The Great Purge

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I always have a hard time thinking about what to give up for Lent- but given my breakup, it was clear. I had to give up Cristern. I had to give up the hope of reunion and the hope of anything ever happening between us. The one tangible thing I can think of was to finally drop off his things. When I tell people I haven’t done this, they look at me aghast and think –  why didn’t I do this sooner? Fact is, I didn’t have anything of his that was terribly valuable, just some clothes he left at my house. Because they were things of little valuable, I made that my excuse. But in truth, I was scared to do it because it would mean making a monumental step in letting go. And with Easter next weekend, I knew that the time had finally come.

Before packing up his things, I decided to go through my own things and put aside anything that had to do with him. I came across movie stubs, pictures, old ticket stubs and receipts from our trips together. Then I looked in my bookshelf, right behind my bed pillows and found the letters he’d written me. This was the hardest thing to put away. In the last few months of our relationship, these letters kept me afloat. They gave me hope that our love could be like what it was in simpler, more romantic and carefree days. I felt the urge to open them in start reading but I knew that it would tear my heart open and make this process even harder. Cristern was always so dirt broke but these letters were the one thing that he gave me that made me feel so special. He put so much thought into them, and would attach ticket stubs, fortune cookie fortunes, anything kind of knick knack to decorate it. As our relationship wound down, I’d have to beg him to write me letters. I should have known that when the letters were becoming less frequent, it was a sign of his waning love for me. I solemnly put everything into a shoebox and put it out of my room.

A couple days later, I tackled his things.  I took an empty box from work and slowly folded his pajamas and shirts. The very last thing I placed on top was a Sharks sweatshirt that mom got for xmas one year. I have the same sweatshirt. That whole process hurt like hell. The moment I put the lid on the box, I got a text from a guy that I’ve been talking to. He  asked me out on a date. Coincidence?

Yesterday I went out on a coffee date with that guy and had an amazing time. It felt foreign to feel beautiful, attractive and wanted. This person wanted to be in my presence and wanted to get to know me. He was not hurrying to get to anywhere or looking to push me aside for better things. He was content to sit there with me.

Later that night, I knew it was time for me to start a new chapter of my life. I took the box with Cristern’s things and put it in the front seat of my car and drove the oh so familiar route to his house. I methodically took a back route to avoid any sort of uncomfortable run-in.  I pulled up to his place, scoped out the scene and saw that he wasn’t home.  I pulled out a pen and wrote his name on a post-it note and stuck it on the box. It was strange to write his name. I left the engine running and sprinted to the house. I quietly placed the box in the corner of the porch and quickly ran back to my car, my heart racing the whole time.

I think about the frenzy in my body and wonder if it was the same feeling he had when he taped a birthday card on my car window, only a few days after we had broken up. Now that I’m without the weight of his things, do I feel any lighter? Do I feel free to finally move forward? Not yet, but I know I will. I honestly feel like I’m still reeling from taking that painful but necessary trip down memory lane when I had to parse through his things. I knew that I had been avoiding that feeling. This process has forced me to face that pain head-on.

Lent is about doing something that makes you a better person, something that brings you closer to God and the person you’re meant to be, no matter how hard it is. I know that in order for me to move my life forward, I have to let go. God wants that for me. God wants me to be happy. I have to learn to want it for myself.

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10 Steps to Startup Survival

office-culture-in-startups1I’m fast approaching my 1 year at the startup I work for and I can now recount the successes and failures that have gotten me this far. Everyone wants to work at a startup: the free food, the games, the relaxed attitude and dress code are all very attractive. While all that is exists, it’s also a lot of hard work. Here are my humble two cents.  (Note: this is not a photo of my office, although it would be amazing to have a slide.)

1) Say Yes – No matter how big the project, how improbable the idea – always say yes. (Even if you no idea how the hell to do it.) Startup is all about trial by fire and making a lot of mistakes- it’s great because the culture allows for that. Google is your best friend, as are your colleagues. 9 times out of 10 I don’t know the answer to requests that my boss makes. But I’ve learned to get the answer.

2) Stay Hungry –  Complacency doesn’t cut it. Even if you’re making your goals, you have to go above and beyond. Startup is about disruption and keeping one step ahead of the competition. And in adopting that mentality, you have to constantly think about fresh, innovative ideas to throw in the mix. No idea is too crazy.

3) Rule of 70/30 – Our business can get very technical and the tech-speak goes way above my head. But, my boss has taught me the rule of 70/30. When I’m reading something, my goal is to grasp at least 70% of what the article/blog post is saying. I have to look at something and say, “Why the heck does this matter?” The other 30% is negligible.

4) Iteration- As a perfectionist, this was the hardest thing for me to learn. I always wanted to turn out perfect slides/reports for my boss – but this would of course take longer than he was willing to wait for them. There’s power in iteration – and it pushes creative collaboration between me and my boss. Completion is a team effort.

5) Agility – When there’s a way to newsjack and capitalize on the moment – you seize it! You have to constantly keep your eyes and ears open to industry and general news. When you execute, the masses will pay attention and will not only notice your snark/wit, but your ability to move quickly and respond. That’s really the heart of what startup is about.

6) Flexibility – I’ve been in a meeting and have had my boss text me to drop everything because Mashable is calling. My boss has asked me to pull together complex reports/slide decks and will ask for them in 10 minutes. I could be working on something for 2 hours and then someone decides to scrap it and we don’t need it all. Point is, you have to be ready for anything and everything.

7) Move On- Sometimes you get roadblocked on a project and can’t do anything on it or have a really bad day because of someone’s inane comment. You have approximately 30 seconds to grieve and then move on. Things move so quickly so you have to be able to pick yourself up just the same.

8) Stamina- Startup is not for the faint of heart. You work late, protracted hours and you’ll find yourself overly fatigued and caffeinated. You have to be a mind over matter kind of person and to keep the big picture in mind. When I’m tired, I think about what I’m building and I take pride in knowing that I can point to it one day and say, “I did that.”

9) Maintain Boundaries- Because you work a lot, you have to make boundaries to ensure you have a healthy work-life balance. When I open up my laptop at home, I set an alarm for 30 minutes and I’m not allowed to work more than that. It’s a bit extreme but it helps me to make the most of that time, prioritize accordingly and only do what is absolutely necessary.

10) Don’t Take it Personal – I love startup because everyone is blunt as f*ck. It’s great because there isn’t any bullshit to read through, because people will tell you exactly what they feel and what they need from you. That kind of feedback can be hard for an overly sensitive person. You just have to know that it’s not personal. Impassioned comments come from people who care about the business and the product. I’d rather have that fire, than people who don’t care at all.

Coping & Acceptance

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6 months later.. this is my attempt at making peace and finally acknowledging my breakup.

Like all breakups, you already see the relationship slowly unraveling in months, if not years before you have enough courage to let go. In my case, it was years. How do I always get myself into these messes? I always seem to find men who are never in the same place in life as I am. John was all about going next level and making that full leap of commitment.  I was scared and just wasn’t ready to go full bore like that- especially since he was my first  long-term relationship. With Cristern, it was like pulling teeth. We spoke a lot in generality about our future, but never the specifics. When it got down to it, he was just too busy playing and trying to figure out his own life, and there just wasn’t room for me. I kept pushing, and waiting and hoping someday that there’d be room for me. But all that waiting was in vain. In our 3.5 years together, he was still the same person: scraping the bottom of the barrel, just struggling to get by, and going out and not having a care in the world.

Had I changed in that 3.5 years? I came from working for free for an aspiring author, working for free again and commuting to SF for an editorial job, to working a shitty job at retail, to having some semblance of security working in publishing, and finally – having a legitimate career at a startup, where I bust my ass, get to do what I love, and feeling more financially secure than I have ever felt in my life. Was it wrong to want more? No… but my professional circumstances, biological clock, and tenure at that relationship made me feel entitled to want more. That feeling wasn’t wrong. But that was always a point of friction for the two of us. He was just trying to get by, figure stuff out, and here’s me, ready to take it to the next step, and just waiting for him to grow up and catch up.

They say that the heart of a couple’s break up and problems boils down to 1-2 things. They take on various forms but at the heart of it, they’re essentially the same thing. Inevitably you fight about those things and rationalize the mending of it because of two reasons: 1) you’re scared to let go 2) you’re naïve. The crux of our problem was that we were at different places in life and every other problem sprung from that. His want to go out and party w/out me made me insecure – it would make me think, ‘shouldn’t he be trying to find a better job?’ ‘shouldn’t he want to invite me to go out with him?’. That insecurity got out of control and pushed him away because he thought that I was made of stronger stuff. The insecure girlfriend sitting at home waiting for her boyfriend to call was not the same independent, ‘I don’t need a man’ chick that he was so attracted to 3.5 years prior. He did not sign up for this. So he began to even question who I really was. And doing that, it made me question and really doubt myself.

There is nothing worse than losing yourself and doubting who you are; especially when that doubt springs from someone who you had always believed loved you unconditionally as you were, better or worse. I think about my natural disposition and will admit that I’ve always been a sucker for love. I’ve always bent over backwards at the thought of being with a man. And when I’m with one, I give wholeheartedly and dangerously. The independent chick spurts happen as a result of single life. I’m literally forced to accept and be in love with myself- and that is a sad fact. I’ve never been really happy with myself and that is something I’ve long struggled with – and it really has nothing to do with a man. I am a consummate perfectionist and perpetually hard on myself. I never let myself enjoy anything because I feel guilty for feeling good – that I’m so severely lacking that I don’t deserve to feel good about anything. Where does this come from?

I love my parents but part of it as a function of how I was raised. Everyone was always watching, judging, and you had to be perfect because our family was the best. You fall short and it is unacceptable. Throw in being a woman in this botox and boob job age, oldest child syndrome, and Catholic guilt and you got a hot mess. The other part of it is that it’s only been in recent months that I’ve started to work through who I am and be accepting of who I am and to realize there’s beauty in that. I have to be ok with me before anyone else can be ok with me.

At the end of the day it doesn’t matter if I’m miss independent chick or dependent wannabe girlfriend. I’m me. And the one for me will love me no mater what labels i put on myself. I am Virg. Neurotic at times, a scathing perfectionist, all-together too hard on myself, but… The people i care about- they always come first. Even before you think you’ll need help, i’m already one step ahead thinking about what i can do. And most of all, i’m loyal. I will love you, I will love you, I will love you. Someone out there will want that. Someone out there will need that. For someone out there, that will be more than enough.

Men who don’t want that aren’t for me. They don’t deserve me.