You know that saying “Good things come to those who wait”? Well, I hate that saying because it’s not true.
Good things come to those who work hard, take risks, make mistakes (learn from those mistakes) and keep moving forward. It’s not easy and you’re gonna cry a lot, but if you set your mind to it, you can do it. There’s a phrase in Japanese, “Ganbatte!” that I’ve kept in the back of my mind throughout the past five years. It means “Do your best!” or at least that’s what my friend Google tells me.
The path of pursuing your passion is a long and unpaved road that never really ends (if you think about it), but it does have a beginning.
My beginning started at 16 years old. I made the bold decision that one day this girl who found happiness playing video games and gardening would build her own company. That goal currently lives somewhere in between losing 50 pounds and owning a home. At 17, I found my passion for community building and web development. Having the opportunity to work with two friends who were building an online game for kids, I was able to teach myself how to best use social media to build our small but engaged community.
During those years, I was getting ready to graduate high school and prepare for college. I knew I wanted to go into a field where I’d be using computers and “making stuff,” so I stayed indoors for an entire summer and taught myself how to code. Learning how to code was the best decision I ever made.
In 2008 I graduated from high school and went to college for Interactive Media and Design (which was a joke) and after only one semester, decided I would drop out. That also was one of the best decisions I made. It was a very new feeling. My first “adult” decision. What would I do now? I didn’t know, so I moved home and did nothing and felt totally useless. Embarrassingly, I worked at an adult store as a cashier because the pay was good and I had a large cell phone bill. I also worked on a cruise ship for a week, but that’s another story.
And one fine day everything changed when a recruiter called to hire me for an engineering job in upstate New York. So I moved. It was great! Everything was great. I had my own one bedroom apartment. I could bike to work! Everything was perfect! I was going to be a l33t coder 4 lyfe! And then I got laid off. And then I moved back home and cried a lot… but I didn’t give up.
I made another big decision. Right, so I guess I lied before. This was the best decision I could have ever made.
I decided to live in New York City.
So how does someone move somewhere new? I got a job at a small startup in SoHo of course, and I commuted into the city once a week for six months. Finally I saved up enough to move. I found two roommates and a cheap apartment in Bushwick, which I called home for a year. During that year I had been laid off twice from my engineering jobs, but took that time to meet new people and make connections that eventually led me to find work that helped my career really move forward.
During all these transitions and setbacks, I’d always kept my first goal in mind of building my own company. It’s something I’m actively pursuing now with my project Femsplain.com. One day I hope to turn it into a full-time job and hire a team of ambitious people like myself. For now, I’m just happy to read emails from kind people expressing how they enjoy something I’ve poured my heart and soul into.
If you really want to pursue something you’re passionate about, I strongly encourage you to. My best advice for anyone trying to make it here or looking to move to the city is the following…
Be nice, and I mean genuinely nice not just “so nice to meet you!” nice. Niceness goes a long way and people will remember you for that. Also it just feels nice to be nice, so you know, do it for yourself too. Nice.
Meet as many people as you can. Go to meetups, go to networking events. Talk about what you’re passionate about. Not everyone will be as excited as you are about memes and anime (this is coming from personal experience), but everyone has passions and personally; I get excited when someone is eager to share theirs.
Surround yourself with positive and understanding people. People who understand what you’re trying to accomplish and won’t hold you back from your goals. People who will lift you up and who you can offer help to in return.
Ask for help. Don’t be shy! If you know someone who’s an expert in what you’re interested in, don’t be scared of asking for advice. The worst they can say is “no” and that’s OK. Keep searching.
Give back. Once you have something to give, whether it be advice or a skill that someone desperately needs, do it. Talk to that intern who wants to get coffee with you. Help that friend move their couch into a new apartment. Suck it up and pay it forward.