4 minute read I wish we could say we didn't see this coming. But we saw this coming.
About 10 years ago, in the early fall of 2010...
...I remember one particular evening walking home from the bus stop in San Francisco, after a long day at work.
At the time, as my long-time readers may recall, I had just started working at Google, after a lengthy acquisition transition from my previous role at a start up, where we spent several months prepping for said acquisition interviews. I look back at those start up months before ending up at Google as some of the hardest of my early 20s. To make a long story short, it was a toxic work environment. I was worried about meetings all the time. I didn't eat well. I was staying up all night working on presentations for meetings the following morning, usually with a Diet Coke next to me in bed. Come to think of it, my first grey hairs happened around this time frame, which to a 24-year old, that was nearly apocalyptic. In a lot of ways, it feels like a lifetime ago. In other ways, I can still feel the heat flushing my face as I got up at 6am, realizing I was about to dread every minute of work that day.
I know what you're thinking...dramatic much? So let's fast forward to this evening in question.
I had just gotten off the Google shuttle, walking back downhill from Alamo Square toward a studio apartment in Hayes Valley that I loved. I can't tell you the specifics about that day -- what I was wearing, what show I was perhaps excited to watch at the time or what I was about to make for dinner. But I remembered feeling overwhelmingly happy. And I don't mean in the sense "I had a good day so I'm happy," happy, although from what I can remember, I did have a good day. No, this happiness was different -- I was very acutely aware during that walk home, of how happy I was with my life at that moment. From my boyfriend at the time, to my new-found work-life balance at Google, from the creativity I was feeling in both my professional and personal spheres to living in a new city that excited me every day. All the factors combined made me realize, in an almost existential, out of body way, how happy I was with how my life was coming together at that particular moment in time. I remember smiling on the way home, hopeful that I'd be able to maintain some semblance of this inner peace for years to come.
Naturally, over the course of the 10 years that followed that day, I've been extremely fortunate to have many bouts of similar happiness, both while I worked at Google and especially after I decided to leave to commit myself full-time to this corner of the internet that so many of you have afforded me the opportunity to make a living off of. On the flip side, I've had many phases where the opposite has been true -- running a small business is extremely rewarding, but running a small business where the platforms, algorithms and business objectives of big companies change every quarter, every week, every day(!), is just downright exhausting no matter how hard I try to adapt in my own way. To compound that, throw in the storm that is 2020 and it was only inevitable that I'd find myself in a prolonged state of feeling, for lack of a better word, defeated.
Before I share why I've been feeling defeated, I just wanted to underscore that I don't share any of this lightly or without the understanding that I know I'm extremely fortunate, especially given how much 2020 has brought. By all accounts, I'm healthy. My family is healthy. At the moment, I still have work to keep me somewhat busy and afloat. And I have an extremely supportive partner, who I love and feel infinitely closer to because of this pandemic. In the grand scheme of things, I know my experience pales in comparison to what so many people, in this country and around the world, are battling day after day -- so why can't I shake this negativity? Why can't I chase away these rain clouds? And moreover, how dare I assume my situation warrants attention at all -- which is where my guilt knocks on the door to join the already crowded pity part and I just want to dive under a pile of blankets and hide.
I suppose my overall hope in sharing this post today is simple. I don't want sympathy. Or advice. And I don't have tips to share on how I'm combatting these feelings just yet (because I'm still in the process of sorting that out). No, mainly I just want to remind whoever is reading this and feeling something similar at the moment, that you're certainly not alone. And despite what the internet might lead you to believe, we're all going through something -- big and small. My experience isn't meant to negate or diminish the importance of yours. And vice versa. That's the blessing and the curse of the human experience, right? With any luck, as I'm trying to remind myself now as I type this, the bad passes eventually. Pivot moments happen. Rain clouds clear. And we get on with it. My hope for you is that you can remember that when it gets dark and you don't know how to move forward -- light will come and your feet will move, one in front of the other. As they always find a way to do.
If ever there was an understatement for the year of 2020 it would be that it was full of uncertainty. We're practically riding wave after wave of uncertainty at this point -- which is, by itself, the only certainty this year has brought. As my boyfriend pointed out last night during dinner, I started my blog over 11 years ago, in the midst of the global financial crisis with zero idea of what the future had in store for me. Ironically enough, things feel somewhat full circle at the moment in that I'm on a career path that I'm not sure how to navigate forward during a time where the economy is volatile at best.
As a very emotionally charged Pisces, I'm empathetic to a fault. I absorb the energy around me -- the good and the bad -- taking it on sometimes, as if it were my own. Over the years, I've gotten better at filtering this and deflecting when I need to, but ever since March hit, it's gotten increasingly harder and harder every day. Especially as the news cycles churn out scary headlines left and right and the concept of time has both slowed down immensely and sped up at a frightening pace. My focus has felt jilted in a lot of ways, and while I was able to hone in creatively during much of the lockdown for work, I'm feeling a new troubling undercurrent rise up as it pertains to my career, which brings me to my next point.
This "undercurrent" I mentioned isn't necessarily spurred because of the pandemic. If anything, it's been festering for quite a while before hand. For the past year or so, I've struggled with defining it. Mainly because, in a lot of ways, it's contradictory. On one hand, I feel the most fulfilled with the visual content I've been creating lately -- from a photography stand point, from a storytelling standpoint, from a styling standpoint. And yet, at the same time, I feel the most resentment toward it, too -- mainly because of the platform vehicles I rely on to disseminate that content (ahem, Instagram) feel more and more limited reach wise. I won't bore you all with my gripes about the algorithm and analytics, as a sad, tiny violin plays in the background. At the end of the day, I'm aware of all the different "tips" I could heed as it pertains to "winning" at the Instagram game. But somewhere along the way of this past year, I've realized I don't know if I'm cut out for this game anymore. I don't enjoy making TikTok style, match-cut videos. I'm not an over-sharer when it comes to a lot of the inner details of my life. And perhaps it's the onset of my mid 30s, but I feel less and less inclined to spend hours rounding up links of what to buy on Amazon or the Nordstrom sale.
I don't say any of that to demean that work. Because it is admirable work. And I respect when content creators approach it thoughtfully and with intention. It's just not me. I think I miss certain aspects of the internet circa 2009/2010 that didn't feel all-consuming, all day long. I'm the same introvert I was back in college and as much as I've tried to "showcase" my online persona in recent years, it doesn't come naturally to me. Which is why I've thrown myself into trying to create aspirational content -- beautiful imagery with what I hope have been thought-provoking captions and posts. Something to make you stop, think and in some way or another, feel inspired to carry that notion into your own life.
What I'm starting to find is perhaps I've either fallen short in that pursuit or there isn't much appetite for it in the first place. I'm fine with either answer. I'm just trying to figure out what that means for my next step, where this corner of the internet isn't my sole income source. Bottom line: I'm definitely at a crossroads. And I'm not sure I know what road I want to turn on from here.
Like many you, I haven't seen my family since Christmas. Admittedly, I don't make it back west multiple times throughout the year, so there's nothing terribly out of the ordinary with that statement. But ever since March, I've had this anxiety-ridden fear in my gut that I wasn't sure when and if I'd be able to see them this coming holiday season as I would normally plan to. Suddenly, I was faced with this fear of feeling helpless in the face of the pandemic, as it pertained to my parents and their health. I miss them. I miss my sister. And I hate not knowing when I can see them next. When I can hug them next. When I can tell them to their face that I love them.
For various reasons, I've put off sharing this information, but mainly because, I was in shock for a long time. His diagnosis came rather unexpectedly during a routine checkup back at the end of May. It knocked the wind out of my lungs when our vet called me to say, "Do you have a moment to chat about Elvis?" Swollen lymph nodes led to a biopsy and eventually to a positive lymphoma diagnosis, followed by a dark and sad spiral of feeling so helpless at a time where I already felt pretty helpless. Now, in light of everything going on, I felt like I was about to lose my best friend of 7 years, my side kick who had seen me through good times and bad times, cross country moves, broken hearts and countless ugly cries, always calming me with an earnest lick on the cheek where tears had been.
I didn't share at the time, again mainly because my approach to sharing extremely personal things like this on the internet is to sit and BE with them for a moment. I had to process on my own. And with Ty and the advice of our doctors. Further compounded by the long overdue resurgence of the BLM movement that was happening at roughly the same time, my news felt terribly tone deaf. Far more important stories needed the mic and the airtime. And they still do.
Fast forward to today, and we're already several months into chemotherapy. Elvis is responding extremely well to the treatments -- and in fact, has already achieved remission! I temper that statement with a reality that I've had to accept since the end of May -- statistically speaking, most dogs with lymphoma, even after successful chemotherapy, will relapse at some point. An ideal outcome is to get 2 more years post diagnosis to fill with happy memories for them and for you. And believe me, that is what I intend to do for Elvis. For as long as I can.
All of this very long-winded post is to say: if you're feeling uncertain, uncomfortable, defeated and lost right now or even just a sliver of any of those feelings combined, please know, I see you. I really do. You're not alone. And while I could go into a long list of rational tips on how to combat those feelings, I know sometimes the simple thing that makes me feel infinitely better, is knowing there's someone else who's going through it as well. That and writing it all out -- 2,000 words later and I feel like I've gotten a good weight off my chest. I sincerely hope this post doesn't come across as ungrateful and whiny -- I was merely hoping to provide a sense of camaraderie at a time when I think we could use it most.
Truthfully, I keep thinking about the girl I was 10 years ago on that early fall day in 2010, walking home from the bus stop and how painfully happy she felt! Despite the bitterness 2020 might have instilled in me thus far, I still know deep down, I'm capable of feeling that way again. I just have a bit of work to do to get back there.