September 23, 2015

A Duck No More

“Don’t ever tell anyone that! If you don’t tell them, they won’t know!” I was standing in one of my thesis committee member’s office getting a final signature I needed to graduate. It was such a surreal moment to me that I couldn’t help but blurt out how a few months earlier I wasn’t even sure I would ever graduate.

There’s a trend these days to refer to oneself as #Lucky (or more commonly #Blessed). It’s a natural result of pressure to appear always poised, always perfect, to self promote without seemingly like we’re self promoting. If that success was effortlessly achieved, imagine what we could do if we tried. We are to be ducks, gliding serenely along in life, all the while our webbed feet paddling furiously just below the surface and out of view.

I’ve never been very good at being a duck. I wear my heart on my sleeve, as evidenced by my above conversation with my thesis committee member.

When Domingo and I decided to move out of Silicon Valley I was a bit frustrated with myself. True, our plan was never to stay long term, but we had expected to stay at least through the medium term. I expected to love Silicon Valley, and instead I felt a little like Silicon Valley had bested me. There are many parents in tech, parents with more kids and higher paced jobs than I who somehow were always able to pick up their kids on time, and get a good nights sleep despite the city noises. They somehow found a way to make it work, why couldn’t I? Was I just not trying hard enough? Not good enough? I was excited to be starting my own business, but the feeling of defeat created a little dark cloud of doubt that I would be able to succeed. After all, start-ups rarely succeed. What made me think I could beat the odds?

Then something a bit unexpected happened. When discussing my departure with a close friend and confident, I confessed the feelings of defeat I had been having. To my shock he told me that he and his wife had been having similar thoughts, and were considering a similar move out of the valley. As I opened up to more and more people I found my frustrations echoed back to me. I no longer felt alone, and when I no longer felt alone I no longer felt defeated.

When we all try to be ducks, when we try and hide how hard we work, we do ourselves and our community a disservice. We create a false image of what is achievable and what level of effort is needed to achieve it. It helps create the unrealistic expectations that can lead to impostor syndrome. Knowing I wasn’t alone in my frustrations lifted a huge weight off my shoulders. It’s tough living here, and that’s an ok thing to admit. That cloud of doubt began to vanish.

It’s too much work to be a duck, anyway.

Posted in Work Life

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