Internet, this so should have been first, like, before the apartment. I’m hungry now, I’ll just quickly go and buy some...wait...buy with what?
I need American monies! I’m going to need to get a US bank account and card. Urgh, money should have definitely been first because money buys you Internet and Internet is eternal happiness. Suddenly not so hungry
What’s this envelope? Looks bill-y, maybe because...yes...oh god, IT IS A BILL. Now? A bill? But I literally just got here and I have no Internet! money! Hmmm, I will put it on this little table and I will deal with it in 400 years due course.
Right, I’m going to go out to find some...um...how do I get anywhere? How does public transport work? I can’t get on a bus, what if it drops me off in the middle of a crack town and I’ll have to find my way back with no phone? I may die and no-one would know and...ok....sofa, I’m going to sit on the sofa because I have a sofa, yes...I do...YOU HEAR THAT?! I HAVE A SOFA AND YOU CANNOT TAKE THAT AWAY FROM ME...unless I don’t pay that bill, in which case you could.

Hindsight lesson: It is perfectly ok to freak out about all this stuff (apart from the sofa bit, that is not cool). If you do each task, bit by bit then *puts hand on your shoulder* you’re going to be ok *smug smile*. Seriously though, the natural reaction is to get everything done all at once and the reality is that you can’t, so don’t. Make sure you complete one task before starting the next or else it snowballs and you just end up with loads of unfinished stuff which can cause more stress than not started stuff.

Week 2 - Slap yourself in the face
I’ve got a little bit of stuff and now I’m ready to start work
Hello new boss, hello new team...LIKE ME IMMEDIATELY
Hello everyone in meeting, I’m new and am desperate to prove myself and show you that I am good at work stuff because I know loads of things
I don’t know anything. Someone just said 5 things I did not understand. Just.Keep.Nodding
I’m going to pretend to know how to do what you just said and will only ask a few questions to avoid appearing useless
I’m not very good at this, I used to be good at having a job

Hindsight lesson: Week 2 is basically like Week 1 but with work instead of general life. Yes, you were good at your previous job and you probably had quite a bit of success, but that doesn’t mean you are suddenly going to be good in this one. It’s hard coming to terms with the fact that you can’t add value immediately, especially when people say that they ‘don’t expect you to be making an impact straightaway’ and you think ‘yeah, well I do and I want to, I want to prove myself now’. I realised the only way I was going to add anything to the team was by listening, having 1-1’s with people, learning about what everyone does, asking loads of questions (including intelligent ones), and most importantly, stop trying too hard to be the best because you’re not...yet.

Week 3 - Get yourself out there
Time to meet more people, people outside the office, or office people outside the office
A few people are going to a place for drinks after work? Yes, I’ll come, what’s your number? Here’s my number because I now have an AMERICAN SIM CARD
Hmmm, do I really want to go to this? I’m going to be the weird loner in the corner and the only conversations I’ll be having are ones that’ll make me want to rip my eyeballs out
No, I must go, this is my city dream, this is the ‘bar down town’, THIS. IS. MY. DESTINY
This is me on the sofa, at 8:30pm, on a Friday night, eating biscuits, in a Slanket
WHAT AM I DOING? I must find and read all those monstrously cheesy inspirational quotes and images (that I saved on my laptop in a folder named ‘Taxi receipts’)

Hindsight lesson: GO, go out, introduce yourself and have awkward conversations, because it’s better than no conversations (and much better than conversations between you and the TV, trust me). Then, someone will buy you a drink and the conversation will be less awkward and they’ll introduce you to their friend who will introduce you to another drink and suddenly you’re making friends. You probably have your own group of friends back home, friends you’ve had for years, who you miss terribly and now what? You have to make horribly polite chat with someone you don’t even know in a vain attempt to become their friend? YES! Listen, you cannot guarantee that this person will be your bff, you also can’t guarantee that they’re not actually a psycho killer who may cut you up into tiny pieces. The only thing you can do is try and it all starts with you initiating a simple ‘Hi, I’m ’, because remember, friends aren’t served to you on a silver platter (unless you do make friends with that psycho, in which case, that could literally happen). To be honest, this is something I’m still struggling with and will continue to do so for the rest of my life but I’m getting better.

So in summary, everything I want to say to you now will only end up sounding like one of those inspirational quotes layered on top of a strange and totally unrelated image. So before I go, I’ll leave you with this...!