At the end of May of this year, I flew up to the northeast for my five year Amherst College reunion. I carried with me some difficult work stresses, having just done poorly on the GMAT, for which I'd been studying on and off for 6 months, and lots of questions around what I should do to feel more stable and appreciated, career-wise. Up north, I was met with an onslaught of "MOVE TO NEW YORK" pleas from my college friends living in the city, serendipitous meetings of alumni in my industries of interest during my 24 hours in NYC and the bus ride to Amherst, MA, and the general reconnection with that vibrant northeast energy I've missed since my four years moving back down south. I left feeling more clear than ever that I needed to make a change.
Within two weeks of coming back from my trip, my startup ran out of funding for my position, and I was let go.
While I was at first grateful for the push from the universe to set my next steps into motion, about two weeks after being let go, the terror of not having an ironclad plan for what was next began to settle in.
I remember sitting in Sa-Ten, one of my favorite Austin coffeeshops/eateries, with great lighting, a cool Japanese, modern aesthetic, and nestled within an east side artist community, when I started to feel my "Type A" tendencies to want to control everything take full effect. I began to write out different 5-year timelines in my notebook; I created calendar reminders and project plans to start making moves on my NYC ambitions; I started making pro/con lists between staying in my hometown with my strong network, family, and knowledge of this city like the back of my hand vs. potentially moving to a new city where I have a good network, but no real job lined up or a place to live.
I felt the stress of the enormity of these decisions tense up my body and anxiety fill my temples. I felt paralyzed, overwhelmed, and stuck as I tried to do the math of how to make the "perfect" decision of staying in or leaving Austin. At this peak, I closed my eyes and put my head in my hands until I felt myself ease up. This thought seeped in: jumps like this can't be perfectly planned; they must be leaned into and reinforced with faith.
I got still. I visualized holding in one hand staying in Austin and what my life would look like in another year here: I'd likely be in the same apartment with my gym perfectly across the street from it, located a 5-minute drive from downtown, and nestled in my walkable, quirky neighborhood with good friends. I'd probably find a similar role to what I've been doing the last two years, marketing and business development for startups and small businesses, and frequent the same professional circles.
In the other hand, I imagined my life in New York. This visualization was much less clear. There wasn't the certainty that I'd have the great, affordable apartment that I have right now, the convenient and affordable gym, the professional leadership roles I hold. What was certainly there, though, was a feeling: progress. I felt myself in this scenario being challenged, growing - some pain - but ultimately satisfaction and happiness.
I can't perfectly project-plan my life down to every detail, I realized. There are too many variables. Too much of jumps like this - that have to happen for personal growth - depend on chance and circumstance, fueled by optimism, faith, and shots in the dark to make these forces work for me.
By focusing entirely on the "how" to execute this plan, I was actually impeding the "what":
the excitement associated with following my professional and personal dreams, embracing the energy of a new city I've dreamed of living in for years, and the indescribable gut feeling that this is the right move.
Since that day in the coffee shop, instead of remaining paralyzed forming the "perfect" plan to move to New York, I just started taking action. I created the goal to take at least one action a day, no matter the size, to try to get up there. I started reaching out to Amherst alumns online and setting up informational phone interviews; I began emailing everyone I knew in New York about roommate situations and any job groups/communities I should connect with. On a whim, I booked a flight for a few days in early August to network in-person, with little plan to it.
Like many told me they would, things are working out. I'm going up to New York in early August for a few promising job interviews, networking events, roommate interviews, and to ease into the short-term lease I landed in Brooklyn with a good friend. I found someone to sublease my apartment in Austin at the same time I head up there. Finally, I booked my one-way ticket from Austin to New York August 16th, a commitment to my faith that taking action will push more elements into my favor.
My friend sent me a photo the other day with a woman and the caption: "If you have everything under control, you aren't moving fast enough."
These words resonated with me. My time working with startups and tech has made me a believer in the "move fast and break things" philosophy necessary to validate a business concept; however, I have sometimes struggled to embrace this in my personal life. It was only after I really decided that I can't control everything (like a lay off), made the decision to truly believe in my strengths and abilities to take action (no matter how small), and trust my feelings (rather than exclusively rely on logic) that the pieces to my next chapter started to fall into place.
If I hadn't moved fast, I'd probably still be in that coffee shop, frozen and scribbling like a mad woman, trying to calculate every possible factor and needed action to reform my life down to the last detail.
Instead, I'm jumping on a plane next week, and doing the damn thing.
Here's the New York, new adventures and uncertainty, and to moving fast enough to make life happen for us, instead of its enormity paralyzing us in our comfort zones.