Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Sometimes You Just Gotta Jump

I started this blog to talk about the things that make my world go around. In the four years I've done that, my career, my various failed and successful relationships and politics, but also trash TV and travel experiences, have been the subjects most of the time. In the last few weeks only one thing has made my world go around, and it has now affected pretty much every single aspect of my life. My new job, totally unexpectedly but not entirely undesirably, changed everything: my place of residence, daily life, relationships and bank account. It's drastic, yes, but it's also a source of potential. It's an adventure much less dangerous and intimidating than the last ones. It's a change when I didn't even need one. And now, just a couple of months after I wrote a blog about how much I hated Munich because it reminds me of all the things I hate about Germany, I don't even live there anymore. I don't owe that to Amazon (only haha), I don't owe that to Britain, I owe that to an ability, and willingness, to jump...

Watching people go to swim in the cold ocean has always been frustrating to me. There is almost nothing in the world that feels better than sweating on the beach, jumping into the refreshing sea, and swimming while leaving the shore behind. Part of the reason that experience is so wonderful is because one is filthy and sweaty before touching the water and pure and clean when coming out. It is, therefore, a riddle to me why some people slowly, carefully walk into the cold water instead of just jumping in. The cold hits instantly, and after a short two seconds all that's left is bliss. When taking care, the water isn't getting any warmer. Why wouldn't a swimmer want to get rid of that filth as fast as possible and dive head first into the fresh, cold water?

Life is exactly like swimming to me: why drag something out you can exhilarate. I mean, I haven't always done that. I have dragged things out like no other, especially relationships with people I was scared of losing despite knowing that it wouldn't be a loss at all. I drag things out just to comfort myself a little bit longer. I like to take my sweet ass time with things I can afford to take time with. None of that applies to my career, my personal growth and my pursuit of friendships and relationships I actually feel are worth it. When it comes to that, I have no time to waste. Why would approaching growth, love or the zenith of a profession ever need to happen "slowly but surely" when there's a parallel way that makes everything happen quickly? At the end of both roads we may find disappointment like I have found many times. Thank God I at least didn't waste time on getting to the end of that road.

I only got to where I am today because I jumped a few times. Having the dream of going to the States and become a Hollywood Star was possibly my first attempt, taking less than a few weeks to fade away, well, because I went to Hollywood. The best decision was to not dream this dream for long but having a look and finding out asap I was a fool for ever believing that's what I wanted. I then wanted a degree, and had already lost some time traveling the world, so I jumped again and moved to Scotland where they gave me two Master degrees in the space of four years. Best decision ever. All fun and games so far. The rest wasn't as easy: I wanted a career. I wanted to be on top. I didn't want just a job or something to do during the day. I wanted to do what I always liked doing, namely this, writing! There was no way I would sit around and slowly but surely work my way up the mountain. I needed a faster way to get up there.

Was it Steve Harvey that virally declared that in life you need to take a leap of faith and jump? In fact, you don't even need faith. If it turns out to be a disaster, at least you tried. I wanted to write and nobody in Germany was going to have me. So, as a way of preventing five to ten years of trying to slowly work my way from opportunity to opportunity I went to Egypt for two years. I could have failed after ten just as much as after those two years. Everything that sucks about wanting to become a writer was crammed into that experience. The actual choice was not whether I WOULD suffer, but for how long. Trying to get to the top of a mountain sucks whether you go fast or slow. Jumping into the cold water sucks whether you try to do it fast or slow. I wanted the shit part out of the way. Fast. And there I was, living in Egypt, pursuing a career, goal in mind. I didn't get what I planned for but I'm here now, and I'm happy, so whatever I did, I did it right, even though it sucked to go through.

And right now I'm doing it again. Who knows if Cambridge is the right place for me? Who knows if I will love Amazon for the rest of my life and continue to be in this position? One thing I do know is that I tried. And before I started thinking about whether I'm doing the right thing or not, I already did it. If this turns into a disaster, there's one more door I can close that will no doubt open lots more. If it turns out to be a great success, I just saved myself a couple of years looking for success when it was already on offer. I don't understand why people think so much, need their confirmation and hesitate to just jump when something sounds like it's worth jumping into. I've done it with jobs, friendships, relationships and relocations. I never thought. I just did. And it has genuinely never ever been a mistake. The fact is that there road is the journey, and it's supposed to lead somewhere, right? Why walk when you can run, why wait when you don't have to. I don't know where my road is leading but I know I'll get there faster than those who don't just jump into the ocean...

Saturday, February 18, 2017

How 'Failing' Was Probably The Best Thing To Ever Happen To Me

I recently got a new job and, since that happened, I am moving back to the UK next weekend. So yeah, a lot of stuff has changed since the late summer blogs of being convinced all my failures will one day lead to something great and that whole spiel of "something better will happen". What can I say? I was right! To be hired by one of the biggest companies in the world is for sure a pretty huge success. What I expected, anticipated and convinced myself I deserve though goes beyond landing a good job. Throughout the last few years I had been waiting for the silver linings of a few pretty random things that happened. I will never, ever again call anything that happened in the past a bad thing because it is simply evident that every little detail contributed to this outcome in some way or another. So can I call today the silver lining yet?

I was recruited via LinkedIn, a platform I only took part in well over three years ago because someone at a career workshop told me that it was the "future of hiring". I hated LinkedIn, I didn't get it and still find it super boring to use. The only reason I ever go involved was that one day I didn't feel like writing more applications, but doing nothing instead felt like I wasn't trying to get employed. I convinced myself that making this profile was a career move and therefore counted as a proactive way of trying to find a job. The truth, however, is that I just wanted a break and never expected anything to come of it. For three years I went on LinkedIn three or four times a year to maintain my profile and see if I could make new contacts to appear connected in a business world I truthfully wasn't connected in at all. My most recent visit to LinkedIn had exactly that purpose, only that I had a message from Amazon...

Throughout recruiting I was asked about my blog as well. My blog started for even more random reasons. I like to write, I like stories, I like the news and for some reason sharing my opinion makes me feel good. Since this behavior has obviously no space in a profession, especially mine, and doesn't always make you a lot of friends either, I decided to start blogging four years ago. It was supposed to be a public diary; a place where I learn to articulate my sometimes controversial opinions because once they're out there I wouldn't be able to take them back. It taught me to think before I write, and I so often failed at accomplishing that. At some point even strangers started reading these thoughts, and I just made it a hobby I knew would never benefit me in any way other than giving myself a space to vent. That was until I was told I was being hired at Amazon for being a blogger...

The decision to make a LinkedIn profile and starting a blog were moment decision I spent less than 30 seconds thinking about on and yet, I wouldn't be moving to the UK next week if I hadn't done it. Now obviously I am delighted I have this promising job that makes me feel way more enthusiastic than all the others so far, but the impact of those little decisions are so much bigger than just landing me a new career opportunity. In one of my six interviews with Amazon they suddenly mentioned a Cambridge office and that there was a potential that I'd be sent there. Cambridge, or even England, wouldn't excite most people, but I like those ideas. In that moment, moving back to the UK seemed like such a bad idea., not only because of politics. I had, after all, just spent eight months trying to acclimatize to Germany again. Unfortunately, God made me a person so very much into bad ideas because I believe I can turn them into something good. So far, I'd say I succeeded...

To fully understand how I sincerely arrived at the conclusion that all my previous actions had caused me to move to England I have to back up so much further than I already have. At 14, I went to England for the first time to practice my English. As a teenager, I thought that one day I wanted to live in that little town an hour south of London I was staying at. I didn't get the direction right, but next week, 14 years later, I'll be based an hour north of London. Around the same day, I also made my first email address. Since I was about to move to California, I opted for something so cheesy it explains why Americans took a liking in me. I was moving from Aachen (AC) to California (CA), so my username became sina_ACtoCA. After California, I just interpreted the "CA" as Caledonia (Scotland) before I moved to Cairo and allowed the name to be valid again. Now, it looks like I get to keep it for another few years... 13 years later...

And finally, it's also important to look at the past year of a lot of close calls that would have put me on a different path. I was almost hired at Deutsche Welle, Politico, Business Insider, Huffington Post, CNN, International Business Times and many more, the most important word here being "almost". I failed! At the time, that didn't feel good. During these recurring failures I started to believe that I was actually the least likeable person ever because I was losing to crappy people. Like, I know I shouldn't be saying this, but some of them were just simply not better choices. So I just needed to tell myself that I was losing out for a bigger purpose. Let's take Deutsche Welle, for example, a job I wanted most out of all of them, and the people chose were great, but some of the ones they sent home were better. I could have easily been one of them. Everything I learned after I lost out was that a year from now there would be a good chance they would have not kept me on, and I'd be stranded again with no savings. Looks like that became a lot less likely now that I work for Amazon, at least the point of perpetual money problems. And I didn't even have to move to Munich, Karlsruhe, Bonn or some other crappy place that was once in the race...

So in the end, if this was the end, I can whole-heartedly say "Thank you, Jesus" to every single thing that happened that felt like failure. It definitely was failure, I didn't win all the time. But I did lose an inferior opportunity, and I am convinced I would not have felt as good about the first two weeks at a new job at any of these places as I have in the past two weeks at Amazon. Time will tell if this is in fact a silver lining, and I may meet a handsome, liberal intellectual in Cambridge I one day have a dog with or maybe the worst set of events ever, but right now I feel more excited and more hopeful about the future than during my last three years of chasing the impossible dream of being a journalist and also earning enough to eat at the same time. Moments of holding on to dreams, not just professional ones, did not stand the test of time, and as a result reality feels a lot better. I have a career and I return to where I envisioned being for years. Whatever it was that brought me to this path, that path strangely feels like leading home.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Egypt, A Year Later: Do You Miss It Yet???

Last month, I returned to Egypt for the first time since leaving to get the rest of my stuff before I move back to the UK. There's no way in hell I was ready for Cairo, and I don't think I'll ever really be excited about going back there, but I found a great, cheap flight to Sharm and arranged to meet my friends (and stuff) in Dahab, also known as by far the best place in the Middle East, definitely Egypt. Of course, this trip was more convenient than it was a joyous occasion, I thought, but I tried to look forward to it anyways. I was curious if after eight months feelings had changed, and I actually found that they had.

Maybe my glasses were clouded since I was in Dahab, not the soul-destroying, polluted Cairo. I was also meeting my best remaining friend in Egypt and my best friend I met in Egypt there who came to meet me there from Cairo and Ramallah, Palestine, respectively. Both of them, dear to my heart, obviously made an already nice place nicer to be in. We rented bikes, went snorkeling at the Three Pools and ate the freshest and most delicious fish meals in the history of my life. I could have done all that by myself and it would have been amazing already. Since I didn't have to, I also felt the love which, again, would have been quite hard to do in Cairo. It had, in fact, been my first time in Dahab since April 2015 that I was not in Dahab by myself but because finally needing space isn't something I need now.

As a result, I spent my days smiling, enjoying seeing familiar faces, and being generally happy about being where I was. That, my dear readers, is a new experience after even two years in that country. Usually, coming to Dahab meant survival: finally clean air, no noise so the sanity could remain prevalent in my brain and quite literally an escape from social situations in Cairo I felt anything but comfortable with. My time in Dahab had previously served to maintain my ability to make it in Cairo for another few weeks, and the essence of a vacation was drained since anything but the occasional flight would have resulted in damage much further than the one Cairo already had. It was still nice then, but a necessary "nice". Today, visiting Dahab is more like the cream that is served on a hot piece of pie; my life is good, I enjoy it, and I get to add an extra toping to an already great period in my life.

For the first time, I actually came to visit Dahab because I wanted to, not because I had to due to Cairo raping my head and heart. I got to tell my friends I am happy; happier than I ever was since they met me. I got to share my good news with people who were happy to see me, and even had the wonderful moment of seeing some folks from that old life I hadn't seen in a long time. Everything about that trip reminded me that I lived a different life not too long ago, but it also became painfully obvious that all the change that has since happened is irreversible, and that it is the past, and not the present or future. It only hurts because in every scenario where you move on from something that was a part of you once, you have to leave things behind. In my case it was a lot of bad things, things and people who made me doubt myself, tried to convince me I was horrible and made me the worst version of myself. At the same time, that also meant leaving behind those beacons that even then chose to see that the person I was those two years was never really who I wanted to be.

This time, I recognized how much I wasn't myself when I was living in Cairo. My friends I saw in Dahab all told me how much I had changed and that they enjoyed to see the smiles back in my face. I missed those smiles, too, although I never realized they were gone. I would never change anything about my two years in Cairo, and I am thankful for every minute, but I only saw now how much it had affected me. And today, without being able to explain why, I feel something in my heart that I never felt in that place before, and that is organic happiness because I remember who I am again. It's a no brainer to lose yourself at certain times in your life when you make a choice for a life like the one I lived, and I can now safely look back to my time in Egypt from afar, and assess that it was the loss of my path that led me to Cairo that made the path I'm supposed to be on so evident.

Needless to say, that week I had in Egypt was probably the best one I had there ever. I was a tourist, I was a visitor, I was a friend. As a Cairo resident, you can never be a tourist, a visitor or a friend. You need Dahab as much as it needs you. Those days are over, and I can give back Dahab the love it gave me for so long when few other things and people provided it. The way I interacted reflected my happiness, whereas everyone was used to my confusion to be displayed in my words and actions. I will never miss Egypt, but I'm happy it made me this way. Maybe one day I'll even be able to have this experience in Cairo as well, but for now I just saw that the closing of this chapter was really the only change I needed that led me to happiness. And when that happiness prevailed, more good things unfold... in that respect, I can only imagine what happens next.