I just completed my first full week working at Medium yesterday. For the past month or so, I have been thinking constantly on the full implications of having the opportunity to work at Medium. I don’t think it is possible to understand it all yet, but here’s what I think for now.
This has been nothing but short of an impossible journey for me to make.
Working at a startup like Medium is a dream come true for many designers but that is not the true impact for me. The true impact is when I consider, that if you told a girl who:
- Had grappling confidence issues because of a complex emotional growing up process
- Did badly in high school
- Dropped out of college, twice
- Drifted through eight companies for the first six years of her career with plenty of in-between periods when she spent months burnt out because of a relentless, unforgiving, soul-draining, purely profit-driven industry
- Struggled with self-worth a lot because for the reasons above, she was made to feel unworthy warranting a place in society by the closest people in her life (and everyone else – Singapore is really serious about completing a certain set of checkboxes else you are made to feel as if you belong to the bottom of the so-called meritocracy. And because of the confidence issues mentioned above, she was not able to believe otherwise)
- Contemplated the reason for her existence a lot
- Found no meaning in life until a year ago
- Developed a phobia of people so serious that she would refuse to meet anybody new for a period of four years
- Only met her twitter friend (or any new person) for coffee for the first time four years ago
- Would be extremely uncomfortable in face to face conversations where she peppered with tons of stuttering and awkward silences
- Have a huge phobia of crowds
- Even a bigger phobia of speaking in front of an audience
…that she would be working in San Francisco today, much less a startup like Medium, anybody would be like, you must be kidding me.
I felt like I didn’t and shouldn’t belong anywhere. But San Francisco made me feel like I belonged somewhere, for the first time in my life. That was in July 2011, and the personal transformation process began. I discovered the meaning of life for myself and through that I found a sense of purpose.
So what is my sense of purpose? I learned that what I really want to do, is to be a storyteller. Through recounting my own ridiculous story to various people of the past two years, I saw so many people’s eyes light up, as though if such a broken person can find some sort of equilibrium in her life, then perhaps they can, too.
Through encountering a spectrum of personal stories recounted by people from all walks of life, I felt my own eyes lighting up. Through the darkest times of my life I have relied on these stories to give me some sort of a light at the end of the tunnel. I have come across stories of people who have gone through death of their loved ones, pain, rape, war, or whatever horror that can happen to a human being – yet they survive, not only they survive, they do it brilliantly.
And for so many times in my life, I had to ask myself painfully and honestly, if these people can make their lives count, why can’t I?
Therein lies the true power of storytelling.
And why I spend the effort to write on this public journal.
So when I had the opportunity to work at Medium (which is another ridiculous story I hope to be able to tell one day), I grabbed it with both hands, legs included. Like seriously, to be able to merge my purpose and career into one? To be able to write endlessly at work and I don’t have to apologize for writing long essays? To try imagining how the future of digital storytelling can be, so that more incredible stories can impact people over and over again? To be in the same room every working day with people who made blogger, twitter, bootstrap, the list goes on…?
Working at Medium marks a personal milestone in my own story. That I was able to overcome so many personal issues to find some form of inner strength that I need to be able to work there. The inner strength was only made possible by me making the conscious decision to survive brilliantly , overcoming the odds and obstacles. That above all, I wish to weave a story I would be proud of, at my deathbed. That there are people in this world who sees me for who I truly am, that my perceived flaws are only the basis of my potential strengths. That there is someone who understands beyond this uncertain insecure facade, there is a heart that beats for the continued hope of a better humanity. That the drive, desire, motivation, intention and faith matters a lot more than anything else.
I feel very, very blessed and grateful. Scared too. But I have learned that I thrive best in great discomfort.
My first week was tremendously intense, intimidating and yet extremely fulfilling. One of the best feelings in life is to feel thoroughly used. There was nothing much left in me by the time I left work yesterday. I finished my day with standing in front of my new coworkers, all 40ish of them, telling them a little bit of myself.
With that, it seems like the girl whom had a crippling phobia of speaking in front of a crowd has a chance of being a real storyteller, after all.
Heartfelt gratitude to the bunch of people who witnessed my personal transformation through these years and who were there to tell me to hold on during those difficult times. It is always easy to find people to celebrate good times, but the ones who hung around when I needed lifting up – those are the truly precious ones. I am very blessed to have a bunch of those. And again, I will pay it forward.