Take-The-Edge-Off-Aholic #Startup

Also known as addictive personalities.  Ok, to be fair, I don’t know if that’s the official definition, but it’s meant to describe people who avoid pain by using (insert any substance/habit here) to..take the edge off.

I was 24 when I had to fire my first person.  It was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do- especially when this person is crying in front of you, literally begging you to give them their job back because they really need the money to support their family.  I don’t think there’s very much that prepares you for that.  Let alone at 24.  And that was just the beginning- 4 years later I’ve realized there’s a million other sorts of pain and anguish you feel when you run a startup (oh let me tell you the ways).

Life in general throws you challenges, that’s not the issue. The issue, turns out, was the way I chose to deal with it.  I chose to not feel pain. Just be numb. To everything.  And to do that, I would make sure I would do things to take the edge off.  I didn’t use the stereotypical methods (sex, drugs, alcohol, etc..) but I did figure out a lot of…out of the box ways to avoid pain (excess exercise, sleep deprivation- specifically to make me feel less).  And I was pretty damn good at being numb.

I thought things were going well. I thought I had figured it out. Until recently. I discovered that you can’t just numb out pain.  When you numb, you numb everything.  I numbed out happiness and joy too.  It’s so sad and pathetic when I write it out but…I honestly did not know how much I was numbing out until I went out with friends this past weekend, and I realized what I was missing out on.  And the reason I was missing out on life was because of how I chose to deal with work.

Turns out it’s a habit.  If you get into the habit of being numb, you forget how to feel.  You forget how to make genuine connections with people.  You forget that you’re allowed to do that.

So today, I took my first step.  I had to do some pretty tough things.  (As per usual, I suppose).  But instead of being numb, I actually faced the pain.  I looked it straight in the eyeballs, acknowledged its existence, and then…let it make its way out of me. It was actually pretty incredible, in a weirdly existential way.  It was way less scary than I thought it would be.  Surprisingly.  And for the first time in a long time, I actually felt…alive.  In a weird I have faced fear and survived sort of way.

Who knew that facing pain would actually make me feel…happier?

#CounterintuitiveKnowledge

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My Greatest Anxieties

So recently, I’ve sort of decided that the regular stuff, like having enough food to eat, shelter, clothing, etc…will sort itself out.  Yes money has always been an issue and is slightly worrisome especially working at a startup, but I’ve actually realized it tends to work itself out.  I mean it’s not like I’m going to be driving a Beamer anytime soon, but then again, I’m fine by that too.  Point is, general day to day things, I feel like they’re going to be fine.

I’ve moved on to different anxieties, which currently include the fact that no matter what I do, I can’t shake the fact that I’m not satisfied with myself.  Let me rephrase that: I choose not to be happy with myself.  I choose to be unsatisfied with most things about myself, which then makes me think that other people have this same perception about me.  The dangerous part about this, I’ve realized recently, is that it changes the way you interact with other people.  

Lets pretend you are completely satisfied with yourself: you know you’re not perfect but you’re pretty happy with who you are and where you’re at.  Someone says something to you- it can be as simple as telling you about their day.  If you have no real agenda except listening to what they’re saying (because hey, you’re pretty happy and content right now, bring it on world) you’re probably going to react in the appropriate way to what they’re saying.  Because you’re not viewing it through any lens other than…I’m just listening to what you’re saying.

For Example

Person 1: “Hey Anu, how’s it going? Oh man I went for this amazing run today- it was so great! I haven’t run like that in ages”

In My Head: Oh wow, that sounds so cool! I am so happy for her- she sounds so excited!

Anu: “Wow, that is amazing! Where did you run? How far did you go? I’m so excited for you- it sounds like you’re really getting into it!”

Person 1: “Totally! I feel so good about it, I forgot how much I love it, I just ran around the block a few times but it was so beautiful and I forgot how much I loved the morning when nobody was there.  Oh hey, you should come next time, it would be fun!”

In my head: Now that she mentions it, yeah, I HAVE been looking to start running with a buddy…what a pleasant coincidence!

Anu: “Oh man that would be rad! Lets do it! SO COOL!”

Now lets pretend you’re NOT completely satisfied with yourself- how does that change things? It means that whatever you hear, no matter what it is, will be warped by your perception of it.  Lets say someone is really just talking about what they did today.  Immediately, because you’re not satisfied with yourself, you start thinking about that persons day in relation to you, and if it’s really bad, you may ASSUME he or she is actually TAKING A JAB AT YOU.  Which, when I write that out, sounds absolutely crazy, but I realize that totally happens to me sometimes. It’s so embarrassing but also incredibly true.  

For example:

Person 1: “Hey Anu, how’s it going? Oh man I went for this amazing run today- it was so great! I haven’t run like that in ages”

In my head: Oh my god, I don’t exercise, I’m so fat, and now everyone knows I’m fat and everyone is getting thinner while I’m getting fatter and I can’t help it because I have work and I have all these other obligations and WHERE CAN I MAKE TIME TO EXERCISE OH GOD STOP MAKING ME FEEL LIKE SHIT JESUS

Anu: “Oh man, I wish I could run like that, it sounds amazing. I used to run and now I can’t and now I’m fat and terrible and I hate everything.”

Person 1: “oh. no…uhhh….ok yeah…I mean no…I mean…Ok I just remembered I have to do this thing so I’ll talk to you later ok bye.”

Isn’t it INSANE how your own head screws with you like that.  Man. It be crazy up in there.

Fearless

I think the word fearless is a misnomer, because that supposes that you live without fear.  I genuinely don’t think that’s possible, nor do I think that’s healthy.  I think fear is what keeps our mortality in check, it’s what keeps us thinking about reality.

The trick to be fearless, I think, is to learn how to live with it, and not let it dominate your life.  How do you acknowledge it every day, knowing that it’s right there, but choose not to give in to it? Choose to do something else, something that doesn’t stem from that dark place.

I think the most fearless people know how to look fear right between the eyes, and say, heya there, you’re welcome to stay, and I heard what you’ve got to say, but I’ve got a bunch of things to do right now.  So you can just chill, drink some chai, and wait.  We can check in tomorrow if you have anything else to say but uh..I got a lot to do. I hope you don’t mind.

All In Your Head

I just finished reading Murakami’s Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of The World and it made me think about how it relates to working out.  I don’t want to spoil it for you (because it was a decent read, albiet a bit predictable) but it had a lot to do with the power of your mind.

The more I read about our own bodies and the things that it can endure, the more I believe that most things that are physically impossible have 80% to do with what we believe to be true.

I was just doing an ab workout and in the middle I started to think about what the point of it all was, whether I should be doing this on an empty stomach, if I was doing it for the right reasons, would I somehow end up working out my abs and get a lower back problem because it wasn’t balanced (and other questions that really didn’t need to be answered right then) and suddenly, I didn’t think I could go on and I stopped.  Once I started questioning why the hell I was doing any workout in the first place, I started to notice the pain and I started to wonder if I should be doing it at all.  And then I just sat there and stared into oblivion for a good 2 minutes until I convinced myself to go on.

Which really begs the question, if the problem is our mind when we are talking about physical things, are we going about it the right way to begin with?

Maybe we should start with questioning ourselves and why we are doing what we are doing.  To be honest, I think the reason I have a hard time sticking to an actual workout is because I don’t want to admit the real reasons I do what I do.

I think if I stop lying to myself, my deepest fear is that I won’t be thin.  There. I said it.  The ugly truth.  I have been thin all my life and I am terrified of what would happen if I wasn’t.  And it’s gotten to the point where it’s not healthy.  Not in the scary, I am anorexic or bulimic sort of way, but more In the getting in the way of happiness sort of way.  And my relationship with food/the ability to fully enjoy my life sort of way.

So there we are.  2015 starting out with a lot of hard truths.  The fact I have a terrible relationship with food, and subsequently, my body.  It’s not unfixable, but it’s going to be a hard road ahead.  Starting with figuring out why it terrifies me so much.  What that fear stems from.  Of being unworthy of love? I don’t know.  A lot of hard questions to answer.

Starting with the scariest place of all: your own head.

Fear

I think my biggest fear is the fear of wasting time.  To the point where it inhibits my normal, humanoid functioning activities.  I think I’ve always known this, but recently I became acutely aware of it.  I don’t even go out and explore new things for fear that I would have wasted my time if I don’t like it.  Which is crazy because…well…when I put it like that it just sounds insane.  It’s insane that I have commoditized time to such a degree that I won’t even go out and enjoy life.  Not to say I don’t enjoy my life, but I think sometimes when you don’t think about something, or do it consciously, it just happens.  Because I was thinking about what I do- I do the SAME things every time I get some free time.  And after a point, it starts to get old.  I guess it’s almost like a free time rut.  (Is that a thing? I’m making it one now).  Not that I get a ton of free time, but when I do, I want it to be fulfilling.

Here’s a novel thought- maybe the fact that I think I HAVE to do something in my free time is the problem. Maybe the whole problem is that I think I need to be “productive” or “accomplish something” or… “do something” or “be fulfilled”.  Maybe this is the crux of the entire issue. Putting pressure on yourself to deliver something at the end of free time, maybe defeats the whole purpose of free time?

Maybe I should just try doing…nothing. OH GOD.  Even writing that down made me start hyperventilating.  Ok, now I know this is the problem.  Yup, I feel my throat constricting.  My hands are shaking a bit.  This is my big fear.

Ok.  Now I have to figure out how to work on it.

Ok I need to stop  writing now because I seriously can’t breathe it’s so terrifying.

(The sad part is I’m not joking).

 

 

 

Death

My friend and I had watched Donny Darko 2 days ago, and it was really messing with my head.  I think the thing that strikes closest to home is the fact that death sounds like such a lonely thing.  I think the thing that makes me the most afraid is being alone.  It’s such a dark concept.  And at least for me, that’s the thing that I associate with death.

But then I just finished Thrive, by Arianna Huffington.  She makes a few good points about the fact that Western society makes death such a taboo topic, and something we try to keep hush hush.  Which already makes the people who want to really talk about death, or understand death, feel a bit alienated. If you think about it, it’s the only thing that everyone, regardless of race, geography, or religion, experiences. It’s the one truly universal experience.  And she was talking about Greek culture, and how they view death as a wonderful thing, surrounded by the ones that they love.

I was thinking about it as we were living it up, dancing to our hearts content until 3:30 in the morning, celebrating my friend’s 30th birthday in Dublin yesterday.  It just felt so…fun.  Pure, unadulterated joy.  And I hadn’t felt so alive in such a long time.  It felt so good.

Which made me come to an epiphany.  If life is so wonderful and so joyous, I don’t believe that death, or what comes after, can be that bad.  Moreover, I refuse to believe that we are alone.  I don’t think we are ever really alone.  Given what I’ve experienced in life, and the wonderful network of people that surround you with love and support, I can’t believe that the next part of our soul’s journey is any different.  I refuse to believe that.  It just makes no sense to me.

Which means that I believe I am coming to terms with death.  I don’t want to ignore it, because it’s something that I feel is terrifying if you don’t face it head on. It’s something I’m embracing as the universal shared experience, which really, helps me live my life more fully- knowing that there’s something greater out there I can experience after this amazing thing called life is finished.

So This One Time, When I Tried To Be A Robot

I think I’ve written about this, but I was basically experimenting with trying to live alone on a proverbial island.  No man is an island – but maybe women can be?  I didn’t want to rely on anyone or anything and just hack it on my own.  And I realized that was possible, it just wasn’t optimal.

I now know how I hacked college.  It was so tough.  I sucked at everything and I thought I was the stupidest person in the world.  I would break down like no other (definitely in the beginning, and I just got used to it by the end), but I never felt like it was all over.  And I saw people around me doing that, and feeling like that and I thought it was ridiculous.  Because I always had perspective.  I always knew that there were things outside college – there was this thing called life! And I knew that you didn’t have to be good at school to be good at life (My favorite quote from one of my awesome civil engineering friends, Nalat)  That stuck with me, and I learned that early on, and that’s how I survived the hell which was undergraduate engineering education.  I had a dream, and I knew that’s what I wanted to do.

And then I did it, I started living my dream, and 3 years later,  I lost perspective.  And I was unhappy

But that’s it- right? I think life is all about finding perspective.  Whatever you’re doing, you need perspective

I always had perspective in college, that’s what helped me get through tough times without feeling super depressed.  Some people get perspective through travel or new experiences.  I realized I get perspective from people.  Meeting new people, hanging out with my favorite people, and just…being reminded that there are other things out there, and it never gets too bad, and you always have other options.  I guess I was in denial about it (no really, I CAN be a robot!), and then angry about it, and then I accepted it, and now I’m doing something about it.  I’m finally getting around to making my life in India- filled with people that I love and care about.  And that makes me so happy.

I’m one of those people that runs away when I feel too caged in.  When I feel like I don’t have options, and when things are making me unhappy. (Yeah, commitment phoebe much?) But it’s different when you realize you ALWAYS have a choice.  And you have people in your life that will help you through and will love you no matter what.  And even better, people who are just like you, who feel just as weird as you feel MOST of the time (you feel  like an alien species TOO?! YES! I THOUGHT I WAS THE ONLY ONE!)

And maybe it’s all about finding those people and making sure to spend quality time with them (on at least a monthly basis)

Because after those sessions, life just starts to make sense again.  And you feel like hey, I can do this.  Things aren’t too bad. Bring it on world

It’s just strange when you realize it took you 3 years to figure out something that was staring you in the face this whole time

What can I say- I’m just a stubborn git sometimes.

Well whatever it is, I think I’m moving in the right direction, stubbornness and all

 

Bringing Your Whole Self To The Table

I used to think it was normal to bring one part of myself to a relationship, or a conversation, or an interaction.  I don’t think there are many instances where I brought every part of myself to the table.  And I know that sounds like a strange thing to say (I mean Anu, are you saying you had your spleen extracted as a kid or something and you’re missing body parts?) It’s more parts of me that I wouldn’t feel comfortable with, that in certain situations I would downplay, or maybe exaggerate.

A very concrete example: I didn’t think serious tech startup entrepreneurs cared how they looked, or liked shopping, or liked being that sort of creative.  Because I was trying to be what I saw out there, the sure path to success.  I usually use this blog to write out what I think I should be doing, but sometimes it takes a lot longer for me to really be convinced, not just with my mind, but with my whole self.  Because I know I’ve written about it a few times, but I couldn’t consolidate that with my dreams of making it big in the tech startup space.  Which is why for the longest time, I didn’t appreciate the fact that man, I love shopping, I love dressing up, I love fashion, I love all that stuff.  It makes me happy.  I mean I DID acknowledge it, but I didn’t think I could practice that every day.  Only on vacations, only when I went back to the US, only in certain situations.  Places where it would be more normal, or I felt like it was a more normal thing. I don’t know, it’s kind of hard to explain, but in my head it made perfect sense.  And really, I was dying a bit inside every day, killing a little bit more of that part of me.

Which is weird to think about.  What parts of you are dying inside because they don’t get to be expressed on a daily basis?  And why don’t we feel like we can bring that to the table?  And if it’s really important to us, maybe we need to do something about it.

I think it really hit me when I realized people can tell something is wrong, and I wasn’t bringing  my whole self to the conversation.  In fact, it makes people a little wary because if they talk to you at different times, or in different geographies, or in different situations, you may seem like a different person.  And that could be a little bit scary, even make you seem a bit disingenuous.  Which is what really shook me up and made me take notice.  It was another painful session with Ruth of course, but still.  I’m glad it happened.

I thought about why people really like home- however they define it.  Maybe home is home, less because of what exists, but more because we feel like we have permission to express and be every part of ourselves, and be loved in the process, just for being us.  We have freedom to be what we want to be.

And maybe, in order to be a global soul, and make the world our home, we need to have the courage to bring our whole selves to the table, no matter what the situation, wherever in the world we may be, regardless of how it is received.  For the simple reason that that is who we are.

And if home is where the heart is, how do you locate where your heart lives?  Does it really have to live in one place?

The Fluidity of Life

Being an Indian female, I was sort of under the impression that life ended at the old age of 30 when you had to get married and have kids.  Then, as I grew older, I decided that life didn’t necessarily end after you got married, but when you had kids you were basically a slave to them, so you could kiss all your dreams good bye.  But I figured by that point you didn’t have any dreams anyway so it’s fine. Ha.

Which is all really strange, because I realized that my whole perception of the world was binary.  Or at least in boxes with clear beginnings, middles, and ends.  It’s funny, I spent so much of college wishing I was more engineering like (because honestly, I was terrible at it) and now I realize that I am plenty engineering like.  It helps when you’re trying to dissect business problems, or problems in general- because yes, you need to define boundaries, figure out the problem, and architect a solution, but for your actual life, this philosophy, when taken to the extreme, is more detrimental than not.  I think.

Being in London, I realize that I want to come back here for extended periods of time.  Being in India, I realize I want to be there too.  And being in the US, I realize I want to spend time there as well.  Maybe if I visit Paris, I’ll feel that way too, who knows (I have this weird obsession with Paris, and the more people tell me how horrid and dirty it is, the more I really want to go- yes I’m just weird like that).  And I was thinking to myself, jesus, how am I supposed to pick where I live or what I’m supposed to be in life, or who I spend the rest of my life with, or anything important like that?  And then I just asked myself- why?  Why does it have to be this or that?  Why does it have to fit this mould that I have seen others follow? Because so much of my life has been so unconventional anyway, why would I be under the assumption that I’d have to pick doing this OR that?  Yes, I understand the reality that we only have 24 hours in the day, and our life is finite, and we will be unhappy if we try to do to many things and don’t do it well, but at the same time, there is so much between THIS and THAT, I think it’s really worth exploring the in betweens.  Really exploring that empty space between here and there.  Because I think that space is incredibly vast, way bigger than we think.

I’ve never had a problem coloring out of the lines, but the problem was that there was a box and I was always aware that there was a box I was not coloring in.  So I always thought of my life in terms of how badly out of the lines I was coloring. It was always measured by this finite thing.

But maybe that’s the wrong way of looking at it.  What if you get rid of the idea of lines and boxes, and just think of coloring, not in relation to anything in particular, but just for the sake of coloring, wherever you feel like coloring.  Mostly because it feels like the right thing to do.

Which pretty much means you won’t know what your picture will look like beforehand, which is pretty scary, I must admit, but it’s probably a better way of living.  And chances are, you’ll turn out with a way better painting.

On Being Alone

I have recently been reading a lot about personality types, and the one that I found most interesting and useful is The Enneagram.  I would recommend this book, by Helen Palmer, to anyone really.  I’m reading it right now and it is amazingly insightful.

That being said, a year ago when I found out what my personality type was, (Type 2, The Giver/Helper) I was upset.  Honestly, I thought it was the lamest personality type ever, and I just got..angry.  I was angry at a lot of things- angry at the Universe for making me this way, which, at least on paper, seems like the last person you’d ever want to be running a company.  I was angry at myself for, well..being so “needy”.  I got angry at myself for always trying to please people, to never put my needs above others, and worst of all, get angry at others if my needs weren’t met (which, logically speaking makes no sense because how the heck are they supposed to read my mind?) I was just really…angry.  And then after a while I just forgot about it, or more likely, I was just angry at most things and so everything just melded into this amorphous ball of anger and frustration.

The reason I started reading about it again was a conversation I had with my coach, Ruth.  I was telling her that I feel kind of sad, and the fact that I’m not around people and I have to work alone a lot of the time gets to me.  I thought it was Bangalore and just my job, and something I should change about my environment.  But she made me realize that this doesn’t happen to everyone- that it’s one of the main characteristics of my personality type.  I have the hardest time being alone, or working alone.  I always knew I felt weird being alone, but I thought that was normal.  It’s not normal.  It’s one of the things the Type 2 personalities just…have to work through.

Another thing I found out was that a lot of women are also Type 2 personalities (and that, in fact, Enneagram personality types are NOT distributed equally among gender lines).  I think a lot of women have a hard time being alone, which is why we have this whole notion of…I’m scared I’ll never find someone.  Or I’m scared to be working on something on my own.  I don’t know why it’s hard wired into a lot of us, but it is.  Myself included.

I guess you’re wondering, but Anu, you’ve been alone all this time and it doesn’t seem like you’ve been jumping from relationship to relationship (yes, from the first imaginary person to the second).  Yes, but at the same time, it’s not because I didn’t want to.  I guess I’ve always been a masochist, and I knew that being with people would always and forever be easier for me.  I wanted to do something difficult.  So yes, I’ve done that, but I wasn’t….deliberate about it.  I was just kind of doing it because in my gut, I thought it would be good for me.  And now that I know why I felt that way (and yes, it IS good practice), I want to make sure I’m actually getting something out of this (and not be a masochist for the sake of masochism).  The point is to yes, be uncomfortable, but at the end of the day, I want to feel okay about being alone.  And working alone.

Just like most things in life, new skills can be learned.  So now, I’m embarking on the skill of how to be alone.  And enjoy it.

At least at work, I’m going to work 2 days with other people, and 2 days by myself at home.  I am not sure what I’m going to do the last day- maybe work in a co working space or a cafe or something.  But I want to ease my way into it.  It helps to know that yes, it will feel uncomfortable, but after a certain point in time, it’ll be ok.

I think the other key is to just…slow down.  I heard about this space between you and other people.  I don’t really understand it yet, but that’s how Ruth described it to me.  Apparently that’s the place you wan to be so you can non judgmentally understand yourself, as well as to start and understand the framework by which to listen to others as well. It’s going to be tough, but that’s the place I want to discover.