Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Getting real... I'm still getting started.

It's been a little while since I posted, and there's good reason.  Writing again has been simultaneously desperately needed and desperately dreaded, but I've finally had to embrace it and get real with myself and with whoever the hell is reading this (oh, hey!)  Part of the reason I started this blog is because I wanted to be honest about my personal and professional challenges and my insecurities about facing them.  I found strength in acknowledging those challenges and insecurities and sharing them with others.  Of course, part of that is selfish - you put what you are feeling or experiencing out there, and you realize that a) it's not so bad once you say it out loud, and b) you're not alone.  But it also isn't necessarily so difficult to put it out there when you're just getting started in a new career and a new place because you don't really have much to lose.  I was able to start out on an honest foot because I felt far enough away to be frank, but also because I was in a place where I felt safe enough to not be afraid of what people thought of me. I took solace in the promise that seeing the world as it is, acknowledging reality, and dealing with it is the only way to break through to great things and I still felt a certain confidence that I could be on the verge of that.  I still felt confident that I was on an adventure, that I was working on building something that mattered, and I would be able to find myself in that journey.

But now I have an embarrassing confession to make.  I'm over one year in Hong Kong, well over one year into this "entrepreneurial adventure", GA Hong Kong has grown into a community of several thousand students and a team of nearly six... and it's fucking scary because I still feel like I'm still just getting started.  I'm still struggling with all the same things I wrote about over a year ago - climbing all those steps but not sure where they lead, knowing things are hard and somehow being surprised when they actually are fucking hard, highs and lows, trusting my gut, taking responsibility, knowing who I am and what I am good at, blah blah blah.  I certainly didn't leave finance and leave "the known" expecting to get it all figured out in a year, but shouldn't I have some things figured out?  It's scary to look yourself in the mirror and acknowledge that maybe I just might be no further along than I was before.  (Note that of course, this does not mean I regret anything for one second.  I wouldn't trade what I have experienced over the past few years for anything in the world.)

In the journey thus far, I have released myself of many different parts of my identity.  I left a promising and stable career in finance, I left a city that I loved and knew (New York), I left the clarity and safety in my close friends and family, I left the reinforcement of being part of a larger team at GA in New York where I felt supported, seen, and appreciated.  In a funny way, in the process of letting go of all those things, I thought I was peeling back the layers.  But what I have realized recently is I was also layering them right back on as I actually just started growing attached to a whole new set of things.  I was meeting hundreds of new people, I was getting entrepreneurial and technical education off the ground in Asia, I was facing the challenges of co-habitating and being in a committed relationship… basically, I started identifying myself with the fact that I was "getting started".  I know, I'm getting meta here so please forgive me. Or, stop reading and decide I'm totally full of it and I totally over-think things and give up on me.  As Britney would agree, that's your prerogative.

In August, I acknowledged that I had personal needs that weren't being fulfilled in my relationship and that I did not feel supported in my current journey in the way I needed to be.  I'll write more about that in due time, but leaving a three and half/four year long relationship, which brought me to a new part of the world no less, is fucking terrifying.  At the same time, General Assembly was just starting to take off in Hong Kong.  We launched the first full-time web development bootcamp in Asia, our team started growing, we started commanding more respect, resources, and responsibility from headquarters, and I started empowering others outside of myself to take ownership over what we we were building here.  I started getting messages from people saying, "There's someone from General Assembly at this event and it's not you… what's going on?!"

So, on one hand - awesome!  Isn't that the point?  On the other hand, there you go -- or rather, where'd I go?  I'm no longer the committed girlfriend that moved to Hong Kong for love.  I'm no longer "the General Assembly" person in Hong Kong, I'm no longer just that aspiring post-corporate entrepreneur.  It's all bigger than me now, which is awesome, but it is also a whole new process of letting go.  Once again, I can't help but feel like I'm starting over -- tackling a whole new "management" role, building a new home for myself, heading off on what feels like yet another new adventure.

I guess the point is that "getting starting" isn't something you can do in a year.  Or two years.  Or more.  Or, ever? Perhaps in order to take a leap of faith and start over, you have to momentarily believe that there's something else on the other side.  Once you jump, you slowly realize there isn't necessarily anything solid to land on… Or, maybe there is, but once you get to the other side you see that it's not at all what you thought it would look like, and there's just a million more rivers to cross.